Over the past few days, I’ve come under a bit of heat for suggesting that Chad Greenway has been a liability for the Vikings more than he has an asset, and more heat for suggesting it’s been a truth for the past several years instead of one down year beset by injury. You’ll note that I marked him as bad, not questionable, in my color-coded depth chart, and I’ve been a little too insistent at making my point, if you follow me on twitter.

But I’ve constantly been asked to flesh out my opinion on this matter, so I have.

There are a lot of reasons on film and statistically that Chad Greenway has been a bad linebacker for three years, but first I want to get a misconception out of the way, because it concerns 90% of the argument that I’ve heard in defense of Greenway—who has played like one of the worst linebackers in the NFL.

 

Tackles Are a Bad Statistic

The first thing anyone says when they defend Chad Greenway as having been a good linebacker over the past several years is the number of tackles he’s had. It’s true that he’s had a high number of tackles, but those hardly speak to the quality of the player that he is, positive or negative.

It is far more likely that a player with 100 tackles likely had 1000 snaps than it is that a player with 100 tackles is any good. Consider the fact that well-acknowledged draft bust Rolando McClain averaged 100 combined tackles for every 16 games he played—but has since retired. Ernie Sims, the 9th overall pick, was sent to the Eagles in exchange for a fifth-round pick after three consecutive seasons of 110+ tackles.

Or just take a look at the players who were replaced, cut, or widely considered an area of need this last year that had 100+ tackles: Barry Church, Jerrell Freeman, Antoine Bethea, Curtis Lofton, James Anderson, Kevin Burnett, A.J. Hawk, Bernard Pollard, Bruce Carter and Perry Riley.

I forgot one name: Erin Henderson, who had 112.

The one thing all those players had in common? They all had at least 900 snaps (except Erin Henderson, the stud that he is).

Beyond that list, there are a number of reasons you should ignore tackles.

Tackles Are Unofficial

There are a couple of reasons that tackles are a bad statistic, but one in particular might catch your eye: they’re not official.

The NFL records many statistics that are “official,” including sacks, passing yards, touchdowns, etc. but they do not recognize tackles as an official statistic despite listing them as statistics on their website. In fact, the CBA prohibits contract incentives on unofficial statistics, like tackles, but allows them for official ones like passing yards.

The defensive statistics they DO allow in contracts? Interceptions, interception return yards, interception return touchdowns, defensive fumble recoveries, defensive fumble recovery yards, defensive fumble recovery touchdowns and sacks. That’s it.

The biggest reason you can’t trust them? They’re not standard. The home team’s scorer is the one who always records the statistics, and the last time any of them were trained was in 2002. Some NFL scorers will leave the tackle figure blank on gang tackles, while others will list everyone in the pile. Others will give it to the most common tackler on the team, compounding the problem.

In fact, each stadium’s tackle figures are so idiosyncratic, that smart IDP players take that into account when drafting. Stats crews in each stadium simply do not use the same definitions when recording solo tackles, passes defensed or assisted tackles the same way and the measures can vary wildly from stadium to stadium. A play that might end up counted as a team tackle (awarded to no one) may count as many as 1.5 tackles in another stadium.

Tackles Indicate As Much Good As They Do Bad

Further, tackles do not tell you if the player actually did something meaningful for the team for two reasons: tackling someone after they’ve passed the down marker is an indication of poor play, not good play and second, tackling someone after you’ve allowed a catch in coverage means you’ve allowed them to make a play on you.

Tackles are just as likely to indicate good play as they are bad play.

There are a number of linebackers who are bad in coverage who get a high tackle total, because they are consistently targeted in coverage and are the first to the ball, including Bruce Carter and Demario Davis.

In fact, the correlation over the past five years between the amount of receptions allowed per snap in coverage and the percentage of tackles that come in the passing game is 0.5, as strong a correlation in football as you will find.

There are also some measures that tell us how effective tackles are—Pro Football Focus’ Stop Percentage and Advanced Football Analytics’ EPA. Stop percentage is introduced by PFF this way:

A player’s impact in the running game is sometimes erroneously based on the total volume of tackles made. However, firstly, does that number include tackles on passing plays and, more importantly, did those tackles really count? Stops constitute a “loss” for the offense so this table shows the percentage of stops per snap played only in run defense.

AFA has a lengthy explanation of EPA, known as “Expected Points Added,” here, but it’s fairly simple: Expected points asks the question of how many points, based on field position, down and distance to go is a team generally expected to get, and Expected Points Added measures the difference in EP from one play to the next.

So a three-yard play on third-and-one at the fifty-yard line adds points to the offense, while a three-yard play on third-and-five at the fifty-yard line loses points for the offense. A tackle in the first instance constitutes negative points for the defense, but a tackle in the second instance is positive points for the defense.

Simple enough. We’ll return to those in a bit and measure how “good” someone’s tackles really are.

Tackles Only Measure Positives

Even if we concede that tackles are uniformly good, which we’ll do for a moment to entertain the argument, it only counts the good plays a player makes, but none of the bad plays—the opposite. You’d think this was good information to have, but it truly is woefully incomplete. If I provided the following ranked list of quarterbacks for the 2013 season, what would you say?

  1. Peyton Manning
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Andy Dalton
  4. Philip Rivers
  5. Tony Romo
  6. Matthew Stafford
  7. Ben Roethlisberger

The top two are fine, but that’s honestly a completely terrible list. Does anyone else think Andy Dalton is the third-best quarterback in the NFL?

That’s what happens when you list only positive information. That’s a list, in order, of quarterbacks by the total number of touchdowns they threw in 2013.

What about cornerbacks? Here’s a list:

  1. Richard Sherman
  2. Tim Jennings
  3. Patrick Peterson
  4. DeAngelo Hall
  5. Sam Shields
  6. Brandon Browner
  7. Brandon Carr
  8. Antonio Cromartie

Do you think those are the best eight cornerbacks in the NFL? Sure, Sherman is probably the best, and Peterson is up there, but the other six hardly deserve to be on the list. That’s a list of the top cornerbacks by interception count since 2011 (which explains Revis’ absence—injury, then scheme issues).

Counting only tackles is like arguing DeAngelo Hall is a good cornerback because he gets a lot of interceptions.

But we all know why Hall is a trash cornerback: he gambles, and the interceptions he grabs are not worth the yards he gives up in coverage.

Now, TDs passed for and INTs grabbed both measure a positive that is a little bit different than a tackle, insofar as they are a play that necessitates risk-making, where as an attempted tackle isn’t necessarily that: you always want to attempt a tackle if you’re in position to, but you do not always want to try and grab the interception or throw in the end zone. But there is a significant piece of negative information that you need: missed tackles.

Tackles Measure Opportunity, Not Talent

Why is it that linebackers are almost always the tackle leaders on their team? It’s a stupid question only because we’ve internalized the answer without applying it critically, which is that it’s their role to be in a position to get tackles. Defensive tackles and defensive ends are too close to the action and safeties are too far away, but it’s also important that their jobs almost always consistent of funneling ball carriers to the primary tackle machines on the defense—the linebackers.

And more often than not, a particular linebacker.

Most schemes will rely on funneling players to the weakside linebacker, who is supposed to be more of a heat-seeking missile who cuts through traffic and finds the running back in order to bring him down. For the Vikings that’s true as well, except when the WLB is not on the field.

