Todd Monken prioritized people, chance to win and Baker Mayfield over desire to call plays

Monken had never met Freddie Kitchens or John Dorsey prior to interviewing for Browns job

Daryl Ruiter
February 07, 2019 - 5:44 pm

Daryl Ruiter-92.3 The Fan

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Berea, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Todd Monken had never met Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens until the day he interviewed for the offensive coordinator job.

Same for general manager John Dorsey.

And yet on Thursday he was introduced as the new offensive coordinator in Cleveland after being officially named to the post on Jan. 14, which in the good old boys network that is the NFL, is almost unheard of.

“When you start looking at taking jobs, at least for me, in order of what I was looking for was opportunity to win and potentially a franchise quarterback, the right people and third was calling the plays,” Monken said.

The Browns were able to check 3 of those 4 boxes for Monken, who also interviewed for head coaching jobs in January with the Jets, Bengals and Packers.

“When you look at the young roster and when I came and met with Freddie, John and the other people in the organization, it just felt right,” Monken said. “I felt like I wanted to be part of this moving forward. In the end, it is about winning. It is about being around good people. It is about moving the football, regardless of who is calling it. I have called it in the past so it is not as if I am not capable of that.”

The only box the Browns didn’t check off for the 53-year old was playcalling.

That’ll remain Kitchens’ responsibility on gamedays, which Monken, who called plays for 15 games last season with the Buccaneers, appears to be fine with.

“The bottom line is like any assistant coach, your job is to do whatever the head coach tells you to do. That is what you do,” Monken said.  

It helps that the Browns, who won 7 games last season and are the trendy favorite among the pundits to win the AFC North or at least make the playoffs in 2019, have Baker Mayfield.

Mayfield threw for a franchise rookie record 3,725 yards in 2018 and he also set the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes – 27 – in just 13 starts.

“Obviously, on film, it is easy to see his skillset,” Monken said. “His ability to make plays outside of the pocket and what he brings to the team in terms of mental toughness and the leadership – he inspires others to play around him and he holds himself and others to a high standard, which is where it has to start at quarterback.” 

Monken and Mayfield met this week when the quarterback returned from the Super Bowl festivities in Atlanta and they’ve already begun trading playful jabs at each other.

Wednesday night at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards where he won Professional Athlete of the Year, Mayfield joked about Monken’s Oklahoma State roots being problematic for him as an Oklahoma Sooner.

“He’s actually an Oklahoma State guy at heart, so we’re going to butt heads about that a lot, but he’s a great guy,” Mayfield said. “Obviously, they loved throwing the ball. I think we’re going to have to find ways to convince him to hand the ball off to [Nick] Chubb.”

Monken, who was an assistant at Oklahoma State on 2 separate occasions including when former Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden was there, offered his rebuttal Thursday.

“Oh, I don’t know about that. I think that is a little bit of a stretch,” Monken said. “I like scoring points so however that is, I think that is a little misnomer. At Tampa, we did throw it. I did like to throw it of course, but if you take first quarter stats, if you take first half stats and if you take one-score games, you will find we were right there with other teams [in run-pass balance] that made the playoffs and it wasn’t that extreme. The more often you are in two-minute at the end of the game and you are down, the more often you are going to throw it.

“Yeah, it does absolutely think that he is from Oklahoma. That was probably the negative that almost stopped me from taking the job. The first thing I said was in 2011, we won the Big 12 and beat Oklahoma. He goes, ‘Yeah, but you had like a 38-year old quarterback.’ It didn’t take him long to bite back. I said, ‘Really, you are just a Red Raider. You are just a Red Raider that was a transplant.’ He didn’t like that very well either. We will be just fine.”

He does not like being considered an “Air Raid” coordinator either using his hands and air quotes while answering a question about it.

“Really what I took away from it was being able to throw to win. That really to me was the Air Raid,” Monken said.

Monken explained what a balanced offense looks like from his perspective.

“Balance is multiple skill players touching the football,” Monken said. “To me, it is not always just run-pass [balance]. It is do you have enough skill players where they can touch the football. Last year at Tampa, we almost had six guys – if O.J. [Howard] doesn’t get hurt – with 700-plus yards from the line of scrimmage. That to me is balance. You have a number of guys who can hurt you from a matchup standpoint.

“Is running the football important? Sure because in order to win, you have to be explosive and not turn the ball over. How do you become explosive? Space players and throwing it over their heads or throwing in intermediate pockets, and running the football adds to that.”

With the offseason program weeks away and NFL rules prohibiting coaches from working with players, the first order for business for Monken is to build the offense with Kitchens.

The plan is to incorporate Monken’s schemes from Tampa with Kitchens’ that includes concepts from Bruce Arians’ offense in Arizona and Todd Haley’s initial installation in Cleveland, which Kitchens refined to help the Browns win 5 of their last 7 games, along with run game concepts that offensive line/associate head coach James Campen has brought from Green Bay.

“We are working through that now to make it the Browns offense,” Monken said. “That is what you do. Next offseason will be a lot easier because you will have had everything or at least the majority of your offensive package put together and what you like and dislike. Every day, you are implementing things and talking through it, and it is going to become easier.”

He hopes to blend run-pass options or RPOs, which are commonplace in the college game and already incorporated by the Chiefs and Eagles, into the playbook as well.

“I think ‘a lot’ is probably an extreme, but I think that is where football has been and that has been my background,” Monken said. “Hopefully, it is something that interests Freddie.”