There isn’t a single Packers fan in the world right now who thinks Ty Montgomery did the right thing. Down two with 2 minutes on the clock on the road against the best team in the NFC, you put your team in the best position to win the game. For Montgomery, that is taking a knee and giving the ball to the best quarterback in the league. Instead, he took the ball out of the endzone, and the rest is history. Today, Packer fans are calling for Montgomery to be cut. The problem is, Montgomery does offer this team value, and would leave the Packers in a precarious position from a depth perspective. So what should they do?
First, let’s address the elephant in the room – Michael Silver’s piece on the locker room perception of the last play. The part that stood out to me was the line:
“They took him out (the previous drive) for a play and he slammed his helmet and threw a fit,” one Packers player said. “Then (before the kickoff) they told him to take a knee, and he ran it out anyway. You know what that was? That was him saying, ‘I’m gonna do me.’ It’s a f—— joke.”
Insubordination is a clear concern here, but this is nothing new to the Packers. If you recall, the Packers had concerns with another insubordinate player with talent – Damarious Randall. Randall was frustrated after a bad play against the Bears, got into an argument with his coaches and left the stadium, which, for my money, is far more egregious than trying to make a play on the field. What did the Packers do? Pretty much nothing. They likely shortened his leash – something along the lines of “if this behavior continues, you’re off the team,” and I assume that’s exactly what they will do with Montgomery (rightfully so).
Herein lies the problem. The Packers are a team that is yearning for talent, and Montgomery is someone who can change a game in an instant with his pass catching skills. It is more than reasonable for Montgomery to be frustrated, in my opinion, since the Packers have mostly shied away from running backs in the pass game, and clearly favor Williams in most passing instances due to his blocking prowess (sigh). Frustration over his playing time (his snaps shrunk from 26 to 6 vs week six) is justified. He’s averaging 4 yards per carry and 11.3 yards per reception. For all intents and purposes, he’s been playing well, and to say he’s done all he can to help the team is entirely fair.
Couple that with the team forcing him to move from receiver to running back and all that entails (which is more than I think anyone will give him credit for) and it is perfectly justifiable frustration on the part of Montgomery – he’s only human. I get putting the team first, but Montgomery has been doing that since his 2nd season in switching to RB. It’s unfortunate it happened at such a critical juncture, and is really the only reason people are calling for his job.
It should be said, however, that there needs to be repercussions for insubordination. Randall was given far more leash because the Packers’ secondary was incredibly thin, but note Randall had a pick six in the very next game. The Packers are much better suited to play Jones and Williams ahead of Montgomery the rest of the way. Cutting him sends the completely wrong message to your team, though. That’s Montgomery’s lone lost fumble on the season, and only his 2nd in his career. If you cut him, you are effectively saying “make one mistake, and you are gone.” On a team full of youth, the last thing you should do is paralyze your young players for fear of making a mistake. Football is a game built on mistakes, where every play something breaks down and someone comes out on top.
The other problem is, you’re not going to find talent like him on the waiver wire, and trading him won’t yield anything in return, since he’s a free agent following this season. The Packers should let this play out, and let Montgomery ride the bench. Constant clamoring for depth has been the calling card of Packer fans for years. One of which is not supplying Rodgers with enough weapons. In cutting Montgomery, you replace a position of strength and depth with one that has talent, but would be dangerously thin if, god forbid, someone like Jones or Williams got hurt. If insubordination persists, deal with the problem then, but for Montgomery who has been nothing but a team player, and one blip shouldn’t jeopardize his roster spot.
One word comes to mind when I think of Packer players who have been put in similar predicaments – redemption. Crosby was on many fans chopping bock following the Detroit game, and he followed that up with a perfect night kicking, including a game winner against San Francisco. Davante Adams drew the ire of fans for his many drops early in his career, and has turned into a top 10 receiver and an unstoppable force getting off the line of scrimmage. Even Damarious Randall followed up that poor Bears showing with a solid finish to the season, and is now playing very well in Cleveland.
The point is, these guys all make mistakes, and punishing them after every single one is foolish. Montgomery will have to prove himself, like any other player, but cutting him after 1 poor game with 1 poor play is simply bad management, and something the Packers flat-out won’t do. Accept it and move on, just like Montgomery surely will. This will all be sorted out in the offseason.