The Green Bay Packers have finally hit the middle of their 2016 season, as they approach week 10 at a record of 4-4. Today, Acme Packing Company begins revealing our picks for a handful of midseason awards. The first is for Offensive Most Valuable Player. The vote was close, but a surprise player won the honor: running back/wide receiver Ty Montgomery.
You might think this decision is either crazy or stupid, and Montgomery won a plurality of APC writers, not a majority, but I think, given the options available, it’s the correct call. If anyone wants to argue for an offensive lineman I would probably agree that you have a case, and everyone has seen the time that Aaron Rodgers has back there, but the line has a way of splitting votes, so please note that David Bakhtiari, TJ Lang, and Lane Taylor all received votes. Meanwhile, JC Tretter would have been my personal second choice.
You can always make a case for Aaron Rodgers, but while the quarterback is responsible for more than any other individual player, that cuts both ways, and while his great plays can produce wins out of thin air, his struggles can erase potential victories, and there have been struggles.
After a strong start in which Davante Adams occasionally reached lofty heights of DVOA, he came back down to earth last week and now barely ekes out Nelson on the leaderboard, where he has actually fallen behind the frequently injured Cobb.
Eddie Lacy would probably be an easy choice if he was still playing, but even so he has seen more time than Montgomery. So why Ty Montgomery of all people? Why a hybrid receiver/running back that has basically played in just 3 games?
The reason is simple: Montgomery is the cog that makes the offense go. I’m used to measuring player value using baseball stats like WAR/WARP, which put a single number to individual performance, but football doesn’t work like that. Football is a mass of interacting gears, relying on each other for maximum efficiency. Football is team chemistry in the most literal sense. The positive externalities created by Montgomery are legion.
1. He creates better play-calling
When Montgomery has been on the field, the passing game has been loads better as he is the rare Green Bay weapon that can draw defensive attention to the middle of the field, allowing the play to open up elsewhere. His ability to line up anywhere on the field means that he can always be pushed to a weak point and put pressure on the defense. Making use of Montgomery necessitates a deviation from the norm, and so far it has worked well.
2. Montgomery is a matchup nightmare.
As an uber-strong Darren Sproles-esque running back who can run routes like a receiver is something the Packers should have added a long time ago, and his ability to abuse linebackers, safeties, and the occasional corner in short space, catch high percentage passes, and produce easy YAC are a godsend. Pre-Montgomery, there was nothing special for a defense to prepare for. Corners guarded the Adams/Nelson/Cobb trio, the rest prepared for the Lacy-driven power running game, and that was about it. Now the defense has to account for the secret 4th receiver on every play.
3. Montgomery hasn’t been good, he’s been great.
What I’m about to do constitutes statistical negligence, but it’s worth pointing out just how involved Montgomery has been over the last 3 games. So far he has 321 total yards on 23 carries and 19 rushes. If you pro-rate that out to 16 games of production (which, again, you should not do) you get 123 receptions for 1076.7 yards and 101 carries for 634.3 yards for a total of 1711 yards from scrimmage. Montgomery almost certainly would not hit those lofty heights, of course (though I would argue he should), but I still think this is useful to demonstrate that this is the kind of player he has been over the last 3 games.
4. Montgomery is their best hope going forward.
If this offense is suddenly going to wake up, he is likely to be the cause. They woke up 3 games ago, they stayed that way against the Falcons, and once he became involved in the passing game late against Indy, they were dynamite again. Davante Adams was the runner up in our poll of first half MVPs, but we ultimately decided that if he got hurt, replacing him would be relatively easy. Geronimo Allison can probably do that, much of the time. Who replaces Montgomery?
5. Montgomery is fun.
Entertainment value counts for something. We watch football because it is fun, and when the Packers’ offense has struggled it is decidedly not fun. As soon as Montgomery enters the game I get excited because I think something new and fun is about to happen. That feeling has been far too rare this season, and he has been one of the true bright spots.
There you have it. If you disagree, that’s fine, the majority of APC writers did as well. I still believe it’s the correct call, and that by season’s end, it will be more obvious. We encourage you to vote in the poll below for your choice for offensive MVP.