Ever dreamed of being an NFL coach? Congratulations, you’re about to get your chance. In a make-believe fashion, of course.
Let’s say you are the head coach of a team that rotates three running backs in its backfield. Let’s further say that, in the three games for which all three have been active, they’ve produced the following stat lines.
RB A: 24 carries, 147 yards, one touchdown; four receptions, 41 yards
RB B: 22 carries, 89 yards, zero touchdowns; four receptions, 35 yards
RB C: 13 carries, 49 yards, zero touchdowns; nine receptions, 128 yards
Let’s now add in the fact that all three of these backs were on your roster a year ago, and that RB A was the most productive on the ground, running for 448 yards and four touchdowns on 81 carries. Oh, and don’t forget that your franchise quarterback, who happens to be one of the five best to ever play the position, stated to reporters on the record that he wants RB A to get more time. It’s pretty clear what you’d do, isn’t it? Stats might not tell the whole story, but they give us a pretty fair outline of this one. RB A would be your feature back, RB C would mix in on obvious passing downs, and RB B would barely see the field. Simple, right? Or at least it should be.
This is not a pure hypothetical and, unfortunately, the coach who’s actually at the controls here continues to whiff on the obvious. Mike McCarthy is committing offensive malpractice in the Green Bay backfield.
RB A is Aaron Jones, clearly the best back on the team’s roster. RB C is Ty Montgomery, a useful pass-catching back who can also split out wide after spending most of his college days at Stanford playing receiver. RB B is Jamaal Williams, who, while strong in pass protection, has done nothing with his ample opportunities to prove himself an impact runner. It’s long past time for McCarthy to wake up with respect to his backfield, but there’s no guarantee that he will do so. After all, this reality was plain to see before and during the Packers’ Week 5 loss to the Lions, and instead of embracing it, McCarthy completely railed against the obvious. After running for 40 yards on seven carries in the first half, Jones got all of one touch in the second half. It was a reception that, unsurprisingly, went for 12 yards. And just for the record, Jones has yet to allow a QB pressure this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Since Jones returned from a two-game suspension in Week 3, he has played just 30.1% of the team’s snaps. Williams has played 40.3%, and Montgomery has played 30.5%. Some of that deficit accrued in Jones’ season debut, but Williams has out-snapped him over the last two weeks, significantly so in the loss to the Lions. Unfortunately for the fantasy community, while Packers fans can be symbolic owners of the team, they cannot be its coaching staff. That makes future navigation of this backfield a frustrating experience if McCarthy is going to stick to his guns on usage. Still, there’s only one route that possibly leads to a huge payoff, and it’s the one we recommend taking. Buy Jones.
Calls for McCarthy’s job, or at least for him to show an ability to adapt to the modern game, have gotten louder in Green Bay, and he has to be hearing them. The din has risen in volume not only because of how he has handled the backfield, but it is part and parcel of an unwillingness to change with the times. The bet here is that McCarthy is hearing the cacophony and seeing the fruitlessness of ignoring Jones’ talents. Jones has led the backfield in snap rate in one of his three games this season. The Packers won that game. Williams led the backfield in snap rate in the other two, and they were both losses. Jones can be a legitimate fantasy star if given the chance. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, we have to believe McCarthy will finally give him that chance sooner rather than later.