New Georgia OC Todd Monken trades ‘total mess’ for championship quest
ATHENS — Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken has yet to call his first play, but it’s safe to say the 53-year-old already knows he’s walking into a better situation than a year ago.
Monken’s differences on the Cleveland Browns’ staff with first-year coach Freddie Kitchens were well-documented from the onset. Many close to Kitchens have said Monken was not even the head coach’s choice for the job.
It’s no wonder Monken was quoted as referring the Cleveland franchise a “total mess.” It was an accurate description. Receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry were a handful. The Myles Garrett helmet swing incident reached epic proportion.
Georgia football is anything but a total mess.
Monken arrives in Athens knowing he was Kirby Smart’s top choice.
Smart hasn’t announced it, but it’s a good bet Monken will assume the playcalling duties. It’s something Monken has said before is important to him.
The best-case scenario for Georgia and Monken next season is a national championship. At the very least, a fourth-straight trip to the SEC Championship Game.
The Georgia defense is that good. Nine of 11 Sugar Bowl starters return. It was a unit that led the nation in scoring defense and run defense, and finished third in the country in total defense and 8th in pass efficiency defense.
Smart will be looking for an offense that makes more explosive plays while maintaining a reliable run game.
But the bottom line for Smart was and is offensive efficiency and consistency.
If Monken’s offense can score 24 points in each game next season, it’s hard to project the Bulldogs losing a regular season game.
That said, Georgia has its share of challenges on offense. Chief among those hurdles are growing an inexperienced receiving corps, and developing and scheming for a new quarterback.
Georgia rising sophomore George Pickens is the key to the receiving corps. He’s coming off a Sugar Bowl MVP performance, making 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 26-14 win over Baylor.
Pickens, however, was hit with two suspensions his freshman campaign. The first involved an unspecified violation of team rules. The second came by NCAA rule after his well-publicized tangle at Georgia Tech.
Pickens’ growth and development as a person and potential leader will factor into Monken’s future game plans where skill position players are concerned.
Georgia has other receiver options returning and promising incoming freshmen. But none appear to have the game-changing dynamic Pickens presents.
Georgia is also green in the backfield.
Zamir White enters spring drills battling Kenny McIntosh for first-team reps. Rising junior James Cook and incoming freshman Kendall Milton have breakout talent.
To this point, none of the backs have shown the dynamic game-breaking ability departing back D’Andre Swift flashed his first two seasons. It doesn’t mean they won’t, but expectations should be kept in check, Swift was special.
The ultimate challenge, however, is at quarterback.
Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman is considered the favorite to win the job in spring drills.
Newman is coming to Georgia to throw more, and the Bulldogs are excited to have a quarterback who can run and scramble effectively. The two sides will meet somewhere in the middle, with Newman gaining experience in an offense that can transition into the NFL.
Georgia also has redshirt junior Stetson Bennett, redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis and incoming freshman Carson Beck in the quarterback room this spring.
The final piece for Monken’s success is the fit in the offensive meeting room, and the trust and chemistry he builds with Smart.
Unlike Cleveland, Monken will be handed the keys, and he’ll be surrounded by an all-star staff that includes James Coley, Matt Luke and run game coordinator Dell McGee.
Georgia football, unlike the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, doesn’t mess around.
Georgia football offseason