3 Scott Turner replacements Commanders should already have lined up

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 27: Carson Wentz #11 of the Washington Commanders speaks with offensive coordinator Scott Turner before the preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 27: Carson Wentz #11 of the Washington Commanders speaks with offensive coordinator Scott Turner before the preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on August 27, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

To the delight of many, and to the chagrin of a few, the Washington Commanders parted company with offensive coordinator Scott Turner on Tuesday. Turner came to the Commanders in 2020, after coaching quarterbacks in Carolina under Ron Rivera. Throughout his three seasons, during which Washington used eight different starting quarterbacks, Turner never got the offensive into the upper half of the league. They typically languished around 20th in most important categories.

After a poor first season, the offense showed some modest progress in 2021. But this season, despite a group of skilled running backs and wide receivers, that progress ground to a halt. He was never able to challenge the perimeter of the defense. His continued attempts to run horizontal plays often killed drives. He had to contend with personnel problems at quarterback and on the line, but the fact is, he never figured out a way to overcome those problems. Washington averaged fewer than 19 points a game in 2022, behind offenses the likes of Chicago and Carolina. It was their lowest total in Turner’s three seasons.

So Turner is gone, and now the task turns to replacing him. There are no obvious in-house candidates. There are some veterans like Ken Zampese and Randy Jordan, but I’m thinking Rivera is going to look outside the organization, seeking what he referred to as “a fresh start.”

First of all, I would not consider either of the offensive-minded head coaches recently fired. Nathaniel Hackett and Kliff Kingsbury can rehabilitate their careers somewhere else. On the other hand, I would be very interested in Frank Reich, despite his age. Sometimes, the young genius is not the way to go. I just don’t think Reich would be interested in the position — at least not this year.

Here are three intriguing candidates who might be:

Todd Monken, Offensive Coordinator, University of Georgia

Monken will be a very hot commodity should he want to return to the NFL. In 2022, Georgia had to rebound from the loss of so many quality defensive players, and they did it by relying on their offense. Of course they had great skill players, but Monken, with an unheralded QB, turned them into a juggernaut, both running and passing. They used their two uber-talented tight ends better than anyone in the country, but also found creative ways to get their receivers and backs involved.

Typically, it is hard to evaluate how a college coach may fare when moving up the pros. But in Monken’s case, there is a decent track record in the NFL. He has eight years of experience as an assistant with stops in Jacksonville, Tampa, and Cleveland. He served as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator for three seasons, and in his final year, his offense scored just under 25 points per game.

Ben Johnson, Offensive coordinator, Detroit Lions

There’s an obvious problem with trying to hire offensive coordinators away from other NFL teams. Leaving aside the potential turmoil caused by the likely team sale, why would someone like Ben Johnson leave an up-and-coming team – one with a resurgent quarterback and a quality offensive line, for a lateral move to a team with worse personnel? Well, he probably wouldn’t. But in Johnson’s case, there is a pitch to be made.

In Detroit, there is already a offensive-minded head coach in Dan Campbell. And there is an offensive-minded assistant head coach in Duce Staley. Johnson may consider a lateral move if it offers him more control over the offense. He is just 36 years but has extensive professional experience in both Miami and Detroit. And whether her was the one who actually called the play or not, I want a guy who was involved in the decision to run that hook and ladder play – perfectly executed, by the way – at the end of the recent Lions-Packers game.

Greg Lewis, Running Backs Coach, Kansas City Chiefs

I have heard rumors that Washington wants Eric Bienemy, the Chiefs offensive coordinator. I’ll get to that in a minute, but suffice to say, I don’t see it happening. But I could see taking one of his lieutenants. Lewis, who played in the NFL for eight years before transitioning into coaching, has been learning under Andy Reid and Bienemy in KC for the past six years. I can’t imagine better training for a coordinator. He is 42 and would probably welcome the chance to move up.

When KC running backs coach Deland McCullough left for the University of Indiana in 2021, Lewis asked Reid if he could move from the wide receivers to the running backs so that he could expand his knowledge of the offense. Reid was happy to oblige. It’s hard to argue with the success he has had, as both Isaiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon had superb seasons in 2021. Is he ready for the step up? I’d be willing to take a chance.

As for Bieniemy – he is absolutely, positively not leaving KC to become Washington’s offensive coordinator. There’s a 50/50 chance this will be the year he finally gets his shot at a head coaching job. But even if he doesn’t, why would he leave the best offensive coach, the best quarterback, and the best offense in football for a giant question mark in DC? The only reason he – or Byron Leftwich in Tampa Bay – might be induced to come here is with a promotion. So if Rivera were willing to offer an Associate Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator title, then perhaps someone with higher pedigree would take the job.

I don’t see it happening.

This now concludes Washington’s on-again/off-again, love/hate relationship with the Turner family. I suspect Scott will resurface somewhere, and even though I so think this was the right move, I wish him nothing but success.