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Michael Cunningham: Many NFL teams need play-callers. Georgia's Todd Monken is a good one.

Michael Cunningham, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Football

ATLANTA — Stetson Bennett, Georgia’s two-time champion quarterback, is pursuing an NFL career. Wide receiver Adonai Mitchell, playoff hero, returned home to play at Texas. Another top pass-catcher, transfer Rodarius Thomas, is suspended by UGA as he waits for his day in court following an arrest on accusations of domestic violence. Two starters on Georgia’s offensive line declared for the NFL draft.

That’s a lot of attrition for Georgia’s national championship offense. Kirby Smart’s national championship machine is expected to keep humming despite the losses. That might be harder if one of its chief engineers, offensive coordinator Todd Monken, leaves for the NFL after three years in Athens.

The chances of that happening are higher than ever, if only because of the math.

There will be at least 13 NFL offensive coordinators hired in the current cycle. More openings will be created if current OCs fill any of the five available NFL head coach positions. The Patriots on Tuesday hired ex-Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien to run their offense. That leaves 12 other teams that are either looking for a new coordinator or a head coach who ultimately will hire one.

The chances are good that more than one of those teams is considering Monken. One of them apparently has decided it wants him. NFL Network recently reported that Monken is Tampa Bay’s top target for its open position. Monken was the Bucs’ OC from 2016-18, then was out of a job when head coach Dirk Koetter was fired.

Monken’s misfortune was Georgia’s good luck. He’s probably the best play-caller in college football. Monken transformed the Bulldogs into a spread offense while maintaining Smart’s beloved “man ball” characteristics. Monken overcame his admitted initial skepticism about Bennett’s ability and built the offense around his many strengths.

 

If Monken leaves for the NFL, Georgia’s reputation and pay scale mean the Bulldogs will pick his replacement from a large candidate pool. Mike Bobo already is on staff as an analyst. He’s been coordinator at three SEC schools, including Georgia under Mark Richt.

But it’s been a long time since Bobo ran a high-scoring offense. We already know what Monken can do as Georgia’s play-caller. The results have been spectacular. Monken helped Smart revive his stale offensive approach and catch up with rivals who’d left the Bulldogs behind.

Monken can afford to be picky with his next job. He’s college football’s highest-paid assistant at $2.1 million per year through 2024. Monken probably could negotiate another pay bump with UGA if he stays.

Before the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Monken said he’s happy at Georgia because he wants to win and likes working for Smart. But he added that he likes the money and would “never say never” to other opportunities. NFL teams will come knocking with big cash in hand, and Monken wouldn’t owe UGA any money if he takes an NFL coordinator job.

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