In the past three years, the weakside linebacker has been Marvin Mitchell and Erin Henderson, and in Will snaps, they combined for 1610 snaps out of 3450, or about 46.7% of the available snaps. Greenway, on the other hand, has been on the field for 99.6% of defensive snaps. On those other plays he’s on the field when the Will Linebacker isn’t, the ballcarrier is funneled to him.

In the past three years, no one linebacker (3-4 OLBs excluded) has had more snaps than Greenway. Is it any surprise then, that his tackle total is particularly high?

Moreover, he doesn’t even get that many of them.

By that, I mean he doesn’t really get as many tackles as his snap count would warrant. If you regularize the tackle data and use one method (in this case, Pro Football Focus’ tackle counts, which use one consistent methodology instead of 32 different ones) to count tackles, Greenway’s tackle counts are relatively low for a person with his snap count.

For linebackers with 1000 snaps, the average amount of tackles per snap in the run game (important, because you don’t want to reward giving up receptions in coverage) is 13.5%, and Greenway’s is 12.6%. That may not seem like much, but it’s just a little less than a tackle a game. More to the point, his tackle total isn’t high, it’s a little low.

Tackles Don’t Indicate Good Defense

It shouldn’t come as any surprise to you that defenses that have more tackles aren’t better defenses. Take a look at the defenses with the most tackles, and where they rank in DVOA, yards per play and points given up per drive:

Tm

Tkls

Pts

Y/P

DVOA

SFO

1

4

8

13

SDG

2

23

29

32

DEN

3

18

15

15

SEA

4

1

1

1

IND

5

13

22

16

So, two good defenses (San Francisco and Seattle) show up on the list, as does an absolutely terrible defense (San Diego). Two middling defenses show up, too (Indianapolis and Denver). It further shouldn’t surprise you that the correlation between tackles and any one of these defensive statistics over the past five years has been zero, and slightly negative—defenses that are on the field more get more tackles and those defenses tend to be terrible (although pace is a bigger indicator than quality).

And if tackles were at all meaningful, one of the greatest defenses in history would have done better than rank fourth that year.

There needs to be a compelling reason that an individual player’s statistic is significant when that statistic is not significant in the aggregate. Definitely, it is possible that (like steals in basketball) that a player individually good at producing a statistic may mean more about his quality than the team doing the same, but the vast majority of the time, it does not mean that.

There are a limited amount of tackles available in any given season. All a player who accumulates a lot of tackles has done is acquired a healthy percentage of the available tackles that year (there are almost always 900). If you put Chad Greenway in Patrick Willis’ place, he would drop from his 100-tackle seasons pretty quickly without changing who he is as a player.

But all I did was prove that tackles are not a meaningful statistic, not that Greenway is good or bad because of it. Are there statistics that indicate that Greenway is a bad linebacker?

Yes—Greenway is Statistically Terrible

Above, I’ve mentioned a few measures that tell us about linebackers and what statistics might be meaningful in telling us about how well a linebacker has played. No single statistic is all that illuminating when talking about linebacker play, but a lot of them provide a lot of different pieces to the puzzle.

The first two I mentioned—Stop Percentage and EPA are very useful for assessing the impact of tackles that have been made. Out of the 78 linebackers (all inside linebackers and 4-3 outside linebackers) who have had 1000 snaps in the past three years, Chad Greenway ranks 71st in stop percentage.

In terms of EPA per play made on the ball, (tackles, assists, sacks, fumbles forced, interceptions and passes deflected), Greenway does even worse. Because AFA doesn’t do snap counts, I restricted it to all linebackers (3-4 and 4-3) who have played 25 games in the last three years. Greenway ranks 83rd of 94.

Even more important than the amount of expected points added is the consistency with which good plays are made. You can measure that by success count—where instead of measuring how many points a player has helped or hurt the team by, you measure how often they help their team.

So, in terms of success count per play on the ball… Greenway ranks 92nd of 94. His plays are less often success for the defense than 91 other linebackers. The two below him on the list, London Fletcher and James Anderson, aren’t with a team.

It is difficult to assign this to his supporting cast, too. The players at the top of both categories have played the majority of their careers with poor supporting players, like Brian Orakpo, Robert Mathis, Clay Matthews and so on.

Greenway’s tackles are not quality tackles.

If Greenway was an efficient tackler, that would at least help. But he hasn’t been. In the run game, he’s missed more tackles than almost everyone who has had 1000 snaps in the past three years. He ranks 76th of 78 linebackers in missed tackles per tackle attempt in the run game.

I should reiterate—Greenway misses more tackles per tackle attempt than almost any other linebacker in the game today.

Again, this data isn’t from just last year. It’s from the last three years.

Moreover, defending the run is Greenway’s strong suit. He’s been absolutely abysmal in coverage.

Of the 27 linebackers who have had 1000 snaps in coverage in the past three years, he ranks dead last in yards given up per snap in coverage. Of the 68 linebackers who have had 500 snaps in coverage, he ranks 66th.

Let’s not pretend that every other linebacker in the NFL played with other Pro Bowl linebackers and cornerbacks for the last three years.

Other teams knew this, too. He ranks 55th in targets per snap in coverage despite the fact that quarterbacks could have easily chosen to target Josh Robinson, Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson, Cedric Griffin or Asher Allen.

As a result, he ranked 63rd (again of 68) in adjusted yards per target given up—meaning the four interceptions he’s grabbed in the past three years were not worth the ten touchdowns and 2288 yards he’s given up.

By the way, 2288 yards is the most given up by any linebacker in the past three years… by 400 yards. That may not be fair because he’s had more snaps, but it certainly is demonstrative, especially because it’s the rate statistics that are so damning anyway.

It is too bad that they didn’t let him rush the passer more, because he is at least average at that (ranking 40th of 88 in pass rusher productivity over three years).

I understand the hesitation about statistics, particularly in football. They are not the entire story, and never will be in a game of moving parts and shifting responsibilities—and the film usually does a pretty good job of revealing things that can later be confirmed by statistics or explained away.

But aside from delving into the film (which I will attempt to do), it is impossible to stress the astronomical odds against the chance someone can finish at the bottom of every relevant rate statistic and still be anything but bad. There is no way of explaining the fact that Greenway misses more tackles than almost every peer at his position and has for three years.

There is no way of explaining that quarterbacks love to target Greenway despite the fact that targeting corners who are terrible is not just a possibility, but generally more rewarding.

There is no way of explaining the fact that it is Chad Greenway who has been responsible for over 2000 yards—by himself—allowed in the passing game over three years.

Chad Greenway is not the only player who has had to deal with a bad supporting cast. He’s not the only player who has had to play in the Tampa-2 or Cover-2 (which is a pointless argument to make, as the Vikings were in Cover-1 or Cover-3 the vast majority of the past two years) and he’s not the only player who has had to deal with bad coaches.

Every linebacker who has had to deal with those same circumstances ranks ahead of him.

In fact, linebackers surrounded by a mediocre supporting cast often look better—they rack up more of the team’s tackles per snap, get targeted less often in coverage and see the ballcarrier funneled to them more often than not.

