The Indianapolis Colts, following a 4-12 season in 2017, are set to play in the divisional round of the playoffs after going 10-6 this past season. This time last year, the franchise had just fired their head coach Chuck Pagano and had its sights set on the ever-desirable Josh McDaniels to replace him.
McDaniels agreed to a deal with them, but backed out to stay put with the New England Patriots. The Colts were blindsided after trying to acquire the hottest candidate on the market, and somehow found the right candidate in Frank Reich after the whole debacle.
Todd Monken, the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, may not be the hottest name in the coaching circuit of 2019, but he could very well be the right man for the job just like Reich ended up being for the Colts. Monken interviewed with the Bengals on Monday, so what makes him a good candidate?
After an extensive coaching career in the college ranks, along with a few years in the NFL, Monken has manned the offensive coordinator position for the past three seasons in Tampa Bay. Under head coach (and long-time friend of Marvin Lewis) Dirk Koetter, Monken designed and oversaw an offense that gradually progressed every year he was there.
The Buccaneers are headed towards a new direction in 2019, which frees up Monken’s immediate future to take his offensive prowess elsewhere.
- 1989-1990: Grand Valley State (Graduate Assistant)
- 1991-1992: Notre Dame (Graduate Assistant)
- 1993-1997: Eastern Michigan (DB Coach/WR Coach)
- 1998-1999: Eastern Michigan (Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach)
- 2000-2001: Louisiana Tech (RB Coach)
- 2002-2004: Oklahoma State (Passing Game Coordinator/WR Coach)
- 2005-2006: LSU (Passing Game Coordinator/WR Coach)
- 2007-2010: Jacksonville Jaguars (WR Coach)
- 2011-2012: Oklahoma State (Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach)
- 2013-2015: Southern Mississippi (Head Coach)
- 2016-2017: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Offensive Coordinator/WR Coach)
- 2018-present: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Offensive Coordinator)
Why he could work
An offensive-minded coach through and through, Monken fits the bill almost exactly for what the Bengals need. We don’t even need to look back on the culmination his 23 years of college coaching to proclaim this, but let’s do it anyways.
After years of jumping around the country as various offensive assistants, Monken earned his first and only head coaching gig at Southern Mississippi. In Monken’s first two years (2013, 2014), the Golden Eagles won just four games and finished 122nd and 109th, respectively, in Sport-Reference.com’s offensive simple rating system.
In 2015, just his third year, he led them to a 9-win season and an OSRS ranking of 39th in the country (they averaged 39.9 points per game, which was ninth in the country as well).
By the time Monken’s recruiting classes were in the fold, his facelift of a lowly program was complete. On that 2015 squad, current NFL players such as 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens, Raiders and Falcons running backs Jalen Richard and Ito Smith led the way for the Golden Eagles, and Monken’s guidance and vision helped put them on the path for the NFL.
Monken’s impressive work at Southern Miss helped him land Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator spot on Dirk Koetter’s initial staff in 2016. The first two seasons with the Buccaneers were about as rocky as they were with the Golden Eagles, as an offense led by quarterback Jameis Winston was as erratic as one could’ve predicted.
2018 saw the Buccaneers become one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL, despite starting Winston and backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for at least seven games each. The Bengals saw them both when they barely held on to win 37-34 back in Week 8.
End of the season ANY/A Value. Playoff teams highlighted in yellow. Four of the top six pass defenses missed the playoff pic.twitter.com/4VXsMLv5k8— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) January 2, 2019
The Buccaneers’ offense finished sixth in defensive-adjusted net yards in 2018 — the five teams ahead of them all made the playoffs. Tampa Bay’s defense was the reason they ended up being so bad, along with the ups and downs of both Winston and Fitzpatrick, but Monken got the absolute most out of that passing game, and it’s not irrational to think he could do the same in Cincinnati.
The 2018 Buccaneers offense had 30 more rushing attempts than the Bengals, a 5,000 yard passer combined, a NY/A that would tie Dalton’s career best, and supported 4 receivers volume while catering to all fours strengths. pic.twitter.com/rZHys5CbaL— Patrick (@LB3PTMAN) January 6, 2019
Why he may not be the guy
Monken’s three-year runs with Southern Miss and Tampa Bay finished strong, but each took a minute to get there. In the college game, time is more forgiving as it’s difficult to win immediately with players that weren’t recruited by the coach, especially at the Conference USA level. The grace period in the NFL is much shorter considering the talent level is obviously more equal.
The Buccaneers offense didn’t see instant offensive success, even with terrific pieces in place. On top of all that, their running game has never been at the very least competent. Granted, the talent at the running back position and run blocking has never been at the level of their receiving corps, but it remains a slight wart on Monken’s time there.
The positives seem to outweigh the negatives when it comes to Monken. Seven years of coaching experience in the NFL isn’t a ton for a 52-year old vying for a head coaching position, but his efforts to bring Southern Miss back from the dead and orchestrating a top-10 offense in Tampa Bay this past season are two incredible feats.
You can’t go anywhere in the NFL without a top-tier passing game. For too long, the Bengals’ passing offense has underwhelmed relative to the talent they’ve trotted out on the field — specifically in the biggest games. A good portion of the blame falls on quarterback Andy Dalton; but for as long as the organization proclaims him as their best option, they need someone to help him elevate those around him.
The Bengals need their own Frank Reich, and Monken looks like one of their best bets.