Georgia’s Todd Monken: ‘I’m paid for us to score, not to win’

ATHENS — Want to get a rise out of Todd Monken? Tell him you think Georgia’s offense might have to score more this season because the defense won’t be as good.

“Carry us? That’s ridiculous at a place like Georgia,” Monken said. “We have good players on both sides of the ball.”

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The Bulldogs’ veteran offensive coordinator spoke with reporters Thursday for the first time since last season’s College Football Playoff. Georgia lost eight defensive players – including five first-rounders – to the NFL draft off that team.

The theory that has developed since then is that, with sixth-year quarterback Stetson Bennett and several key offensive pieces back for the Bulldogs, they will have to be more explosive on offense and score more to compensate for the defense. Monken scoffs.

“I don’t really know what that means,” he said. “All we can control is how many times we can score − points per possession. … Last year, there were some scenarios where it made no sense to continue to put ourselves at risk. That may not be the case this year; that may be the case this year. I don’t know, that is to be determined.”

One of the more fascinating aspects about last season’s 14-1 national championship team is that Georgia could have scored more points. Much more. As it was, the Bulldogs averaged 38.6 points per game, which ranked a respectable ninth nationally.

But when margin of victory is taken into account, it’s evident that Georgia spent most second halves on relative cruise control. The Bulldogs won their 14 games by an average margin of 31.6 points. That margin actually goes up to 31.9 for their eight SEC games.

As alluded by Monken, it’s points-per-drive (PPD) where Georgia’s offensive prowess really stands out. It averaged 3.39 per possession. That ranked fourth nationally and was tops among SEC teams. Ohio State was No. 1 at 3.98 points per drive, followed by Coastal Carolina and Western Kentucky at 3.50 each. Alabama (3.22) was sixth.

What made Georgia inarguably the best team in the country last season was its net PPD. Thanks to opponents’ average of 0.69 point per possession, the Bulldogs’ net PPD of 2.7 led the nation by a whopping margin.

“To say the defense had to carry us is probably unfair, but we were tremendous on defense,” Monken said.

Ironically, what catapulted the Bulldogs’ offense was the very thing that brings it criticism heading into this season – Bennett being the quarterback. Before that, Monken said he wasn’t sure how good Georgia could be on offense.

“It sure as (heck) wasn’t after Clemson,” he quipped of the 10-7 season-opening win.

Monken acknowledged that even he didn’t realize what the Bulldogs had in Bennett until they were forced to go with him. JT Daniels began the season as the starting quarterback, but he aggravated a back injury against the Tigers and was unable to fully recover for several weeks.

Bennett lit up Alabama-Birmingham in Week 2 and had taken over for good by Week 5. He won offensive MVP honors in the Orange Bowl and the national championship game and finished fourth nationally in pass efficiency after establishing the school record for a season (176.7).

“As we kept going along, we thought Stetson’s mobility gave us a chance,” Monken said. “We were a little bit different (offensively) then.”

Bennett being back and Monken having the whole offseason to work with him and scheme around his unique abilities is what has the Bulldogs excited about the offense this season.

“Being in a room with him for three years now, you start to develop a sense of what he’s looking for. You start to finish each other’s sentences,” Bennett said at SEC Media Days last month. “You start to know why he’s calling this play and what’s he thinking here. That only comes with time.”

Monken’s familiarity with Bennett and vice-versa is a reason that Georgia might end up being more explosive this season. But it won’t be because the Bulldogs feel like they need to score more to compensate for any shortcomings elsewhere on the team.

“I do like to throw it,” Monken said with a grin. “I think people think that I don’t like to throw it. I’m paid to score, I’m not paid to win. … They think that (coach) Kirby (Smart) dictates what we do on offense. No, he dictates that we play smart.”