The linebackers at the top of these lists often played with poor talent around them. Pat Angerer with the Colts is a terrible run stopper but an average cover linebacker. His partner? Jerrell Freeman, Kavell Conner or Gary Bracket, depending on the year. Angerer rockets to the top of the coverage statistics. Stephen Tulloch is pretty good in coverage, but he’s at the top because he’s better than DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant (Durant by miles, in fact). A.J. Hawk is terrible, but he doesn’t get targeted because all the other linebackers Green Bay employs get injured (or are already bad in coverage). Hawk is 10th of 68 in yards allowed per snap in coverage.

Lavonte David and Bobby Wagner put together stellar campaigns with terrible linebackers next to them (and David had other issues with his defensive supporting cast with him, too).

Besides, the argument doesn’t make sense. If Chad Greenway can only be good when the people around him are good, what is his value? It’s a backwards argument, at best. And why is it that he regularly scores lower than his peers if his peers are so bad anyway?

He isn’t given more challenging roles—that has gone to the middle linebacker more often than not. When covering the same player on the same team, Greenway is usually and consistently the worst linebacker of the three. He gives up more yards and targets to the same players than Erin Henderson every single year.

He’s bad on film, anyway.

He’s Bad on Film Anyway

Every time someone mentions Pro Football Focus, another person has to mention that PFF are just “box score watchers” or that they are obsessed with stats. Not only is that the opposite of true, but agents regularly use PFF in their player negotiations (and of course, there are some front offices that are not agreeable to this, but many that are). NFL teams purchase and use PFF’s player tracking data, though do have their own internal grading systems.

But back to the point: PFF watches plays and grades them. It doesn’t figure out if a player earned a stat when it grades them, it sees if a player made a good play or a bad play and then gives them a score from -2.0 to +2.0 and adds them up at the end of the game.

Those grades are not statistics, they are subjective evaluations. But not all subjective evaluations are made equal: some are done with more information and rigor than others. PFF is the opposite of a highlight reel, and regularly informs itself through conversations with NFL teams about responsibilities and schemes.

And in PFF grading, Chad Greenway has ranked 77th of 84 off-ball linebackers who have taken 1000 snaps over the past three years. I understand that PFF grades are not gospel, and they shouldn’t be made out to be. But just like it is astronomically unlikely for a player to post horrendous rate statistics in nearly every statistical category and still be good, it is even more unlikely for a player to post the worst grades in the NFL at the linebacker position and not be bad. And the fact that the two align is even worse.

The reasons for that are many. I’ve watched six or so games of his specifically to prepare for this piece, and I’ve also paid attention to him over the past three years if only to get a handle on what turned him from the top 4-3 outside linebacker in the league to one of the worst.

It may be the multiple surgeries in his knee beginning to take its toll or the simple effects of age (he’s 31), but he doesn’t have the speed he had in 2008. It’s not just chase speed, either. He’s got a decently quick backpedal, but his lateral agility and pursuit are both extraordinarily slow. He lumbers to his target and it’s part of the reason he misses tackles—he no longer has the lead time to get into the right position.

Against the agile running backs and tight ends in the division, he’s outmatched. When asked to run with pass-catchers in his zone, he’s a step behind. Worst of all, his plant and closing speed are the slowest they’ve ever been. He doesn’t have sideline-to-sideline speed and it’s difficult for him to make plays outside of the tackle box. His ball awareness against the pass has always been low. He used to make up for it with great closing speed and keeping the play in front of him, but it’s no longer true.

DEF Breakdown 5 - 77-yard TD to Bush (a)

It’s not just that Chad gets blocked out of the play, but his assignment is clearly Reggie Bush and he widens his drop too far when he should know there isn’t anybody inside (by scheme, Henderson is covering the tight end) but there are definitely people outside. Bush simply jukes him, and Greenway is left in the dust. Bush gets a 77-yard touchdown. This is no longer uncommon. Bush abused the Vikings in that game (an interesting note, Greenway is on the weakside of that formation, using either designation—the TE or the 3-tech), and Greenway was a big part of it.

The very next week, the Bears targeted Greenway eight times and completed eight passes for 72 yards.

The film also reveals part of Greenway’s tackle statistics. You’ll often see Greenway get credit for the most absurd things, and no other Vikings player gets as many free tackles as he does. An example:

GREENWAY LITERALLY GOT CREDIT FOR THIS TACKLE

And as intelligent a football player as Greenway is, he’s had his fair share of misses. For example, Greenway is the only player in this play who is in zone coverage… or he’s wrong about his assignment and allowed a touchdown:

Only one in zone coverage

The only player he looked quick off the snap against was Audie Cole, who was sometimes molasses getting off the ball. And it shows when Greenway needs to plant and fire at a guy:

Greenway Missed Tackle - Screen

First, he’s slow off the snap and you can see that. He’s the last one to react to it. But that’s fine, he’s covering the screen, so he doesn’t really need to jump (and it could be fatal). But also note that Greenway is late to react to the fact that the ball is thrown, then proceeds to miss the tackle. Ryan Shazier makes that play every time.

He also lets tight ends release off the line by crossing his face, consistently. Even in plays where the ball isn’t thrown at the seam, it’s constantly an option for quarterbacks. From the same game, Greenway lets Jordan Reed, who isn’t even very good, get agonizingly open at the goal line.

Open in the Seam

In the next play, there are some issues with the size of the no-cover zone on third down, but it’s clear that Greenway pays more attention to the depth of his assigned drop than the actual play unfolding before him. Also note that he’s closing on the ball slowly. His reaction time wasn’t great, but even if it was, there would have been nothing he could do with it. First down, Washington.

Stop the Ball

He no longer disengages from blocks well, either. That may be the toughest thing to diagnose for him, simply because he sometimes does better for the team if he doesn’t get off his block (and closes off a lane by staying with his blocker), but even in situations where it’s clear he needs to get off the fullback or guard, he can’t. His assignment below is the B Gap, and yes I recognize that Chase Baker wasn’t doing him a lot of favors, but you have to get off your man to make the play:

Greenway Lane Discipline

He no longer seems to have the take-on strength to win the leverage battle against blockers, even if he goes low. While his technique—extending a lone arm, wrong-shouldering the blocker, keeping lane discipline, etc.—is top-notch, he doesn’t consistently finish the process and make the play, even if he’s better at redirecting runners out of run lanes than your typical linebacker.

Greenway is generally a sound technician in most areas of his game, and should theoretically do better in terms of completing tackles. He doesn’t launch, but he’s started to take bad angles or breaking down the tackle too slowly.

He has a great nose for the ball and is generally found around it (a statistic I’ve discarded for this piece—tackle-opportunities-per-snap—speaks to that in a small way), and does an uncommonly great job sifting through traffic. But once a defender gets locked onto him, it’s extremely difficult for him to make the play. Further, he’s stopped keeping his shoulders square to the ballcarrier when he moves laterally.

Generally he rides the balance between keeping depth and attacking downhill, but his slow speed makes it a difficult compromise for an NFL-caliber linebacker. This is especially true of his recovery speed—when he steps out of position, he can’t get back into it. Sometimes he makes up for this with elite recognition and reaction, but it happens rarely these days.

