Serious competition emerges for primary Carolina Panthers head coach target

The Carolina Panthers have a fight on their hands.

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson / Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press / USA TODAY

Serious competition is emerging for the Carolina Panthers in their quest to make Ben Johnson their next head coach in 2024.

It's the worst-kept secret in football that the Carolina Panthers want Ben Johnson to be their next head coach. But they'll have a fight on their hands to secure his services looking at the current landscape around the league.

Johnson is among the most coveted names in this upcoming cycle. His work as Detroit Lions offensive coordinator has been nothing short of outstanding once again this season. After spurning multiple advances last time around, all signs point to the progressive play-caller taking the plunge in 2024.

Carolina Panthers face a fight to land Ben Johnson

As expected, the Panthers are unlikely to be alone in the Johnson sweepstakes. According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Washington Commanders have also thrown their hat into the ring after firing former Carolina head coach Ron Rivera.

Pelissero revealed that the Commanders have requested permission to interview Johnson. They've leaked countless names in recent hours following Rivera's dismissal. Washington wants everyone to know they are a force to be reckoned with under ambitious owners and without Dan Snyder's dark cloud hanging over the organization.

This shouldn't take the Panthers by surprise. Johnson is an up-and-comer with flourishing credentials. His close connections to the area help, but it'll take much more than that to convince him this is a project worth taking on.

David Tepper will spare no expense to get Johnson despite still paying off the contracts of Frank Reich and Matt Rhule. He'd have hired him last year if given the chance. If this is still his guy, the billionaire owner will move heaven and earth to make it possible.

Would the Panthers be seen as more attractive than the Commanders? That wasn't the case once upon a time. It's more debatable now.

Washington is one of the league's most storied franchises. They are a sleeping giant ready to be awoken after two decades of distress under Snyder's ownership. They have some core foundational pieces to build around. The Commanders have the league's most salary-cap space as it stands and a wealth of high-end draft assets at their disposal. These include the No. 2 overall selection in 2024.

Signs are pointing to Tepper altering his way of thinking. He fired general manager Scott Fitterer. He's hired a consultancy firm to assist during his last hiring process. He's also reportedly seeking a buffer between himself and the coaching staff rather than getting too involved. This should be music to the ears of every long-suffering Panthers fan.

That's arguably the biggest positive of all. Something that won't go unnoticed by Johnson as he gets set to make an immensely important career decision.

Let the games begin.