Kareem Hunt

Is it fair to compare David Montgomery to Kareem Hunt?

Is it fair to compare David Montgomery to Kareem Hunt?

Subscribe to & download the Under Center Podcast for the full interview with Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning about David Montgomery. 

Both NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein and the Ringer’s Danny Kelly drew a comparison between Bears third-round pick David Montgomery and former Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, who rushed for a league-leading 1,327 yards and caught 53 passes as a rookie while Matt Nagy was Kansas City’s offensive coordinator in 2017. 

That’s a lofty on-field comparison to make, and is part of why expectations for Montgomery will be so high in Chicago in 2019. But Iowa State offensive coordinator Tom Manning, who was part of coaching staffs that worked with both Montgomery and Hunt in college, thinks it’s a fair line to draw between the two running backs. 

“They both catch the ball really well out of the backfield, they’re a little bit different in their running styles but there’s some similarities,” Manning said. “They’re obviously built a lot alike and I think (they have) the same kind of style, they have the ability to make people miss, they’re smooth in their transitions and they have the ability to put a shoulder down and play calm and be a physical runner and then they both do a great job with catching the football. 

“There are some clips that you can go back and forth and watch and say man, (Montgomery) kind of reminds me of Kareem. And you go back cuts from (Hunt) too and you’re like man, that’s kind of strange, it looks a little like David there in that sense. They’re different, but I do think there are some similarities.”

Hunt’s testing numbers at the NFL Combine were similar to those of Montgomery, too, outside of Hunt’s vertical leap being better: 

Player Height Weight 40  Bench Leap Broad
Hunt 5-10 216 4.62 18 36.5 119.0
Montgomery 5-10 222 4.63 15 28.5 121.0

While Manning and head coach Matt Campbell were at Toledo, Hunt never was much of a pass-catcher — he totaled 32 receptions in three years — but after that crew left for Ames, he had 41 receptions his senior year. Montgomery peaked with 36 catches in 2017, a year before Manning left to become the Indianapolis Colts’ tight ends coach (he has since returned to his role as Iowa State offensive coordinator). 

Montgomery’s pass-catching acumen comes from a certain natural ability as well as a strong desire to work at it, Manning said. He would run routes with wide receivers during weekly game prep, allowing Iowa State to throw some different things at him (pun intended) in the passing game. 

“I could see why people would like him as far as the National Football League goes because he does have the ability to No. 1 catch the ball out of the backfield, but David also has pretty good route running skills,” Manning said. “He has the ability to line up outside the formation and run good routes. 

“… I don’t want to say it’s natural ability because he’s worked at it, but he catches the ball very well, has very soft hands, has really, really good feet and has the ability to run routes. I think obviously that translates to that league, finding ways to get mismatches on linebackers and those sorts of things. But yeah, I think he’ll be utilized in a variety of ways and he’ll do a great job in Chicago with what they do offensively. I see David fitting very well in that system.”

Hunt’s promising time with the Kansas City Chiefs ended last season, though, when video surfaced of him kicking and shoving a woman during an altercation earlier in 2018. Hunt, reportedly, was involved in two other violent incidents off the field, and was given an eight-game suspension he'll serve as a member of the Cleveland Browns this fall. While the Bears didn’t rule out exploring signing Hunt in January, the team never seriously considered pursuing him despite the lack of a public denial. 

Montgomery, on the other hand, comes to the Bears with a reputation of having good character. It’s not just his former coaches and teammates — in college, he befriended a 6-year-old boy named Hunter Erb, who was born with multiple congenital heart defects, a friendship detailed by the Athletic’s Bruce Feldman. General manager Ryan Pace has focused on bringing in high-character players during his tenure, at least since the team bungled the signing of Ray McDonald in 2015. Montgomery, by all accounts, fits with that approach. 

“He’s a great young man,” Manning said. “He’s a gentle, high character guy that’s just a great guy to be around, got a great sense of humor, but I think what’s probably most impressive about David is the extreme focus that he can have on whatever he’s doing. He can make whatever he’s doing the most important thing and becomes laser-focused on that. Really just a joy to be around.”

As Jordan Howard struggled to find his footing in Nagy’s offense last season, it became apparent the Bears’ coach wanted a better fit in his offense — his own version of Hunt, if you will. The Bears may have found that in Montgomery, and the Hunt comparison is one Nagy — like just about everyone who’s seen both play — didn’t shy away from, either. 

“There are some similarities for sure,” Nagy said. “You look at them and the size of them. You see how they run between the tackles. They are physical. They run angry, both of them. And the other connection is probably just with the background of the coaches that they both had too. That's an easy tie there. 

“But he's going to be his own person. I think that's the best part about David is the fact that the amount of talks that we had with him, you get to dig into who he is and he's going to be David Montgomery, nobody else. And I think that's really important. We love that about him and I'm excited to see really where it goes.” 

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The day after: Bears signing/not signing Kareem Hunt is ultimately your call

The day after: Bears signing/not signing Kareem Hunt is ultimately your call

Now that the Cleveland Browns’ signing of Kareem Hunt has had time to percolate and simmer for a day, some impressions are possible.