There is not a scheme on the planet that can make up for this. Arguing that Zimmer’s scheme will somehow hide Greenway’s weaknesses overstates the difference in responsibilities that Greenway will see—he still needs to buzz to the flats or cover the curl/hook zones, and fire off the ball. He will get to rush the passer more often, sure, but that’s not his role; he won’t rush the passer more than he covers a tight end or running back, and he’ll trail behind the athletic players he’ll be asked to chase down—Reggie Bush, Matt Forte, Eric Ebron, Eddie Lacy, whoever.

His OLB responsibilities in the past two schemes—one that emphasized Cover-2 principles and one that emphasized Cover-1 principles—don’t get much easier as far as NFL play goes. He didn’t drop deep then, and he won’t do that now.

Maybe Mike Zimmer is magic and can make Chad Greenway good again. But I fail to see why that should be true for Greenway and not true of the four linebackers behind him on the depth chart.

You might as well start Brandon Watts for all the magic Mike Zimmer can provide. If you’re willing to dismiss this all simply because Zimmer is a good coach, then there’s no reason the Vikings should have drafted any defensive players at all, especially two linebackers. Why not trust Zimmer with a new linebacker instead of one who’s 31 years old with multiple knee surgeries?

Chad Greenway has played like one of the worst linebackers in the NFL for three years. If Zimmer can turn that into a good product, he can do that with anybody and there’s no reason he should have been paid over $7 million to be on the roster.

It’s true that the Iowa phenom made the Pro Bowl a year later than he should have, and has been named Pro Bowl alternate more than once. But this is the same Pro Bowl that voted a benched Jeff Saturday, and a ten-sack Andre Carter as starters. Andy Dalton has been named an alternate to the Pro Bowl multiple times. Last year, the fourth- and seventh-ranked receivers in receiving yards failed to make the Pro Bowl while Larry Fitzgerald, with fewer than 1000 receiving yards, made it. Eight quarterbacks could call themselves Pro Bowlers after 2013, and two more could call themselves alternates. Antonio Cromartie gave up the third-most yards of any cornerback with 937 and seven touchdowns (also the third-most), but made the Pro Bowl.

I understand that his leadership is significant, but there is no way his leadership outweighs his play on the field, period. There is only so much leadership can do, and when great leadership produces the second-worst defense in the league, it’s not worth much.

And “veteran” leadership does not consistently produce amazing results. The second-youngest defense in the league put together one of the most historically dominant years in NFL history without “veteran leaders” and continued to produce strong defenses despite being in the bottom three in average snap-weighted age for three consecutive years.

You can put General Patton on the field, but if he can’t stop Martellus Bennett up the seam, I don’t really care about his leadership. It’s more replaceable than you think, and you don’t get a pass for being a bad player because of it. The priority is clear: quality play, then quality leadership.

There are a number of quality players on the team that can be field generals: Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Harrison Smith come to mind, and Michael Mauti has shown incredible leadership during his time at Penn State—he was confident last year, too.

Don’t get me wrong, Chad Greenway played most of his career as an underrated linebacker who deserved far more than he got. He should have gone to four Pro Bowls and make several All-Pro teams, and the snubbing of Chad Greenway drives a lot of our defensiveness of him.

He isn’t just a locker room leader, either. He’s an extraordinary guy. You do not often find athlete charities that consistently improve the lives of the underserved (they are often poorly run or at the very least tax shelters), but Greenway’s Lead the Way Foundation is one of the best. It keeps on giving back to the community and has multiple, effective programs to help children who are critically ill (and their families, too).

It’s not just that he has a good résumé, either. He’s a great guy to talk to, and he’s extremely nice. The few times I’ve talked to him, he’s been nothing but generous to me—even as I post articles and write about his performance with a critical eye. When I’ve talk to him about his performance, he doesn’t try to correct me or make excuses and has consistently said that he needs to get better.

I don’t dislike Chad Greenway. He’s a very good person. But if it seems like I’m piling on him, it’s only because I’ve had to constantly defend my argument that his performance has been lacking for the past three years and have had to do so again in the past few days. He’s been paid more than any other 4-3 linebacker over the past three years and he needs to start playing like it.

Or at least like he’s average.

68 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, that’s comprehensive even by your standards.

    I don’t think Greenway was ever as good as Vikings fans wanted to believe. He was a solid, above-average LB for a few years, especially 2008-10, but even then he wasn’t an elite talent or a game-changer.

    Maybe his Iowa / South Dakota background — the local boy makes good story — is one reason why he’s still so popular, and why you’ve gotten so much pushback for criticizing him.

    I wonder if you’re overstating the “3 years” part of the criticism. IIRC he was half-decent in 2011 and the first part of 2012. His PFF charting for 2011 and ’12 (as a whole, including the first half of the year where he played better) is more or less average. It’s really the 2nd half of 2012 and all of 2013 where he becomes a liability and his PFF scores nosedive.

    I think that might account for fans’ perception that he’s only really had one bad year, and once the story of the injured wrist came out (yes, that’s not a reasonable excuse), it was easy enough to believe / hope that he could get back to his 2012 form (which people probably remember too kindly, given that the team as a whole did well that year).

    It’ll be interesting to see what they do with WLB or whatever that non-blitzing OLB spot is called in Zimmer’s system. Hodges looked pretty lost in preseason last year, but maybe he’ll have pulled things together? I guess Cole could play OLB, he’s got the length to cover TEs, and he’s not bad in space. Otherwise it’s Watts? I have a feeling that replacing Greenway will be a priority in next year’s draft.

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    • So Greenway would have been better if he had less tackles???????????? We can show you film on every player in the NFL that missed or was out of Position. Remember Chad Played with poor DC and a HC that ran the TAMPA TWO without the key MLB that is needed to make such a terrible defensive scheme to work, So we will throw all this on Chads back, No more Pat Williams and Henderson breaking his leg, K Williams down hill of his career had more to do with his poor performance than any thing you have stated. Chad in the right system with good players around him, so he don’t have to feel he has to play all over the place. Is the reason for his playing not being up to standard than anything that you pointed out being the reason. The Defense in a whole was shit not just Chad.

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  2. This is not the first time you’ve outlined the issues with Greenway, but fans who have a hard-on for him typically, when confronted with the reality of Chad, cover their ears and go “Lalalalalala I am not listening to you!” Or they talk about tackles as you say. And there seem to be a lot of them (fans, not tackles).

    To me it’s baffling, because as a fan I want the best Viking team on the field we can possibly have, as opposed to playing the players I love because of their history with the team even if they have come to suck. Loss of speed might be the biggest factor in player decline and every player who gets older and slows down rapidly ends up in retirement. And Chad is there.

    Local journalists and some fans are still pimping the notion that Leslie got canned because we dumped Winfield, even though Winfield couldn’t get a job at Seattle or anywhere else, but could have taken the Vikings gig for better money and probably been guaranteed a job just like Greenway. And his slow, injury prone self would not have come off a fortunate, career type year for an old (in football terms) guy, and reproduced it; he would have sucked and Les would still be fired. Bottom line is, most seem to want to elevate sentiment over objectivity when it comes to long time purple heroes facing the downside of their careers, even guys who are paid to be objective.

