Todd Monkens confesses he had never met Freddie Kitchens before interviewing for the Browns' offensive coordinator job. Monkens weighs in on Baker Mayfield, another key figure he had never met.
BEREA No one can accuse the Browns of using the buddy system to find their new offensive coordinator.
Todd Monken says he did not know Freddie Kitchens or John Dorsey until days before they hired him on Jan. 14, two days after Kitchens was named head coach.
General manager Dorsey keeps thick files on coaches. His research told him Monken is on the cutting edge of what NFL attacks have become, and he shared that with Kitchens before the whirlwind interview process.
Monken spent the last three years as "OC" of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under head coach Dirk Koetter. In 2018, Tampa Bay ranked third in the NFL in total offense (yards), just behind the Chiefs and Rams and just ahead of the Steelers and Patriots. The 2018 Bucs ranked 12th in scoring at 24.8 points a game. Compare that to the AFC North teams, Pittsburgh (No. 6, 26.8), Baltimore (No. 13, 24.3), Cincinnati (No. 17, 23.0), and Cleveland (No. 20, 22.4).
Monken concedes the downside of breaking into a new system, getting to know strangers, and learning terminology.
"It's challenging," he said. "Next offseason will be a lot easier."
Monken, 52, agreed to learn the terminology the Browns used in 2018. It was the same under both Todd Haley and Kitchens, who replaced Haley as "OC" after eight games.
Introduced to local media Thursday, Monken said he is glad Dorsey put as much stock in his research as he did in the face-to-face interview.
"Anybody can fool you in an interview," Monken said. "If you want to know what kind of coach I am, don't ask me. Ask the people I've coached with. If you want to find out what kind of husband I am, ask my wife."
A former small-college quarterback (Knox), Monken's first NFL coaching job was with the 2007 Jaguars, who beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs. The offensive coordinator was Koetter. Monken became head coach at Southern Miss in 2013 before returning to the NFL in 2016 after Koetter was hired as head coach of the Bucs.
Needing a job when Koetter was fired after the 2018 season, Monken agreed to join the Browns with the title of coordinator, understanding Kitchens will call plays.
"Right now, this is the honeymoon," Monken said. "We've got a good young roster. I like what I see so far. Hopefully, they like what they see in me."
In Tampa, Monken worked with 2015 No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston at quarterback. In Cleveland, he has another No. 1 pick, Baker Mayfield. New Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks took the liberty Wednesday of endorsing Mayfield as the face of the franchise.
"You can't win in this league if you don't have a quarterback," Wilks said. "We have a quarterback ... an alpha male. That was very attractive in coming here."
Monken logged two coaching stints at Oklahoma State (2002-04, 2011-12), the latter ending before Mayfield transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma for his final three years of college.
Monken said their relationship is off to a good start, noting they already are comfortable taking playful shots at each other. Monken bragged to Mayfield about Oklahoma State hammering Oklahoma 44-10 in 2011.
"(Mayfield) goes, ‘Yeah, but you had like a 38-year old quarterback (Brandon Weeden),'" Monken said. "It didn’t take him long to bite back. I said, ‘Really ... you are just a (Texas Tech) Red Raider ... just a Red Raider that was a transplant.’ He didn’t like that very well, either.”
Monken was Weeden's position coach and coordinator for one season, 2011, before the Browns spent a No. 22 overall draft pick on Weeden in 2012. Operating in what has come to be known as an "Air Raid" attack, Weeden threw for 4,727 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2011, on a team that went 12-1.
Mayfield spent last week hanging out in Atlanta, where he was a conspicuous star at the NFL Honors Show. He was edged by Saquon Barkley for NFL rookie of the year.
"It is easy to see (Mayfield's) skillset, his ability to make plays outside of the pocket and what he brings in terms of mental toughness and leadership," Monken said. "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 said the biggest key to Mayfield's development as a second-year Brown boils down to a question: "How do you block out the noise? ... He has it the hardest, as does a head coach."
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