The Ravens and six-year running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery have decided to part ways, just days after the team finished the 2013 season with the lowest rushing output in franchise history.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh made the announcement on Friday, saying in a statement that Montgomery "decided to pursue other coaching and life opportunities.
"I want to thank him for everything he did for our organization," Harbaugh said. "Wilbert has been a tremendous coach for the Ravens, and he has played an integral role in the success we've experienced over the past several seasons. I have a great deal of respect for the person Wilbert is — not just as a coach, but also as an outstanding family man and someone who inspires everyone around him.
"In addition to his knowledge of the game and ability to connect with his players, Wilbert brought a passion to the Ravens that helped our team — and the individuals on it — reach tremendous heights."
When reached by The Baltimore Sun, Montgomery had no immediate comment. Montgomery, 59, joined the Ravens' coaching staff in 2008, Harbaugh's first season at the helm. Under Montgomery, Ray Rice became one of the NFL's top all-purpose backs and the Ravens annually boasted a solid running attack.
However, both Rice and the team's ground game faltered this year as the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season. The Ravens finished 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (83.0) and last in yards per carry (3.1). The Ravens' 1,328 rushing yards on the season were the lowest in franchise history, significantly fewer than the previous low of 1,589 yards in 1997.
Rice, who battled injuries for much of the season, also finished 30th in the NFL with just 660 rushing yards, his lowest total since the 2008 season. The three-time Pro Bowl selection was on the bench for much of the first half in Sunday's season-ending, 34-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Harbaugh said two days later that he didn't have an explanation for Rice's benching and acknowledged that "he should've been out there."
Ravens fullback Vonta Leach took to his Twitter account on Friday to back Montgomery, calling him "one of the best RB [coaches] in the business."
"Hate it for coach that he looks like the fall guy for our running game problems," Leach wrote. "Coach [has] had pro bowlers for years in the backfield. … There was more [than] one thing or one person. We did not get it fixed as a whole group."
Montgomery played nine seasons in the NFL, all but one of them for the Philadelphia Eagles. He made two Pro Bowl teams and holds the Eagles' franchise record for career rushing yards (6,538).
He started his 17-year coaching career as the running backs coach with the St. Louis Rams in 1997, winning a Super Bowl in 1999 and working with two of the NFL's best backs in Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson during his nine seasons there. He then spent two seasons as the Detroit Lions' running backs coach before joining Harbaugh in Baltimore.
In 2009, Montgomery's second season in Baltimore, the Ravens set a team-record with 22 rushing touchdowns and finished fifth in the league in rushing, averaging 137.5 yards per game.
His departure could be the first of several moves that Harbaugh makes with his coaching staff this offseason. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell interviewed on Friday for the Lions' head coaching job. He's also expected to talk to the Washington Redskins next week about their head coaching vacancy.
If he gets a head coaching job, it's possible that Caldwell will take one or two Ravens' assistants with him to serve on his staff.
Run game coordinator Juan Castillo's status is also tenuous after a tumultuous first season with the Ravens.