    But I digress. I have no idea why the Vikings paid Greenway to stick around. If Zimmer really believes in competition as he keeps saying, how hard will it be for someone younger to just outhustle the lumbering Chad and win the spot? Or will this belief in competition be suspended due to misplaced purple loyalty? Will Mike Zimmer become the newest Chad Greenway fanboy, yelling “Lalalalalalala I’m not listening to you!” ??

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    • It’s tough to be objective about a team that you’ve watched and cheered for your whole life, and this problem is hardly unique to Vikings fans. How many Chicago fans were in denial over Urlachers obvious decline? How many Green Bay fans struggle to admit that Tramon Williams is mediocre? I love Arif’s writing because, though he is a fan, he tempers (or altogether replaces) emotion with data and film. Greenway is a great guy and a solid leader both on the field and off, but I have to wonder if his playing days may be over. Like Arif said: If Zimmer can get Greenway playing at an average or better level, he can do it with anyone (in theory), including players who are making far less money.

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  3. I have been one to say Greenway is not worth the money he is getting and I still say that. Maybe if they move him to weak side he can be more productive. With that said I believe the drafting of Barr is going to be a huge improvement and maybe Mauti and Hodges will step up too. Also with rotation of Cole and Brinkley and others this linebacker crew can make strides and be better as a unit. I feel this was our weakest link coming into the draft and still is.

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  4. I wonder what all the Greenway loyalists will be saying when our starters are Barr,Mauti & Hodges?

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  5. Nothing against your post, I am sure it is full of info but I started nodding off after the 3 paragraph that started with “Tackles”

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    • I think what you meant to write was “Something against your post: it was boring and I didn’t like it.”

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    • 7 in the morning and you’re nodding off? it ain’t the article

      i admit i don’t read every word of every article because this is america and we have this thing called freedom here, but i do skim through most everything, and i consider ourselves lucky to have this much detail to choose from

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  6. //Greenway’s attorney rises

    ///sits back down

    //stands back up

    ‘We would like a continuance, your honor. I no longer have a case.’

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  7. I’m really curious to see what Zimmer does with this defensive roster. The line is crowded with a bunch of slightly-above-average LDEs and largely untested NTs. As a unit, the backers are woeful in coverage and look like a collection of Teds and second-rate RushOLBs (for which Barr looks like a replacement).

    I know Zimmer prefers a 43, or hybrid, over a 34. I’m hopeful that he’ll craft something largely unseen before, because I don’t see anything resembling a quality 43 front.

    Or maybe we just have to look at this as a multi-year project, and level our expectations.

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  8. In the first clip notice Shariff Floyd hardly put a hit on his man. He needs to punch the OL and move him backwards at the snap of the ball.

    And check out the angles our safties took (Sanford and Raymond). Untouched and they couldn’t even get close enough to say hello to Mr. Bush as he ran by 15 yards down field. VERY SAD ALL AROUND.

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  9. Wow…I knew Greenway looked bad last year, and if I’m being honest, I probably noticed it over the past several years. Like many people, I probably looked at the earlier part of his career and continued to project that as his normal level of play, even when that was no longer true. He is (was) a very good player, and a likeable guy, but he’s not the player he used to be, and when you see it demonstrated through so many different measures, there’s really not much you can say in his defense.

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    • Yes, and if you accept this article into your heart, you realize that the Vikes defensive talent is still something of a dog’s breakfast.

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  10. I didn’t know that about the weak side LB role. As far as filtering runners to a certain tackler, are there any guys on the roster you like in that role?

    I don’t see them signing too many 30-somethings to new contracts. But Vikings FO seems like they pay out fully or near the full amount players were due at the end of their contracts, despite player performance slipping on the downside of their career. Could it be it’s to reputation building for future contract negotiations?

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    • the filtering and directing works in all kinds of different aspects of life. even wolf packs do it when they hunt. i’m observing it right now. ya see, we got brush fires all around us here in northern san diego county, smoke in the air, ash falling, 100 degree temps, and the ac is on. even though the windows are closed, we have apparently ‘filtered’ a little fly into the house where i am going to kill it when i get the chance. like greenway, i stink and will draw that little sucker to me, but i will make the play and record the stat

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  11. even though they got an easy first down against Greenway, RGIII locked on to his target, if he had scanned the field he would have seen the guaranteed TD on the right side of the field.

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  12. I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of Greenway. Just look at his PFF stats.

    More importantly, opposing offenses know Greenway sucks in coverage- particularly division rivals. They exploit that more and more- particularly in the red zone- which is why the Vikings were worst in the league in points allowed last year.

    I am really hoping he loses his starting job this year in training camp.

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  13. I think it basically comes down to money and age for me. He is set to make 7.1 mil next year with an 8.8 mil cap hit.

    I would consider it a dereliction of duties by Spielman if he paid Greenway that much next year.

    The restructure that they did with his deal back in March is also a very questionable decision as they guaranteed his entire 5.5 mil salary for this season.

    That means he is on the team no matter what unless they are willing to just take that cap hit and basically pay him for not playing.

    If he ends up ultimately not starting then this is a serious misstep by Spielman and company!

    I am not quite sure what they are doing at Winter Park and the last 4 years record is proof that they have not done a good enough job.

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  14. I think there are going to be some surprise cuts early in camp this year. After Robinson, Frazier’s stubbornness with keeping Greenway in is second most egregious. After all of this I really don’t know why you wouldn’t try Hodges or Watts in Greenway’s spot – is the production going to be any worse? At least Brinkley does one thing well consistently. Training camp is really setting up to be a free for all competition for Frazier’s stalwarts to prove they belong.

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  15. If Zimmer truelly means best man plays, this is really going to be an interesting summer and preseason on both sides of the ball. The way it should be.

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    • Really curious how it will turn out, because they have a lot of respect for Chad’s football potential.

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  16. Awesome work! I’ve always been a huge fan of Greenway, but these last two years have been difficult to watch. Now you should do a nice comprehensive analysis of why Brian Robison has been a great LDE for this team, because I’ve had to defend him a lot lately….for some reason

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    • Why have you had to defend Brian Robison? That dude is really good.

      Linebacker play isn’t nearly as obvious as DE play and Robison has been obviously good.

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  17. That’s what I thought! But there are a few folk (my friends and a few members on some of the vikings forums across the interweb) who just don’t like him and think he’s only average or worse. I fail to understand…

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  18. Mike Wobschall probably thinks that Greenway is elite and that you’re just a hater.

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  19. So, I just looked on nfl.com.
    Shows:
    Burfict with 114 solo tackles, 171 combined, 3 sacks, 1 int for 12yds, 1 ff, 6 pass def.
    Greenway had 83 solo tackles, 134 combined, 3 sacks, 3 int for 23 yds, 0 ff, 4 pass def.

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  20. On your GIF where Greenway misses a tackle on the screen, he actually forced the rb back inside and another player came in and finished him off. Maybe one extra yd was gained.

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  21. His post snap actions tell me his assignment was outside contain, he reads the play and his great speed lets him beat blocker AND he almost gets the tackle by himself. But, fulfills his assignment and forces the rb inside for no gain.

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  22. Dead on. Great analysis.

    I’ve been saying this for the past couple of years now, and people look at me like I have three heads.

    He may be the most overrated Viking of all time.