But not many clear ones. Because this situation goes in so many different directions, with so many emotions involved.

The reason is simple enough: What the former Kansas City Chiefs running back did in a video’ed attack on a woman is heinous. Exactly what sparked the incident isn’t really clear, but that frankly doesn’t really come into play, at least for this observer. The actions/reactions of Hunt are the exhibits. It’s impossible not to have a visceral reaction of some sort.

What’s actually a little clear is that the NFL and its teams have some bizarre investigation approaches. Browns GM John Dorsey said that it had conducted an extensive investigation, with “extensive” apparently not including talking to the victim. For its part, the NFL has said that its investigation is still in progress. The Chiefs are that much faster or “extensive” than the NFL?

This writer gives the Bears considerably more credit for due diligence in their handling of the Ray McDonald case in 2015. At least then, Chairman George McCaskey got involved to the point of reaching out to McDonald’s mother. Her feelings may have been predictable but at least an effort was made beyond just talking to psychologists and such.

The McDonald effort blew up almost immediately in the form of another incident, and the Bears moved in a zero-tolerance fashion and got rid of him. The signing had made some sense from the standpoint of getting a plug-and-play 3-4 defensive lineman, who’d played for then-coordinator Vic Fangio, and coming to a team converting its entire front. In any case, an overall, bottom-line conclusion is that Hunt should not be barred from playing in the NFL. That kind of ban represents a death sentence, and Hunt did not commit a capital offense, however repugnant.

The level of repugnance should be reflected in the suspension that is expected before Hunt ever pulls on a Browns uniform. Some question does linger as to why Cleveland law enforcement did not pursue a case of assault and battery against Hunt, but that belongs to another discussion.

The fact that the Chiefs summarily fired Hunt for lying to them looms over this. Realize: Kansas City’s coach is Andy Reid, a no- nonsense individual but who also went all-in to give Michael Vick a second chance after the latter’s dog-fighting conviction and incarceration. That Reid wasn’t willing to overlook the conduct of Hunt, the reigning NFL rushing leader and foundation pillar of Reid’s offense, is bothersome. 

Matt Nagy was a member of Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles staff through the Vick saga and Reid’s Kansas City staff through Hunt’s exceptional rookie season.

The Bears were obviously open to signing Hunt, and their evident interest has been cited as a motivator for Cleveland to move quickly. That isn’t likely to make Nagy or GM Ryan Pace any more candid about future intentions in general; look what being open got them. Again, for another discussion.

But the ultimate judgement on signing a Kareem Hunt rests with the fan base. Personally, the willingness of NFL teams to sign Hunt, with a history of violence, and not sign Colin Kaepernick, with a history of simply exercising rights in a way that angered fans to the point of scaring teams away, is also bothersome. The Dallas Cowboys will sign Greg Hardy but no one will sign Kaepernick? Again, bothersome.

That said, if Hunt exhibits some of the effort Vick put into correcting issues (lobbying for curbs on dogfighting), it should not be beyond the pale for fans of a team to forgive a misspent past. The Browns apparently didn’t see that, though. Nagy had reached out to take Hunt’s emotional temperature around the end of the last football season and Nagy didn’t shut things down. Neither did the Browns, obviously.

But teams do occasionally listen, which explains the fear (of backlash) of signing Kaepernick. In the end, the public reaction does matter.

As Kareem Hunt signs with Browns, Bears’ search for a running back looks elsewhere

As Kareem Hunt signs with Browns, Bears’ search for a running back looks elsewhere

The Bears will not be adding Kareem Hunt, with the former Kansas City Chiefs running back signing with the Cleveland Browns on Monday. 
 
Hunt was released by the Chiefs last season after video surfaced of him shoving and kicking a woman outside his Cleveland apartment in a February 2018 incident. Both general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy did not rule out exploring the idea of signing Hunt at their end-of-season press conference in January, with Nagy saying he had recently spoke with Hunt on a personal level. 
 
Nagy was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator in 2017, when Hunt led the NFL in rushing as a rookie. Hunt always was going to get a second chance in the NFL, even with the disturbing footage of a violent incident involving a woman and a suspension looming from the NFL. 
 
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Bears were interested in Hunt, and that Nagy’s comments at that end-of-the-year press conference jump-started interest in Hunt. 
 
“Once that happened, I think the market picked up on Kareem Hunt a little bit more,” Schefter said on ESPN’s “NFL Live” on Monday. 
 
Meanwhile, the Bears’ search for a fix for their running game will focus elsewhere. The market for free agent running backs is thin, with the biggest names all bruising, downhill types like New Orleans’ Mark Ingram and Detroit’s LeGarrett Blount. 
 
Jordan Howard should be expected back unless the Bears are willing and able to swing a trade involving him, as will versatile dynamo Tarik Cohen. The Bears could opt to sign a free agent on a prove-it deal — perhaps like Jacksonville’s T.J. Yeldon — while, more likely, drafting a running back who can fit Nagy’s system better in April’s NFL Draft. The Bears have five picks this year, with one in the third, fourth and fifth rounds and two in the seventh round. 
 
Hunt was a third-round pick, while Cohen was a fourth-rouder and Howard a fifth-rounder.