What’d you expect, Kirby Smart to stand pat?
That certainly hasn’t been Smart’s M.O. since arriving as Georgia’s head coach four years ago. The Bulldogs’ boss reinforced his reputation for being willing to make changes when he hired Todd Monken from the Cleveland Browns as his offensive coordinator Friday. Monken becomes Georgia’s third offensive coordinator in the past three years.
“We are excited to add Todd to our staff,” Smart said in a statement released by the school Friday. “He has a history of establishing explosive offenses at each and every stop in his impressive career in both the National Football League and at major college football programs.”
Monken replaces James Coley, who succeeded Jim Chaney as coordinator this past season. Coley was co-coordinator along with Chaney the previous year.
Coley is going to remain at UGA in a capacity currently unknown beyond the new title of “assistant head coach,” according to the school’s news release. Before becoming coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Coley coached wide receivers with the Bulldogs.
Neither Monken nor Coley returned calls or messages seeking comment.
Monken, 53, most recently was offensive coordinator with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, though it did not come with play-calling responsibilities. Monken will be doing that as well as coaching quarterbacks for the Bulldogs.
Coley had done that until Friday’s developments. But Smart obviously was not pleased with an offensive performance that saw the Bulldogs finish 49th in the nation in points scored (401, or 30.4 per game) this past season. National champion LSU, which beat Georgia in the SEC Championship game, led the nation at 48.4 ppg. The other three College Football Playoff semifinalists -- Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma -- were third, fourth and sixth, respectively.
Monken arrives at Georgia with a bit of a gun-slinging reputation. His offenses typically throw the ball -- a lot.
Before becoming head coach at Southern Miss, Monken spent two seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Oklahoma State (2011-12). The Cowboys set school season records for total offensive yards, passing yards, completion percentage, points scored and passing touchdowns, while quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon both went on to become first-round picks in the 2012 NFL draft.
“He came in and embraced what we had and put his fingerprint on it and did an unbelievable job,” Weeden said in UGA’s release. “I think guys respected him immediately because of his time in the NFL and even more once we got to work. He’s an innovative coach who brings that fire and passion you need. He’s one of my favorite coaches I had the opportunity to play for and great guy as well. We were lucky to get him and it worked out for both sides.”
Monken maintained that philosophy when he returned to the NFL. Though he arrives from Cleveland, where former Bulldog Nick Chubb just finished second in the NFL in rushing with 1,494 yards rushing this season, his Tampa Bay offenses were known for throwing deep. They set records for total yards, passing yards and passing touchdowns, and the 2018 Bucs averaged 320.3 yards through the air with Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
Turns out, such production was the fulfillment of a promise Monken made at his introductory news conference in Tampa.
“The bottom line is how can you be explosive?” he said in 2016. “I’ve always thought, we don’t need more 5-yard plays. Who needs more 5-yard plays? How can we be explosive? That’s what the game is about, man. Big plays. So how do we not figure out ways to get explosive plays? That’s fun.”
That’s certainly music to the ears of Georgia fans, and to Smart as well. He complained about the Bulldogs’ lack of explosive plays in the passing game after losing to LSU 37-10 in SEC Championship game.
That Smart brought in Monken shows he was serious about addressing that. Monken’s hiring came at a time the Bulldogs had an opening only for a special-teams coordinator since Scott Fountain left to join Sam Pittman’s staff at Arkansas on Jan. 5.
That means Coley either will assume Fountain’s duties or there will be further shifting of duties on the staff. Coley coached wide receivers his first two seasons in Athens. That position is currently held by Cortez Hankton, who came to Georgia from Vanderbilt in 2018.
But Smart has fought hard to keep Coley at Georgia. He promoted Coley to co-coordinator after Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher tried to hire away in January 2018. That’s because the 46-year-old native of Miami has been a world-class recruiter, particularly in south Florida. The Bulldogs’ roster features 10 players from that general area. Coley also was instrumental in Georgia landing graduate transfers Jamie Newman and Tre McKitty earlier this month.
Coley is one of only three assistant coaches that joined Smart’s original staff at Georgia in 2016. The other two are running-game coordinator/running-backs coach Dell McGee and co-defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann. In all, Smart has executed 12 changes on his staff of 10 assistant coaches. The NCAA allowed only nine assistants when Smart started.
While Monken comes to Georgia with extensive pro-coaching experience with the Browns, Bucs and Jacksonville Jaguars, he has said he was always known as “the college guy” while working in the NFL. A native of Wheaton, Ill., Monken was head coach at Southern Miss for three seasons (2013-15). In addition to two stints at Oklahoma State, Monken was passing-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU (2005-06), and has coached at Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan and Louisiana Tech.
“Coach Monken sees the game through the quarterback’s eyes,” Fitzpatrick said in UGA’s release. “He is aggressive and calls a game based on the strengths of his players. He does a great job of teaching and instilling confidence in the entire unit.”
Todd Monken bio
Born: Feb. 5, 1966
College: Knox College, Galesburg, Ill.
» Cleveland Browns, offensive coordinator (2019)
» Tampa Bay Buccaneers, offensive coordinator (2016-18)
» Southern Mississippi, head coach (2013-15)
» Oklahoma State, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks (2011-12), passing-game coordinator/wide receivers (2002-04)
» Jacksonville Jaguars, wide receivers (2007-10)
» LSU, passing-game coordinators/wide receivers (2005-06)
» Louisiana Tech, running backs (2000), wide receivers (2001)
» Eastern Michigan, defensive backs/wide receivers (1993-97), offensive coordinator/quarterbacks (1998-99)
» Notre Dame, graduate assistant (1991-92)
» Grand Valley State (Mich.), graduate assistant (1989-90)
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