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  23. I think Greenway will be hard pressed to see much playing time. I think Free Agency and the draft have very clearly shown us the type of defense Zimmer is trying to accomplish, a strong/large defensive line to chew up blockers, a rush linebacker to apply pressure to the qb and create disruptions and a very fast secondary to cover and respond. All the defensive secondary players drafted have speed as their greatest attribute, even if they are lighter or shorter than nfl convention at their spot. I just don’t see an aging plodding LB being incorporated into this. Greenway has a year left at most, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s cut or IR’ed if there’s any cause.

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  24. While I agree with you that Greenway is not the dominant LB he once was, I disagree with a whole lot of your analysis.

    I played LB for many years and I apparently see things differently in many of your videos.

    In one case, you criticize Greenway for failing to get off the block and make a tackle, but look at the rest of the defense, especially the line. Not one guy gets off his tackle. The DT is completely swallowed up by the guard, leaving a huge hole for the runner to hit the second level untouched with a blocker in front to pick up Greenway without anything to redirect. Not many linebackers to do much of anything in that situation, except get blocked.

    Another example you claim Greenway was playing zone and therefore was out of scheme, but I disagree. In that position, you can’t sell out, run man against a receiver, and turn your back to the football from the LB spot… ever. Greenway drops to the middle forcing the QB to throw a deep ball, over the head of a LB and between two safeties. That is exactly what you want the QB to do, it is a high risk and low percentage throw, the only problem, the safety (Sandejo?) gets over late. You also claim that the Greenway is the only player in zone. Look closer. The outside corner is in zone and releasing the outside receiver into the middle, Greenway’s zone. Greenway correctly releases the deep route to the safety and pulls in to pick up the inside release. The right CB drops off ten yards, while the left is in a short zone.

    Another example you claim Greenway is blocked, which he was, but the mistake was on Henderson who followed the FB and left the RB a huge hole in the middle. What should have happened on that play was Henderson should have stayed home and either made an easy TFL or forced the RB to bounce it outside for a short gain.

    In another example you show a pass for a first down at Greenway, with a nice little touch of a yellow line showing the first down marker which he was well behind. That first down is not on Greenway, that is the scheme. Look at every other defender in the second level, they are exactly the same depth downfield, which means the atrocious defense call that Alan Williams made on that third down, effectively gave the other team a free first down by design.

    Another play shows a TE getting open on an inside break into the end zone. On this play Greenway does a bad job of hanging with him, but did his job correctly, allowing the TE inside and forcing a throw (which RG3 wisely did not attempt) to be in an extremely tight and dangerous window. He was also trying to not get blocked inside because RG3 is a threat to scramble outside, and since the other LB was rushing, he has to avoid getting locked up with a blocking TE. While Greenway should have made window smaller, he did not miss his assignment by letting the TE pass inside.

    So yeah, Greenway is no longer an elite LB anymore at his age, which is to be expected, and he may very well get cut or asked to restructure his salary this season, but to say he is terrible is not accurate.

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    • I would just like to compliment Arif on an excellent article and Brian on an excellent well thought out response. The fact that both of you could intelligently articulate your opinions and support them with specific facts and arguments instead of just personal remarks is why I enjoy following this site and DN as much as I do.

      Chad Greenway has been an excellent Minnesota Viking and as Arif mentioned, one of the true good guys of the NFL. That being said, like AW, we are seeing a player that is in the declining portion of his career. He may have a great season or two left in him, but more likely he will struggle to be an average OLB no matter what scheme the new coaches put in place. I would not be surprised to see one of the young guns step up this year and win the starting roll or at least limit the number of snaps he sees. This will be even more likely if, asBrian points out so well, the players around him continue to miss their assignments.

      The NFL is a tough place to earn a living, as we saw with AW last year and KW and JA this year, there is not a lot of room for loyalty or sentiment when your paying millions to players to stop some of the most gifted and highly trained athletes in the world. We all wish these guys the best in their futures but ultimately we want to see the Vikings in the playoffs and someday lifting the Lombardi Trophy.

      So from all of us to the players who have to move on we truly wish you the best and we thank you for your service to the Minnesota Vikings and many great memories. To the new players and coaches, we wish you the best and hope you can be successful and as bring as much to the Vikings community as some of these guys have, both on and off the field.

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    • I understand if you interpret the GIFs differently than I do, though I have had more than a few coaches (not NFL coaches) backchannel me to tell me they agree. Presumably that first GIF you are talking about is when Chase Baker, who I acknowledged wasn’t doing his whole job, gets swallowed by the center (not guard) and Chad is left one-on-one with a guard. It is true that the line could have done better, but it’s also true that it’s Greenway’s job—he is the guard’s assigned man, and that gap was his gap—to get off the block or find a way around it. It is the nature of zone-running schemes that the OL who don’t have a DL heads-up over them get to the second-level. It’s a skill other linebackers have that Greenway doesn’t, so it means that they are better than him. It’s not a particularly difficult evaluation.

      With the zone/man gif…. are you kidding me? That’s ridiculous. Bottom of the screen, the slot receiver picks up the man on the inside and follows him all the way to the end zone, even though he goes outside and the outside man goes inside (and the outside receiver is covered … by the outside corner). The tight end covered by Henderson is followed by Henderson closely and is bumped at the line. The outside corner at the top of the screen follows his outside receiver as he moves inside, which is the hook/curl zone that Greenway thinks he’s defending. The safeties are in Cover-2 of course, so it is Cover-2 man. THEY ANTICIPATE THE RECEIVERS AS IF THE UNDERNEATH DEFENSE IS IN MAN, so when you blame Sendejo for playing it like that when everyone else is playing man, you are going OUT OF YOUR WAY to make an argument that the other six people have played the wrong coverage. Greenway would have been playing it correctly if they were all in zone, that’s true. They are not.

      Clue: when the Vikings played zone that year, they did not play press-zone like the Seahawks did. Almost all of their zone coverage was off, with a no-cover zone. Also, you can tell with the crossing receivers, easily.

      What do you mean by sell out? LBs follow players up the seam all the damn time. And you don’t have to turn your back to do it. How has the outside corner released his receiver? He hasn’t, by any reasonable stretch of the imagination. You have confused off-man coverage for zone. I respect that you’ve played football, but others who have definitely disagree with you.

      Your next example—I have no clue to which GIF you’re referring. Could you be more specific? There is only one GIF where Greenway doesn’t get off his block; the Alfred Morris/Chase Baker/Washington one. Are you talking about the GIF where I talk about tackle credit? Because I’m not saying Greenway made a bad play there, I’m saying it’s an example of where he gets free stats.

      On the TE play, he does not do his job correctly. Jordan Reed is completely free with no help behind him. It is a difficult throw for a college player, not an NFL quarterback. The window isn’t even that tight—throwing ahead of Reed is all you need to do, unless you think the ref is a safety. There is no better litmus test of the lens you’re willing to view the video than this, because only someone willing to read into good play could interpret that as a good play,

      I get that he has to make sure he’s not let RGIII loose, but in man coverage on a blitz, your primary—absolute primary—goal is to cover your man, then worry about contain. “Selling Out” for contain and losing out on coverage is a sure way to allow touchdowns and not something LBs are asked to to.

