STILLWATER — Todd Monken lives with a constant fear of job failure.
Maybe that's why he's so good.
A year ago, Monken inherited a ready-made offense with ready-to-roll players and needed only to tweak things in triggering one of the nation's most potent offenses.
This year, however, Monken's Oklahoma State offense seemed more ready for disaster than anything.
Left tackle Michael Bowie was lost before the season started. Wide receiver Tracy Moore limped away for good in Game 5. And not two, but three quarterbacks — Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf — have circled through a revolving door spun by injury.
Still, Monken's attack keeps piling up yards and points, shining a spotlight on his ability, not only within the program, but beyond, surely enhancing his status as a hot head coaching candidate.
“He deserves a lot of credit, because he's our leader,” said Cowboys running back Joseph Randle. “He's the offensive leader. If you can keep making things work and keep moving forward, even with all those problems and issues that have come up, that just shows that you're a great coach.”
OSU's attack ranks among the nation's leaders in all the major categories: No. 3 scoring offense, No. 5 total offense, No. 7 passing offense, No. 20 rushing offense.
No matter the challenge, and there have been many, Monken seems to just plug and play.
The Cowboys are actually averaging more yards this season than a year ago, 547.9 to 545.8, which through 11 games ranks No. 1 in program history. Better than Weeden2Blackmon. Better than Barry Sanders and Co.
Randle leads the Big 12 in rushing. Minus Moore, Josh Stewart has emerged as a star in Monken's offense, as a sophomore producing one of the top receptions and receiving yards seasons in school history. And for the first time in school history, five different players have recorded 100-yard receiving games.
Hesitant to accept any credit, Monken said that he hasn't once reflected on any job well done.
“The only time that happens is when I feel like I have to defend myself, when people are critical,” Monken said. “But until that point, I'm real humble. I think we've got good coaches. We've got good players.
“It's our job to find a way to score and make it right. No one wants to hear that you can't.”
Ironically, it's Monken himself who battles the concept of “can't.”
“Every week, I swear, I have no idea how we're going to score,” he said. “‘How can we do this and this and this?'
“Even last year, you're just fearful. That fear drives me. I'm actually driven more by fear that we won't be able to figure it out and find the best way for us to win. I take it all internally.”
If Monken's job seemed easy to outsiders last season, when he had first-round NFL draft picks in Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon and more, this year has confirmed Mike Gundy's confidence in bringing him in to replace Dana Holgorsen.
And these two very different seasons have only heightened interest in Monken as a potential head coach. He was involved in jobs a year ago, including Southern Miss, Illinois and Tulane, which offered him its head position.
The dominoes are starting to fall this year, with various levels of jobs already open and more to come. And Gundy expects to answer calls from athletic directors wanting to talk about his offensive coordinator, as they have before in taking Larry Fedora and Holgorsen from the same post.
“I'd hate to break the streak,” Gundy said sarcastically, “where we didn't have anything to talk about during bowl practice.”
So far, Monken said, all has been quiet on the job front. He'd like to be a head coach, like most assistants, although he can be picky with an annual salary of $600,000.
“I haven't had any contact. None,” Monken said. “Believe me, I don't keep much back. When it's my time, the right one will come and it will be at the right moment.
“The right job is the one you can win at. It doesn't matter what the money is, you like winning. It's not about the money.”