The Green Bay Packers have retained defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery and running backs coach Ben Sirmans and promoted Jason Simmons to defensive backs coach and Ryan Downard to assistant defensive backs coach. Head Coach Matt LaFleur made the announcement Thursday.
Montgomery is entering his fifth season with the Packers and second as defensive line coach. He worked as the defensive front assistant for Green Bay from 2015-17. Montgomery has helped with the development of DL Kenny Clark, who recorded 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons, the most among Packers defensive linemen and second on the team over that span. In 2017, DL Mike Daniels earned his first career Pro Bowl selection, just the fifth defensive tackle in team history to be named to the Pro Bowl, after recording a career-best 72 tackles while ranking No. 3 on the team with five sacks. Montgomery joined the Packers in 2015 after coaching at the collegiate level for 11 seasons, which included eight seasons coaching the defensive line at the University of Oklahoma (2013-14), the University of Michigan (2011-12), the University of Wyoming (2009-10) and the University of Northern Iowa (2007-08). He began his coaching career at his alma mater, the University of Iowa, as a student assistant in 2002. Montgomery continued coaching as an assistant at Iowa City West High School (2003-04) and as the defensive coordinator at North Iowa Community College (2005) while also playing for the Chicago Rush, Colorado Crush and Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena Football League (2003-05).
Sirmans is entering his fourth season as running backs coach for the Packers. From 2016-18, Green Bay led the NFL with an average of 4.66 yards per carry, including an average of 5.01 yards per carry in 2018 (No. 2 in the NFL) that was the second-best single-season mark in team history. He joined the Packers after spending the previous four seasons (2012-15) as the running backs coach for the St. Louis Rams. In 2015, Sirmans coached Todd Gurley, who was named to the Pro Bowl and the Pro Football Writers of America Offensive Rookie of the Year after leading all NFL rookies in rushing yards (1,106), scrimmage yards (1,294) and 100-yard games (five). Before joining the Rams in 2012, Sirmans spent 16 seasons as an assistant coach at the college level. He started his career at the University of Maine as the running backs/recruiting coordinator (1996-99). From 2000-04, he coached running backs at Kent State before joining Michigan State as a running backs coach in 2005. Sirmans added special teams to his coaching duties for the Spartans in 2006. His final college stop was at Boston College as the running backs coach from 2007-11. The East Orange, N.J., native played running back at Maine under current Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz. As a senior, Sirmans ran for 1,214 yards and earned all-conference and All-New England honors.
Simmons is entering his ninth season with the Packers having worked in various roles. In 2018, he coached the secondary for Green Bay, helping a defense that improved from No. 23 in pass defense in 2017 to No. 12 in 2018. From 2015-17, Simmons served as the assistant special teams coach, helping the Packers rank No. 2 in the NFL over that span in opponent punt return average (5.7 yards per return). In 2014, Simmons was a defensive/special teams assistant, where he worked closely with special teams and spent much of his time tutoring perimeter players on various coverage and return teams. He also assisted with the defensive backs, helping the Green Bay defense rank No. 9 in the league in takeaways (29). Simmons joined the Packers in 2011 as a coaching administrator, a position he held for three years. Before coaching, he played for 10 years in the NFL as a defensive back and was a standout on special teams during his career. A fifth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1998 NFL Draft, Simmons went on to play 121 games from 1998-2007 for the Steelers and Houston Texans. He lettered four years as a cornerback for Arizona State, serving as a team captain and earning second-team All-Pacific-10 honors as a senior.
Downard (DOWN-erd) begins his second season in Green Bay after serving as the defensive quality control coach last year. He came to Green Bay after working at Bowling Green for two seasons, serving as the safeties coach in 2017 and the director of football operations in 2016. In 2017, he oversaw the development of Marcus Milton, who converted from cornerback to tie for the team lead with three interceptions, as well as junior-college transfer Fred Garth, who led the team with 95 tackles. From 2014-15, Downard was a defensive coaching assistant with the Cleveland Browns, assisting with the defensive line in 2014 and the defensive backs in 2015. Prior to his two seasons with the Browns, he served as a graduate assistant at both Texas Tech and Toledo. Downard played defensive back at Eastern Michigan, where he earned honorable mention Freshman All-America recognition from Scout.com in 2007 after ranking No. 2 in the country among freshmen with six interceptions.