      As for the coverage play, I understand that the scheme is in fact the primary reason for it. That makes sense to me. Greenway also does not break to the ball until well after the ball hits the receiver’s hands. So perhaps the yellow line was unfair, because that problem has more to do with the size of the no-cover zone on third and short. But it is an example of missing explosion and clicking to the ball late.

      I also think it is extraordinarily unlikely that Greenway has posted league lows in all the relevant statistics AS WELL AS the PFF grades and is anything but bad. The chances a good LB does that is microscopic. In fact, all of the linebackers we contemporarily understand to be good (Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman, Von Miller, etc.) do not consistently find themselves at the bottom of any of these statistics or grades. Ones that are average tend to find themselves only at the bottom of one of the relevant statistics at best, if any at all. Greenway is at the bottom of all of them.

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      • First of all, Arif……..jesus did you try way too hard with this article. I kept waiting for you to make your point after all the explaining of what each stat means and what not only to find that I had another 15 paragraphs to go before you finally got to the point you expressed with your headline. Nice tactic to bait the reader with something so brash as to call out a well-liked player and then take 3 pages worth of material to do it, like this is some friggin’ college term paper.

        No…..it is not worth it to try and explain yourself to those who disagree with your stance, in the length and depth at which you did (which of course you thought was necessary, but in reality was not).

        You could’ve saved yourself a hell of a lot of time, but then because I doubt you believe that, that let’s me know just how entrenched you are on this opinion.

        I actually do think Greenway is one of those rare cases where even the negative numbers lie (and not just the positive ones that you spent over 50 paragraphs discrediting), and his play falls somewhere in between.

        You, yourself, acknowledged that the overall defensive play has been brutal. We’ve established that the schemes themselves are also partially to blame (with the 3rd and short gif, which you spin to only show that Greenway is slow to react, as opposed to just naturally being out of position to prevent a 1st down because the whole back 7 is a good several yds past the 1st down line).

        And then there’s the main focus of the argument. The idea that you’re trying to push and vehemently reinforce to a preposterously exaggerated (and truly unnecessary- yes, it is) level.

        (btw, side note/pause, you admitting that you may have went on overkill with this article would be a f***ing understatement, but I mostly don’t expect you to go there anyways. That “could” imply that you’re backtracking in some regard, even though it really wouldn’t)

        Even if this wasn’t the point you were trying to explain, you’ve done such a masterful job of detailing your opinion that it can only look like you were trying to say that Chad Greenway has been the worst linebacker on the team for the past 3 years.

        If that’s not what you were trying to say (and I am not sure that it is), you certainly didn’t do a good enough job of giving the reader examples of who you thought was worse on the team at the position.

        The other thing is that you fall into the same trap as a lot of other fans/writers/people who like to or have the window to voice their opinions….and maybe some of it was done intentionally to get more people to read your manifesto, I don’t know…….but I see a lot of ‘you’ posing issues you have with Greenway and problems you have with Greenway, and ZERO solutions…..(what, because it’s not your place to say? You got a f***ing keyboard don’t you? How’d you write this story?)

        What do you want Minnesota to do? What have you been wanting Minnesota to do with Greenway for the last 3 years? Where the f*** were you for the last 3 years, if you felt that he was not getting the job done? (developing your opinion is a poor excuse, btw….even journalists need to be on top of their game and call people out vehemently and in as much detail as you have done as soon as sh** hits the fan…don’t wait 3 years to do it, man. That’s not helping the team out….if that’s what you think you’re doing here with this piece….and please DO tell me what it is that you think you’re doing here with this piece, other than defending your own pride and ego…….and getting people talking, which is beside the point since that’s only part of a journalist’s job. Sell the news….amirite)

        I would comment on the gifs too, but others have already gone into detail about them, and you have responded to them as well.

        I’ll leave you with some backhanded compliments the same way you managed to do at the end of your article. I thought that you were very thorough and detailed in your story. You attempted to cover all your bases (makes it harder for a rebuttal and whatnot). AND…..as a devoted Minnesota Vikings fan, who has rooted for the team well before Chad Greenway even had hints of an NFL career, I agree that he is on the decline. I agree that his time is running out (him and oh I don’t know, about 3-400 other players too…..). I agree that eventually, and probably very soon, we will have to find someone to replace him at that spot.

        But please, at least tell me who should’ve been playing in his spot for the last 3 years. Tell me how Minnesota should’ve traded for, or spent a draft pick for a linebacker to replace him. That would’ve at least completed your self-defense seminar (ya know, since you were doing this because people constantly disagreed with your assessment of Greenway).

        But hey feel free to let us know if there’s anyone else on the team severely holding us back from winning the Super Bowl…………….we could always move the franchise to Los Angeles (since that seems to be the popular outsider fan vote these days).

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  25. I completely agree with Brian. Each one of these plays you need to look at the entire defense and be objective. Erin Henderson actually turned his back to the play on the Reggie Bush reception. That matters. Our defense as a whole had been in decline for the last three years. Signaling out Greenway is less than fair. Last year I thought Greenway played about as bad as I have seen him play. I am interested to see how he does with a coach like Zimmer. I don’t agree that Greenway is horrible or his career is done. I normally find your articles to be objective and fair. I don’t think this one meets the standard you usually set. I agree with your argument against tackle stats but when I look at the plays you singled out I don’t think your being objective. I still always enjoy your articles though. I think you work about as hard as anybody I read. I think some of your followers are getting to be as sensitive defending you as some Vikings fans are about defending Greenway. Definitely respectfully disagree.

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    • I agree that all 77 yards of that reception are not Greenway’s fault.

      I am only “singling out Greenway” because of how much pushback I have received when calling him “bad”. He was not the worst performer on the defense, though of the 11 starters he was near the bottom. I do think that Mistral Raymond, when he was in for a short time, was very bad. Erin Henderson was bad in coverage, though actually fairly good against the run. Josh Robinson was universally bad from the slot, though decent outside. etc etc

      Those are all things people already acknowledge. Not many acknowledge that Greenway was poor last year, and those that do tend to isolate it to one year instead of underperformance for a few years.

      Thanks for reading, though.

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      • OK, he’s not good. I love the quantifiable evidence, and I don’t think it’s possible to argue the numbers… because they represent a bad player, statistically. Watching Greenway, it seems like you get about 2-2.5 poor plays for every splash good play that he makes. And let’s agree that the great plays he makes (although rare) put him into a higher caliber group of LB’s than ‘average joe LB’. So let’s come to grips with reality and let’s settle on this… Greenway is declining, we are noticing more ‘poor plays’/blown assignments per good play. The statistics do not lie, his bad plays are the leagues worst as far as LB’s go. So let’s give him a label of ‘Mediocre’ and ‘Declining’. If we dont’ see improvement in the frist 2-3 games with Zim (over last year), we can catalog him under ‘Bad’. The reality is that Bad = Cut, and I don’t think anybody would be for cutting Greenway (with or without the restructure) before this season & he’s pulling in $7 mil. Regardless of the poor LB free agent market or not this offseason, that say’s something in itself. It means that Zim sees enough potential to have ‘Mediocre’… Arif, you should be able to agree on this, take the ‘Bad’ away. It’s a little too early yet for Judge & Jury.

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      • Arif says “…how much pushback I have received when calling him “bad”.”

