I’ve done enough of these and received enough feedback that I have a pretty good idea of how you all are going to react to certain coaches I preview. It seems like most of the readership shares my scarred-approach of, “OMG, WHAT’S HIS RECORD AGAINST WINNING TEAMS AND RANKED TEAMS [checks] GAAAAAAAAAH, WHYYYYYYYY” and trust me, I’m right there with you. But given the shallow pool that Missouri gets to swim in, I’m starting to warm up to a lot of these names, despite my loftier aspirations for their records. I will admit when I’m wrong, and I think my knee-jerk reaction to Jeff Monken was wrong because...well, let’s just take a look, shall we?
If there’s an elite option team out there in college football history, chances are Monken has had a place on the staff. From the Flying Hawaiians of the 80s to the D-II days of Buffalo through the options master himself Paul Johnson, and finally Georgia Southern and Army, Monken has utilized the option effectively at every stop. Much like Willie Fritz (or, really, any coach who weaponizes option football), he specializes in going to the most over-matched, cash-strapped underdog teams out there and terrorizing heftier programs with a simple attack that numbs you like Novocaine. Because of his propensity to work with bad teams, you’re going to see a lot of...unfriendly...numbers in the chart above. Stay calm, the most important numbers for any underdog coach is the win/loss column. But let’s still break down my categories, for posterity’s sake.
Monken played wide receiver at Milliken, devoted himself to the option as he worked his way through the ranks as offensive line coach, running backs coach, and special teams coordinator. And do they work? Absolutely: even while bringing in the equivalent of walk-ons and FCS talent, his offenses at Army are excellent at three things: running the ball, converting third downs, and milking the clock. It is worth pointing out that I highly doubt he would bring the triple option to Missouri, as it is a high-floor/low-ceiling approach that hamstrings your recruiting. However, I do think he would keep option elements to whatever he runs, and as a game planner and tactician, he’s shown to be more than adept.
Terrible, but there’s more to the story than that. Georgia Southern was FCS during his tenure, and Army has to deal with admissions standards of grades, height/weight ratios, and the service to the military that you must complete afterwards. There aren’t many (any?) NFL talents going to West Point, but they’re not really needed. Recruiting at the service academies is super weird; underclassmen tend to get packed into prep academies where they’re still being recruited by Army/Navy/Air Force, so even if you gave a verbal and signed LOI, if you’re not in the actual academy you can still be lured away, no penalty. So these three academies are always sniping the others’ players, making the focus for recruiting two-fold; preserve your youngsters and restock every year. Because of that, they recruit to fit, finding option/veer quarterbacks, blocking wide receivers, and super small/fast running backs that most schools don’t want. Offensive linemen tend to be light and mobile, d-linemen are equally swift and not heavy, and linebackers/safeties/corners are always recruited for speed and smarts. All of those qualities for those positions mean they rank super low (or not at all) at Rivals/247. So, no matter how good Army thinks its new crop is, it’s going to look poor from a national standpoint. I do believe Monken understands football and knows what kind of kids it would take to succeed certain levels, but just looking at his recruiting rankings at Army is going to make it seem like he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Another trick area. SP+ values recruiting, the conference quality, and returning starters. Army recruits poorly, has no conference mates to bolster its status, and typically only starts upperclassmen who then graduate in one-two years. So their rankings will always be poor, no matter how good they are. Again, that’s why I said in the beginning its better, in this case, to view wins/losses and to whom those wins and losses are attributed to. You ready? LOOK AT THIS:
I read how much you all hate records against winning teams and ranked teams. I read how you think none of the candidates I’ve previewed have proven anything against anyone. Well...Monken has. Unlike Norvell, Fritz, Kiffin, McElwain, etc., he has a winning record against ranked teams. And, similarly, he is 4 games up on teams with winning records. At Army. Running the option. His record against SP+ might not be much (I know that’s where you all will groan), but Army is typically hired to take a pounding from the elites, and as we’ve seen, they can hold their own against Oklahoma and Michigan. And remember, Monken was the guy who beat Florida without completing a pass.
Maybe I have Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe this coaching search has broken me. Maybe the lack of sleep is catching up. But...I like Monken. Not my #1, but if he’s in the final three, I’m happy. Granted, I want to know what offense he’ll run and what his recruiting plan is first but...yup, I’m good with him. And there’s nothing you can say to make me change my mind :)