Todd Monken

Extra Points: Falcons, Browns, Carson

Some assorted notes as we wrap up this Monday night:

  • The Falcons will audition safeties on Tuesday in the wake of Keanu Neal‘s season-ending injury, head coach Dan Quinn announced. Neal suffered a torn Achilles during Sunday’s loss, and the team turned to Kemal Ishmael for the rest of the game. While Quinn didn’t disclose any names, Eric Berry, George Iloka, and T.J. McDonald are among the top free agents at the position.
  • The 1-2 Browns currently rank 26th in the league with 16.3 points per game, but head coach Freddie Kitchens isn’t ready to hand over play-calling duties. Kitchens made it clear to reporters that he’ll continue to call plays this weekend against the Ravens. “You can write that if you want to, but that’s not even feasible,’’ Kitchens said (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). “That’s not being considered. No, it’s not…it’s not going to happen.” As Cabot writes, Kitchens “dismissed the notion that serving the dual roles of head coach and playcaller are too much for him,” and he scoffed at the suggestion that offensive coordinator Todd Monken could handle the duties.
  • JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington believes that Redskins offensive guard Brandon Scherff is likely heading towards free agency. Finlay writes that the front office never made an enticing offer to the 27-year-old, and despite Scherff’s Pro Bowl pedigree, the organization is wary of paying him more than $13MM per season. On the flip side, Finlay says the organization could always use the franchise tag on the lineman if they want to retain his services.
  • Seahawks running back Chris Carson has three fumbles through three games, but the team will continue to rely on the 25-year-old. Head coach Pete Carroll told Pro Football Talk’s Curtis Crabtree that the team will play the back as he works through his case of the yips. “Because we do believe in him, we’re going to continue to show him that,” Carroll said (via PFT’s Charean Williams). “He’s a terrific football player, and we want to make sure and maintain that level of play from him, so we’ll work at it and work with him on it.” Carson has compiled 159 rushing yards and one touchdown on 45 carries this season.

Browns Notes: Kitchens, Monken, Mayfield, Johnson

New Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens hired former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken for the same role this offseason, but Monken’s transition has reportedly not gone well, according to Mike Silver of NFL.com (Twitter link). In turn, Kitchens has been forced to play a larger than expected role in “spearheading” Cleveland’s offense, per Silver. Kitchens had already been planning to call offensive plays in 2019, so it’s unclear what the issue regarding Monken might be. Speculatively, it’s possible Monken’s Air Raid background hasn’t meshed well with the offense that Kitchens is installing for the Browns.

Here’s more from Cleveland:

  • More from Silver, who indicates several Browns veterans weren’t pleased quarterback Baker Mayfield publicly criticized running back Duke Johnson, who is still asking for a trade out of Cleveland. Regarding Johnson, Mayfield said (among other things) “you’re either on this train or you’re not, it’s moving.” An unwritten NFL rule typically dictates that players don’t comment on teammates’ contractual situations, and it sounds like Mayfield was made aware of that concept. Per Silver, Mayfield and the Browns players who disagreed with his comments have “hashed things out.”
  • The Browns tried to claim cornerback Montrel Meander off waivers from the Raiders before the Jets beat them to the punch, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com hears (Twitter link). Meander spent most of the 2018 campaign on Cleveland’s practice squad, and will now join former Browns/current Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in New York.
  • In case you missed it, the Browns last week added a former Raiders executive to their front office.

Coaching Rumors: Rizzi, Dennison, Browns

Darren Rizzi interviewed for the Dolphins coaching job that is likely to go to Brian Flores, but the special teams coordinator is a coveted commodity around the league. The Packers are set to interview him, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Miami wants to retain Rizzi, who has been with the team throughout the 2010s, but has given him permission to seek employment elsewhere. That may soon prompt an extensive interview circuit. Five teams are interested in bringing him aboard, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald tweets. The Vikings look to be one of those. Rizzi, 48, has only coached for one NFL franchise. His pre-Dolphins gigs were college jobs in the northeast, including a one-season stay (2008) as Rhode Island’s head coach.

