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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  • RodAnderson

    Really meaningless? You don’t really know much about the Tampa 2 style of defense to you? Greenway was not merely 3rd in tackles, he led all outside linebackers by a wide margin. It’s one thing to say, that a linebacker numbers might be slightly inflated due to playing on a team with a sluggish offense; it is an entirely, and frankly ridiculous, to pretend it is meaningless. By the way, the Tampa 2 is traditionally schemed to flow tackles to the weak-side, or Will backer, and not the Sam backer.

    That is why Derrick Brooks,arguably the greatest OLB to play in the Tampa 2, was so valuable to the Tampa Bay Bucs, and why he made 11 pro bowls and was named All Pro 5 times. He wasn’t lauded because he made a lot of sacks or int’s for that matter. Simply put, he was paid to make a lot of tackles, and that is exactly what he did, and what Greenway did this year.

    Additionally, the reason that I question your knowledge of the Tampa 2 is because, you you under-value Greenway and tackling. Your comment about expecting more “impact plays such as forcing fumbles, making sacks and a handful of interceptions” tells me you me you might should consider writing about other subjects such as gardening, for instance. We all like FF’s, sacks and ints, but FF’s are few and far between for any player, LBs are not supposed to get many sacks in the Tampa 2 (its designed to have fast LBs dropping back in coverage, and relies on getting pressure by the DL; you will note the Vikings don’t blitz Greenway much, in keeping with the scheme; its mighty hard to get sacks as a LB when you don’t blitz).

    You suggest that Greenway should be more interested in Getting a handful of interceptions than in leading the league in tackles for outside linebackers…. really? Tell me, just who does consistantly get “handfuls” of Ints from the LB position?

    For the record, the aforementioned Brooks got a grand total of 25 interceptions in his 14 year career, during which he was a full time starter. This is an average of 1.8 per year. Seven times he got 1 or none for 1/2 of his career. As far as sacks go he had a whopping 13.5…… not in his best season, but in his career! He averaged less than one per year!

    To illustrate how you need to re-consider the value of sacks and ints to an outside linebacker in the Tampa 2, consider that in 2000 Brooks was in the Pro Bowl, and voted All Pro, and he had a grand total of 1 sack and 1 interception! He did have 146 tackles, but what does that matter?