Why Greenway’s Tackles Equals A Meaningless Stat

There was a bit of a debate on if Chad Greenway was deserving of being named to the Pro Bowl this season after Bears linebacker Lance Briggs came up injured backing out giving the Vikings linebacker his first chance to go. For those that said that Greenway didn’t deserve to go the most popular counter argument was “Greenway was 3rd in the league in tackles! Those don’t mean anything?” Hate to break it to you if you’re one of those folks, but they don’t. Here’s why…

Greenway plays the strongside linebacker position (nicknamed Sam) in our base 4-3 defense. The strong side is the side where the quarterback faces when in his throwing motion and is opposite the blindside where the quarterback’s visibility is limited. I’m sure everyone has seen the Sandra Bullock movie or read the Michael Lewis book knowing full well why left tackle is more important of a position than any other on the offensive line. At any rate, “Sam” tends to lineup across the tight end and has the responsibility of tracking the running back in the event a run was called. Most runs go for between 3-5 yards and “Sam” is normally right there to make the tackle or is involved with the play. They also are responsible for covering the middle of the field in passing plays where a number of them tend to end. “Sam” should lead his respective football team in tackles.

Want further proof? Looking a little closer at the top five tacklers of the 2011 season to find that every one of them was a linebacker in London Fletcher of the Washington Redskins, D’Qwell Jackson of the Cleveland Browns, Greenway, Pat Angerer of the Indianapolis Colts and Curtis Lofton of the Atlanta Falcons. And what do 4 of those 5 teams have in common? They all had losing season winning only a couple of games apiece. The reason they lead the league in tackles was because the offenses were sluggish failing to hold time of possession and the defenses were unable to get stops giving the ball back to the offense.

This isn’t about liking or disliking Greenway. In truth he’s a decent locker room guy, a tremendous asset in the community and there’s not one reason to say we want him gone when this team is due for an overhaul. There were also previous seasons in 2009 and 2010 where you could easily argue he was robbed of a Pro Bowl spot. But for 2011 he was the 4th highest paid player on a defense that was second to last in the NFL in points allowed. We simply expect more impact plays from Greenway in 2012 such as forcing fumbles, making sacks and a handful of interception.

But that, our friends, is a conversation for another day. In the meantime we’ll cheer hard for Greenway in Honolulu representing the Vikings. And of course, watch him make a number of tackles.

Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig

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