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Week 15 Walkthroughs: On Packers’ Balance, Backs, & Bayless

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The APC writers sound off on Skip Bayless, a “balanced” offense, and the future of the Packers’ running backs.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
Ty Montgomery is leading the way for the Packers’ offense. Is he the key to a balanced attack?
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Rapport on Skip Bayless

Sunday was a great day for Packers fans. There was the dramatic win over the Bears to tie the all-time series (94-94-6). There was the Lions and Vikings both losing to help the Packers playoff chances. And then there was this:

That’s right. The Skipper—the Packer-hating projectile vomiter of bad takes (and the less talented Bayless brother)—was caught trying to manufacture Facebook support for his latest flop of a show. The only trouble is, he forgot to logout of his verified personal account. I could make some lofty point about self aggrandizement or “hot take culture” and the drivel it produces, but I’m merely content to revel in Skip’s flaming-bag-of-poo moment.

Bob Fitch on the concept of balance

Balance is overrated. As a chubby kid in 6th grade, the physical education unit on gymnastics featured a lot of balance beam walking. It’s a board, covered in felt, suspended two feet above a blue mat, that you walk across. It’s dumb and doesn’t serve much of a point.

The concept of balance on the football field can be just as needless. A team that is successful running the football (for instance, the Dallas Cowboys) would not decide, in a game in which they built a lead by successfully running the football, to change their minds in the fourth quarter throw the ball every down just to achieve some semblance of “balance.” Conversely, if your team put up 28 points in the first half throwing the football, why wouldn’t you want to repeat those successes in the second half?

Balance can be a tremendous asset to a football team if actually achieved; it is not often that a superbowl winner is only good at one facet of the game. Constantly relying on Aaron Rodgers to make up for a poor run game is not a viable long-term strategy, and it’s incredibly stress-inducing. The amount of pressure on each pass thrown is amplified tenfold, because we all know that there is no run game to bail him out if he has an off-night. There is no question that if the Packers can achieve a better run-pass balance, their offense will be better. The problem with the concept of balance in football lies in the notion that in order to be successful, you must achieve balance, no matter the outcome.

Mike McCarthy has drawn ire from fans and writers alike for his persistence on a notion of balance. Forcing the ball to James Starks, Don Jackson or Aaron Ripkowski was never going to actually force teams to commit to defending the run. However, this past Sunday, by way of Ty Montgomery, Christine Michael, and the lowly Chicago Bears, McCarthy found his balance. Let’s just hope McCarthy doesn’t decide that Green Bay is now a power running team.

Evan “Tex” Western on the future of the Packers’ running backs

Almost lost in the hullabaloo surrounding Ty Montgomery was the fact that Christine Michael broke off a shotgun blast of a touchdown run on Sunday against the Bears, putting up his first significant highlight as a Green Bay Packer. Michael’s burst through the line was astounding, and he showed great power running through a tackle as well.

That run showed all the qualities that made Michael a Combine darling and earned him a loyal (if perhaps slightly obsessive) fantasy Twitter following. It also begs the question of what the Packers should do at the running back position in the offseason.

Like Eddie Lacy, who was drafted one pick ahead of him in 2013, Michael is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Considering his lack of a consistent home throughout his NFL career, it would not be surprising to see him sign a relatively short and cheap contract, perhaps on the order of one or two million per season. Meanwhile, Lacy’s injury makes it more likely that he might be able to return to Green Bay on a discount as well, as other teams may be unwilling to invest heavily in the big back.

James Starks is still signed through next season, but given his lack of production this year and insistence on bouncing runs to the outside despite not having the speed to reach the edge, he should be a casualty of the numbers game. His $750,000 in dead money can be easily absorbed, especially because the salary cap is expected to rise to $166 million or more.

Montgomery will be in the third year of his rookie contract in 2017, making him a bargain if he can sustain even modest production as a third-down back next season. A three-headed monster of Montgomery, Michael, and Lacy would be a fun group to watch out of the backfield next season.

Paul Noonan on the Packers’ prolific passing

The Packers have completed the 5th-most passes in the NFL this year. They trail the Saints who rank first with 420, and Washington, who ranks 3rd with 367, and a pair of other teams that I found quite surprising. The Ravens have completed the 2nd most passes in football despite being horrible at passing. To be fair, they are also horrible at running, but for a team with an outstanding defense, it’s really quite the feat, and despite completing 28 more passes than Aaron Rodgers and company, they have gained 7 fewer yards through the air.

Almost a surprising is the Vikings, who have completed 355 passes, compared to just 348 for Green Bay; however despite completing 7 more passes, they have accounted for 363 fewer yards. Another defensively capable but offensively inept team, the Eagles, also ranks near the top.

Normally you will find that a team with a stout defense will complement it with a powerful running game, but this year is just an odd case in which the good defenses support offenses that are inept across the board. Those inept teams still fall behind, still get stuffed, and still have to pass to keep up. If you hear an announcer refer to the Vikings as a team that plays good defense and relies on the ground game to control blah blah blah, just know that it’s complete nonsense.

Jon Meerdink on Ty Montgomery’s jersey number

Now that Ty Montgomery is officially, 100% a running back, it’s possible the Packers may make their budding star change his number for some Draconian reason. I sure hope they don’t. Sure, he’s a running back, but watching him slice through defenses wearing a number more commonly associated with lumbering tight ends is awesome.

There is precedent for the NFL allowing Montgomery to keep 88. When the Bears drafted Devin Hester, he was originally slotted as a defensive back and chose number 23. When he was switched to offense, the league allowed Hester to keep his number, although the fact that he was already a star returner may have factored into the decision.

That players at certain positions have to wear certain numbers already feels like an outdated policy to begin with, but regardless, I hope that Montgomery gets to keep being his wacky, wonderful self while wearing his wide receiver number.

Bonus: Only four other Packers players have recorded a rushing attempt while wearing number 88, and none are listed as a running back on Pro Football Reference. The list includes Ron Kramer, Charles Wilson, Aubrey Matthews, and Bill Anderson.