        So?………………

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  26. Look at 2012, Winfield’s last year w/team….. best slot corner in football by nearly every measure. How can he do his job so well surrounded by the same teammates, in the same system, while CW did his so poorly?

    If Chad goes on IR, does he draw full salary? Count the same against the cap?

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  27. I love your articles as well Arif! You have many talents when it comes to analyzing The Vikings and NFL in general. However, because this is a forum that facilitates expression of one’s passion and self-proclaimed football knowledge, I will call it like I see it on this one.
    The video evidence you provide doesn’t match your knocks on Greenway. If you are going to take on, or call out an established player, gifted talent, and respected leader like this, you best be sured you back-up what you say with the proper tape. Your tape on Griffin earlier this year, i feel, was also inaccurate.
    Thanks Adam and Brian for noticing the Henderson Fail on that GIF as well. The safer analysis is that the whole defense was bad, especially DL, The tape you provided might actually have a number of positive things on Mondays in the film room. Like Adam said, there’s numerous considerations when analyzing a play as outsider. I suspect a slight increase in Greenway’s productivity this year.

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  28. I was referring to the slot screen play. My, bad, in my post I said RB. I think you were knocking is lack of firing off. On this one he fired off pretty well. Well enough to get around a block that would’ve broke a huge play, and almost make the tackle himself, but forcing runner inside for a minimal gain.

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  29. I would like to point to one factor which I personally value above all else, the decline of the interior line, specifically Pat Williams of the “Williams Wall”. I do feel your analysis is thorough and conclusive, there is little room for disagreement. And I’m not interested in debating even the peripheral talent points which were slightly ambiguous. The nose tackle or interior are utterly vital, regardless of the shift to a passing league, to a defenses performance. A linebacker who can rely on interior blockers being tied up at the point of attack not only will perform better against the run, but by virtue can be more reliable in the passing game because the run threat is destabilized. As you have access, if you find the opportunity, examining the correlation between highly graded nose tackles or interior tandem (overall or against the run, your choice) and the linebackers grades, as well as overall production would be a valuable study as we have made a significant overhaul of our interior. As always thanks for the piece.

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  30. Agreed: tackles are like calories – an inaccurate measure of an (in?)adequate diet, though if you’re not getting enough of them that’s clearly no good, either. See RobertKnows @#2 in the Comments.

    So. Baseball has a very simple metric by which to measure defense: runs vs. outs for pitchers, outs on balls in play for the 9 in the field. Basketball now uses points per possession. Hockey and soccer, team defense is skewed by the quality or lack thereof of the goalie. Defense in chess is not purely subjective, at times it’s a clear case of insufficient numbers (on either side, attack or D), but it’s closer to what we’re forced to measure in football than any of the other major sports.

    Objective: determine the team metric for football. Maybe a blend of points, “outs” and possessions. I don’t know. And then, once you have that, which isn’t going to be easy to agree upon, parse out contributions to that by 1) players on the field, and 2) to the extent possible each player’s contribution above or below 9%, for good and for ill.

    Good luck.

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  31. Actually, I am going to comment on each gif. Who are these coaches that you have conferred with? Are they members of the Vikings’ staff, who know what is actually going on with the team? Or are they just some random high school coaches that you were actually able to contact? That would also go a long way. Data data data. I cannot make bricks without clay.

    1st gif- Why not give Detroit credit for that play? That was a very well-timed screen, which was perfectly executed and had pretty much everyone for the Vikings fooled and accounted for in the blocking scheme. Greenway is man-to-man with Bush. Bush starts out like he’s the check-down man. Greenway slides with him. Had he been wise to a possible screen or for whatever reason, just decided to stay slightly inside of him instead of even on the snap, he still has to worry about the guard (and the center), who was actually in less of a position to block him where he ended up being (the guard whiffed on the block too, but at least got in his way enough to prevent Greenway from making a touchdown-saving tackle). Sure, this does show that Greenway isn’t as quick as he used to be, but what this also shows is that the “Vikings got abused” by the Lions on this play. As in the whole team got raw-dogged. Deal with it.

    2nd gif- Fart noises. I know you’re not blaming Greenway for getting credit for tackles…..but given that in mind……who gives a f***? You shouldn’t.

    3rd gif- Brian (I think) pretty much covered this one earlier, and to argue otherwise kinda reveals your football knowledge. Again, Greenway really can’t be faulted for this. He releases his man because he has responsibility over the middle. The back two safeties can decide who to pick up after that. The far safety at the top was late, as mentioned, and it’s an easy 6….but what if Greenway had stayed on him and not released to the other WR? That guy was cutting inside and had a step on the corner. With a well-timed throw (and Greenway with his back to that man), that would’ve been another big gain for Cincinnati, and possibly even a TD if help did get to him before he scored up the middle. Remember, our defensive backfield is also horrible.

    Btw, you keep saying that other teams have had players like Greenway who did not have a good supporting cast and still did better than he did. How many teams had secondaries as bad as Minnesota’s? We really aren’t strong at the LB position overall. Most all of them are serviceable at best and most fans admit that. Our DL was pretty much a mix-bag of extremes. Either fairly young guys or aging veterans. Tell me all the other teams that had it as bad or worse than Minnesota so that we can understand your argument about Greenway’s supporting cast.

    4th gif- I think this is where your argument of him not being as good as what he’s getting paid comes in. Because, sure he missed the tackle and could’ve broken down sooner and yeah elite LBs probably make that play. But in regards to using this to complain about the money he’s getting paid…..fart noises. I know pro sports are a business and all the contract talks and such are a big part of it, but if there’s one thing that bores me almost as much as politics….it’s the ginormous deal the media makes about pro athletes’ contracts……I do. not. care. (which also means that you should not care. Yeah, in this case I’m telling you what to do. Trust me. It feels much better than actually caring about it)

    Oh and you could’ve at least given Greenway credit for forcing the WR back inside towards the help, but hey that’d go against your argument.

    5th gif- Also covered. Yes Greenway let’s him get open too easy, but his pause once the TE cuts inside makes me wonder if there wasn’t some miscommunication on that play, or he didn’t completely expect to have to cover the TE going up the middle. Btw, the WR cutting in on a slant from the right was also open for a catch and score if RGIII hadn’t immediately went to his first option. But hey at least we won that game.

    6th gif- Also covered. Scheme issue overall. The f*** is everyone doing backing off 5 yds behind where the 1st down marker is? It’s like watching Iowa’s 2012 offense where they’d always throw short of the 1st down marker and hope for the best…….Good thing you at least tried to use more than just this gif to make your argument.

    7th gif- Also covered, but if you notice, Chad’s first step is in towards the play, instead of lateral. That is what allows him to get sucked up by the blocker. If he goes lateral, or even back a step he has a better chance of shedding the block and possibly tripping up the RB for a 3-5 yd gain.

    And again, which is kind of the theme here, others have to mention that he had no help on this play. The other LB overran the play immediately and also allowed the hole to form. Can’t just pin everything on Greenway, even if he’s as bad as you say. Because if he is….then what does that say about pretty much everyone else Minnesota has on defense?…..Think about that.

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  32. Did he not get voted by the players in the top 100 after the 2012 season? I think I will respect their opinion over yours.

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