Added accountability? Ty Montgomery, Jermaine Whitehead departures come after mental mistakes for Packers
GREEN BAY — Last week, Brian Gutekunst said the decisions he makes as the Green Bay Packers general manager are about performance first, not about sending messages to players.
“I don’t necessarily think there’s a message it sends to the locker room,” Gutekunst said after trading running back Ty Montgomery to the Baltimore Ravens and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Washington Redskins. “I think the decisions that we make are always in the best interest of our team, not only in the short term but the long term.”
But it’s hard to look at two of the Packers’ most recent roster moves — trading Montgomery for a conditional 2020 seventh-round pick, and releasing safety Jermaine Whitehead on Tuesday — and not think that those players’ mental mistakes or undisciplined actions at least factored into their abrupt departures.
Surely there were other factors involved, but there’s little question their mistakes hurt each player’s standing on the roster.
“I think you take everything into consideration when you make these kind of decisions,” Gutekunst said last week. “But performance comes first. That’s always the major factor in these decisions. Everything’s taken into account, but it’s never usually just one thing.”
From trading Montgomery for the draft-pick equivalent of a bag of footballs after his kickoff return gaffe in a loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 28, to cutting Whitehead two days after he was ejected from last Sunday night’s loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, the Packers now have moved on from a pair of players who began the season as meaningful contributors.
In fact, in the case of Whitehead, he had played 359 total snaps — 221 on defense and 138 on special teams — and the coaching staff seemingly saw him as an important piece of their sub packages on defense and coverage units on special teams. As recently as that Rams game, Whitehead was a key part of the defense, playing 75 of 78 defensive snaps.
His ejection against the Patriots, which came after he slapped New England center David Andrews and came with a 15-yard penalty that helped lead to a Patriots touchdown, left the Packers shorthanded, especially following Clinton-Dix’s departure last week. But coach Mike McCarthy indicated Monday that Whitehead’s mistake had been retaliating against Andrews, who seemed to be the instigator in the incident.
“I think the Whitehead penalty was clearly a classic reaction to the first guy. And they catch the second guy,” McCarthy said. “Whatever your feeling is, the severity of the penalty is a whole other topic. But you can’t have that. You can’t react to those types of things. We need to be better there.”
McCarthy also was unhappy with his team’s high number of mental errors against the Patriots, saying they “were way out of bounds.”
After Whitehead’s ejection and Kentrell Brice’s ankle injury, the Packers were down to only one true safety, second-year man Josh Jones, at game’s end. Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams shifted to safety and started in Clinton-Dix’s place against the Patriots.
The Packers claimed safety Ibraheim Campbell on waivers from the New York Jets on Monday, and they used Whitehead’s roster spot to promote cornerback Will Redmond to the 53-man roster Tuesday.
Campbell entered the league as a fourth-round pick from Northwestern in 2015 with the Cleveland Browns, whose head coach was now-Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Campbell has played in 43 games with 11 starts with four teams during his first four years in the NFL.
Redmond joined the Packers’ practice squad on Sept. 11 after being cut at the end of training camp by the Kansas City Chiefs. He entered the league as a third-round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 but missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury. He also missed the first half of last season with an ankle injury and has yet to play in an NFL regular-season game.
Thompson gets Hall call
Former GM Ted Thompson, who stepped aside during the offseason to take a senior advisory role as Gutekunst was promoted to GM, will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in May.
Thompson, hired as GM in 2005, famously selected quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first draft pick; made the decision to part ways with Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre in 2008; built the Super Bowl XLV-winning 2010 team’s roster; signed a pair of likely Pro Football Hall of Famers as free agents (Charles Woodson in 2006 and Julius Peppers in 2014); and used his draft-and-develop philosophy to build Rodgers-led teams that made the postseason a franchise-record eight straight years.
“It’s one of those things that’s too big to think about, really, for one person,” Thompson said in an on-camera interview that was posted to Packers.com — Thompson’s first public comments since moving to his advisory position. “You just don’t think in those large of terms. I had trouble believing it was true.
“You think about all the great players that have come through here and done great things, and you’re not one of those people. These are great idols, and I’m just a scout. But anyway, I was very fired up about it, though. I mean, it surprised me. But I was very, very excited.“
Allison to IR
As expected, the Packers put No. 3 wide receiver Geronimo Allison on injured reserve because of a core muscle injury that came to light last week. Allison would be eligible to return from IR for the playoffs if the Packers reach the postseason.
The Packers didn’t immediately fill Allison’s roster spot, and it’s unclear whether they’ll use one of their two IR-return designations on either former UW-Whitewater wide receiver Jake Kumerow or wide receiver/kick returner Trevor Davis. Both players have been on injured reserve and are eligible to return if the team opts to bring them back.