As week three of many teams’ offseason begins, here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Todd Monken‘s rise to Buccaneers play-caller earned him interest in teams’ OC jobs. He ended up landing with the Browns, but the other recent play-caller on this staff will call Cleveland’s plays next season. Freddie Kitchens will be the game-day director for the Browns’ offense next season, Pat McManamon of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). This won’t be too new for Monken, who spent the first two seasons as Bucs OC watching Dirk Koetter call plays.
  • The Vikings announced Klint Kubiak (quarterbacks coach) and Brian Pariani (tight ends) are following Gary Kubiak to Minnesota, with the latter’s official title being assistant head coach/offensive advisor. Expected to be part of the Gary Kubiak gang getting back together up north, Rick Dennison was not included in this announcement. But Mike Klis of 9News notes the former Broncos and Bills OC is indeed believed to be part of the next Vikings staff (Twitter link). When Kubiak agreed to reprise his longtime role as Broncos OC, he wanted Dennison to oversee the team’s offensive line concepts, per Klis. The Broncos’ pursuit of Mike Munchak overruled this, and Dennison — the Jets’ O-line coach in 2018 — could be set to have a role in aiding the Vikings’ blockers next season.
  • Speaking of Munchak, the Broncos went beyond their usual offensive line coach budget to bring him over from Pittsburgh, Klis notes (on Twitter). Munchak, who has coached for just two franchises (the Oilers/Titans and Steelers), has family in the area.
  • The Steelers promoted Shaun Sarrett to replace Munchak as their O-line coach, the team announced. Sarrett had previously served as the team’s assistant offensive line coach. He has been with the Steelers for seven seasons, helping instruct their offensive linemen for most of that time.
  • After the Steelers let running backs coach James Saxon go, he will move to Arizona. The Cardinals are hiring Saxon to coach their running backs, Aditi Kinkabwala of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). He will replace Kirby Wilson and attempt to revive Arizona’s No. 32-ranked ground game. Saxon has 19 years’ experience coaching running backs in the NFL — the past five with the Steelers, where he oversaw Le’Veon Bell‘s rise and James Conner and Jaylen Samuels‘ quality replacement efforts — and should help rookie NFL coach Kliff Kingsbury.
  • Kris Kocurek will move from south Florida to the Bay Area, shifting from the Dolphins’ defensive line coach to the same role with the 49ers, Adam Caplan of Sirius XM tweets. Kocurek, 40, was the Lions’ D-line coach for nine seasons prior to moving to Miami.

Browns Hire Todd Monken, Steve Wilks

The Browns’ coaching staff is officially set. On Monday, the Browns officially announced the hiring of Todd Monken as the new offensive coordinator and Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator. In addition to those hires, the club appointed Mike Priefer as special teams coordinator, Stump Mitchell as the running backs coach/run game coordinator, James Campen as offensive line coach/associate head coach, and Ryan Lindley as quarterbacks coach.

Monken has a reputation for savvy play calling, even though Buccaneers’ offense was inconsistent in 2018. The Bucs didn’t consider him as a potential replacement for head coach Dirk Koetter, but other clubs were eager to talk with him. The Bengals, Packers, and Jets all interviewed him for their head coaching vacancies and several clubs showed keen interest in bringing him on as their new OC. Ultimately, Monken chose the Browns, who offer tremendous potential and a potential star quarterback in Baker Mayfield.

Wilks was one-and-done as the Cardinals’ head coach after the team limped to a 3-13 record. His defense did not perform up to par in Arizona, but he built a reputation for himself as a smart defensive mind in Carolina. In his six seasons with the Panthers (five as defensive backs coach, one as DC), the club finished with a top 10 defense five times.

Browns To Hire Steve Wilks As DC, Todd Monken As OC

Steve Wilks wasn’t out of work long. The recently fired Cardinals head coach will be joining the Browns as Cleveland’s new defensive coordinator, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). Just moments later, Rapoport reported in a separate tweet that Todd Monken would be joining the Browns as their offensive coordinator.

While Rapoport the deal for Wilks isn’t quite done yet, he writes that the two sides are “close on a deal and it should be done tomorrow.” Things came together quite quickly for Freddie Kitchens’ staff, and the coaching staff now has a lot of star power. Wilks was fired by the Cardinals after just one season after the team limped to a 3-13 record.

Monken received a lot of praise for his work as the Buccaneers’ play caller this season, but wasn’t retained after head coach Dirk Koetter was let go. Monken used a creative, downfield oriented passing offense with Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, and his offensive philosophy would seem to mesh well with Kitchens’.

Monken received some head coaching buzz and interviews this cycle, but obviously didn’t land a gig. The Lions and Packers were reportedly interested in talking to him about their offensive coordinator vacancies, but Monken clearly was intrigued by the prospect of working with Baker Mayfield. He also interviewed with the Jaguars a few days ago.

We heard a couple days ago that the Browns were working to bring in Wilks, so this isn’t a surprise. Wilks’ lone season as a head coach clearly didn’t work out, but he was highly regarded as a coordinator with the Panthers before that.

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Packers, Lions To Interview Todd Monken

Both the Packers and Lions intend to interview former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken in the coming days, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Monken is also scheduled to meet with the Browns this weekend.

Monken generated head coaching interest in the past few weeks, and even interviewed for the Green Bay position before Matt LaFleur was hired. Monken’s meeting with the Packers was said to have gone especially well, so it’s perhaps no surprise that they’ve asked him back. While he presumably wouldn’t call plays in Green Bay, Monken would have the opportunity work with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers.

In Detroit, meanwhile, Monken would have the opportunity to call offensive plays. Head coach Matt Patricia comes from a defensive background, and the Lions are searching for a new OC after firing Jim Bob Cooter earlier this week. Monken, who runs an Air Raid scheme, would offer a stark contrast to Cooter’s run-oriented offense.

Monken, a former collegiate head coach at Southern Miss, joined Tampa Bay in 2016 but wasn’t named OC until last season. The Buccaneers proceeded to rank third in total yardage, third in yards per play, and 12th in points and DVOA despite flip-flopping between Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.

