(Kevin Greene photos courtesy of the Carolina Panthers)
Talk of Fame Network
Linebacker Kevin Greene had more sacks (160) in his career than everyone but Bruce Smith and Reggie White. He had more than linebacker Lawrence Taylor. He had more than Chris Doleman. And he had more than Michael Strahan.
So why isn’t he in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Good question.
Some detractors claim it's because was a one-trick pony who played the pass … and only the pass. Except they must not have listened to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau when he said "Kevin Greene is a great player against the run" who is "almost unblockable," and they must not have seen Greene play. He lined up at the strong-side linebacker position, not the weak-side, which means he had to play the run and had to go through traffic, including the tight end, to get to the quarterback.
So don’t tell him he was strictly a pass rusher because, as Greene pointed out on the Talk of Fame Network’s latest broadcast, it simply isn’t true.
“I think people just get so enamored with those 160 sacks their next thought is: Well, he surely can’t be good at anything else because he has a boatload of sacks,” Greene said. “But in all reality I played strong-side outside linebacker. I played the defensive left-side outside linebacker. So if you just think that most teams are right handed … their offensive formation is going to be the right side of their formation (and) that’s where the tight end is going to line (up). And that just happens to be where I’m going to be.
“I played defensive-left outside linebacker, and I played that position for a reason. And it wasn’t because I was whiffing blocks and whiffing tackles and just getting blown off the ball five yards. No, there was a reason (former Carolina) coach Dom Capers put me at left – or strong side – outside linebacker.
“So that’s really all I can say. I really don’t why I got tagged as being a one-trick pony or one-dimensional dude or soft against the run. That’s the biggest insult for me, really, of this whole thing -- and that’s that people think I’m soft against the run, which is unbelievable. I prided myself so much in playing the run the right way and the way that coaches wanted me to play it.
“They wanted me to go hard and take on two blockers so the ball came outside in space to scrape an inside linebacker like a Levon Kirkland to make a free hit or something. I took it very seriously and did my best. And I believe I was a hard-nosed cat at the point of attack. I really do.”
Greene, who is a five-time finalist for the Hall, is considered one of the favorites to make it to Canton this year. He narrowly missed last February, but, next to slam-dunk Brett Favre, looks like the most likely candidate in the Class of 2016 to gain approval of the Hall’s board of selectors.
Still, we asked Greene if he were to appear in front of voters to tell us what he'd say to convince them he belongs. At first, he struggled to answer. Then he made an impassioned pitch.
“I really tried to be a true professional instead of just a player out there playing professional football. And there’s a difference,” he said. “To do the things that I did as long as I did … my habits were just great. My eating habits were perfect. My sleeping habits ... my workout habits in the weight room ... my practice habits on the field.
“I knew I couldn’t just get out there on the practice field and go through the motions and show up there on game day. That just wasn’t me. I knew I had to go full speed and practice at the tempo I was hoping to play at. And my study habits … I put a lot of time in and really figured out how to rush the passer. I put an offensive tackle in a position of failure, and most of them outweighed me by about 80 or 100 pounds – I played at around 245 or so.
"So I studied my opponent, his strengths and his weaknesses. I studied personnel groupings. I studied formations at the line of scrimmage. And I just developed a vision about this position where I could anticipate the play before the snap of the ball, based on personnel grouping on the field, having formation recognition, what I’d seen on film and what they really liked to do out of that personal grouping and that formation.
“So I was able to predict a lot of stuff. And that’s really cool when you get to that level where you can see things before the snap of the ball. You just play with your gut, and nine times out of ten you’re probably right."