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Coaching Rumors: Jets, Gase, Cardinals, Lions

The Jets likely preferred Baylor’s Matt Rhule to Adam Gase, but as previously reported, things fell apart when Rhule refused to allow the Jets to pick his staff for him. The Jets especially wanted to choose his offensive coordinator and Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears the Jets floated Todd Monken to him as an option.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Cardinals asked, but were denied, permission to interview 49ers run game coordinator Mike McDaniel for their offensive coordinator position, Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets. McDaniel is tight with head coach Kyle Shanahan and the team was not prepared to lose him, especially to a divisional rival.
  • “It appears” that Steve Sarkisian and Nathaniel Hackett are in the mix for the Lions‘ offensive coordinator vacancy, Alex Marvez of SiriusXM tweets. The Lions have been looking for a new OC ever since Jan. 1 when they announced that Jim Bob Cooter‘s contract would not be renewed.
  • Sarkisian has also spoken with the Cardinals about their OC job, Marvez tweets. Sarkisian has been on the market since Dec. 31 when he was fired by Atlanta.
  • Both the Cardinals and Browns have sought permission to interview Jets running backs coach Stump Mitchell, a source tells Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The position(s) he’ll be discussing with those teams are unclear, however.

Browns, Jaguars Talk With Todd Monken

Former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken will interview with the Browns for their vacant OC job this weekend, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Monken also spoke with the Jaguars about their OC vacancy, so it appears that he is only focused on those jobs at the moment.

Monken was in the running for the Packers’ and Jets’ openings, but those positions have since been filled by Matt LaFleur and Adam Gase, respectively. He also interviewed for the Bengals’ job, which is still vacant, but his move to talk OC jobs with the Jags and Browns is probably an indication that he won’t be getting the gig in Cincy.

For what it’s worth, Rapoport hears that Monken impressed in his head coaching interviews with the Jets, so he should be positioned as a strong candidate for these OC openings. The Browns job may be especially appealing to Monken and other offensive specialists, though they’ll have to weigh the fact that new head coach Freddie Kitchens will probably hold the keys on play calling.

Jets To Interview Todd Monken

The Jets will interview Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken on Tuesday, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The Jets made their request to talk with Monken recently and the Bucs did not stand in the way since Monken is likely on his way out no matter what. 

The Buccaneers are the midst of their own head coaching search, but they eliminated Monken from the pool when they announced that no internal candidates would be considered from the post. Monken, theoretically, could stay as the offensive coordinator under a new regime, but Monken has little incentive to wait and around and find out if the Bucs’ next head coach wants him.

The Bucs fell flat in 2018, but the offense did have its moments under Monken. It’s also worth noting that Monken was the runner-up in Green Bay before that job went to Matt LaFleur.

The Jets have already met with Mike McCarthy, Kris Richard, Jim Caldwell, Matt Rhule, Eric Bieniemy, Adam Gase, and Kliff Kingsbury. There’s a belief that Rhule is high on the Jets’ list, but it would be a gutsy move to choose him over some of the other names on this list.

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Packers Hire Titans OC Matt LaFleur As HC

It looks like the first head coaching search of the offseason might be coming to an end. The Packers are “zeroing in on” hiring Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, sources told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The team has since confirmed the hire via press release.

While nothing is official yet, Schefter writes that the Packers “have begun notifying other HC candidates that they’ve interviewed that they’re out and the team has made its choice.” Schefter then posted a follow up tweet noting that the team offered the job to LaFleur. It’s a rapid ascent for LaFleur, who last season wasn’t even calling plays. LaFleur was the Rams’ offensive coordinator for the 2017 season, but Sean McVay called the plays. He was the Falcons’ quarterbacks coach before that from 2015-2016, and learned under two of the league’s most highly regarded offensive minds in Kyle Shanahan and McVay.

He was then hired away by the Titans to become part of Mike Vrabel’s first staff, where he served as the playcaller. Despite Marcus Mariota being frequently hurt, LaFleur helped guide the team to nine wins, with Tennessee ultimately falling just short of the playoffs. LaFleur is only 39, and his hiring continues the trend of teams looking for young offensive gurus as head coaches.

Despite dealing with a nerve injury in his throwing arm that limited him for several games and knocked him out of several others, Mariota averaged the most yards per attempt of his career under LaFleur. While the offense wasn’t nearly as dynamic as the one LaFleur helped build in Los Angeles, it was a lot more creative and innovative than the one Mike Mularkey had been running in Tennessee. Aaron Rodgers had clearly grown frustrated with the offense during Mike McCarthy’s last years with the Packers, and LaFleur should at the very least provide a much needed breath of fresh air to the offense.

While the offensive side of the ball is set to undergo a total makeover, there might be some continuity on defense. The move means the team is likely to keep defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and the rest of the defensive staff in place, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN (Twitter link). Rapoport notes in a separate tweet that former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken was the “other really strong candidate” for the Packers, but the team settled on LaFleur without conducting a second round of interviews.

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