State Your Case: Kevin Greene

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

You produce more sacks than Lawrence Taylor. You produce more sacks than Michael Strahan. You produce more sacks than any linebacker in the history of the NFL and all but two defensive players, period. So why aren’t you in the Hall of Fame?

Don’t ask Kevin Greene.

He’s the linebacker with 160 career sacks who’s a perennial finalist to make it to Canton … but a perennial also-ran, too. The past three years Greene made the cut to 15, and the past three years he failed to be inducted. People want to know why, and, frankly, it’s a good question.

One of the knocks is that he played for multiple teams. If he were Hall-of-Fame great, critics ask, why didn’t, say, Pittsburgh or Los Angeles or Carolina hang on to him? I mean, Strahan didn’t play for anyone but the Giants, and LT didn’t, either. OK, I get that. But Bruce Smith, the league’s career sack leader, played for Buffalo and Washington, and second-place finisher Reggie White played for three teams — Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina.

I know, Greene played for four (including Carolina twice), and that bothers some voters. But keep this in mind, people: Randy Moss played for five different clubs, including Minnesota twice, and, while that’s ammunition that may be used against him, I don’t know that it keeps him out of Canton. In fact, I’m pretty sure it does not.

Another criticism is that Greene was a one-trick pony, more of an opportunist who collected sacks as a 3-4 outside linebacker than he was an all-around player. Fair enough. I get that, too. But he wasn’t just good at what he did; he was so good that he got to the quarterback more than all but two players since the NFL in 1982 recognized sacks as an official statistic. Criticizing him for being one-dimensional is a little like knocking Mariano Rivera because he threw only one pitch.

Plus, there’s this: When Sports Illustrated’s Paul Zimmerman named him to his unofficial All-Pro team in 1982, choosing him over Philadelphia’s Seth Joyner, he cited Greene’s coverage skills as one of the reasons. Tell me the last time you heard anyone talk about LT’s coverage skills.

“I’ll be honest,” one AFC offensive coordinator told me, “when we played Pittsburgh, it wasn’t Kevin Greene who scared us. It was the guy on the other side — Greg Lloyd.”

Another good point. Lloyd was a terrific player. But he wasn’t the irresistible force Greene was. Greene was named to an all-decade team. Lloyd was not. In 11 of his 15 NFL seasons, Greene led his teams in sacks, and twice he led the entire NFL. Lloyd did not.

Apparently, someone should’ve paid more attention to Kevin Greene. Now we have the chance.

Kevin Greene

Courtesy of the Carolina Panthers

Previous Gary Zimmerman Interview 9-19-14
Next No Doubting Jim Brown


  1. Dave Goldberg
    September 23, 2014


    Here is why as a voter I was unenthusiastic about Greene, who I like personally.

    You and Ron and Rich are probably among the few (with me) who remember Plan B, the Tagliabue device to institute a sort of free agency during the four or five post-1987 seasons when the owners and union haggled over free agency. It allowed a team to protect 39 guys during the offseason and made the rest free agents. I remember the Rams leaving Greene unprotected and letting him go to Pittsburgh. When I asked Jack Faulkner, LA’s personnel guy, about it, he said “He’ll be unprotected next year too.” I don’t remember if he was, but he indeed went on to Carolina. Remember that Mark Gastineau got a tons of sacks and has never gotten a sniff, partially because he gave up thousands of rushing yards trying to get to the passer, partially because he was a jerk. Yeah, pass rushers are among the most important players on any defense and Kevin was a great one. But I’ve always felt he fell just a little short of HOF status. It wasn’t always about numbers for me _ Football’s not like baseball, where reaching a certain threshold (pre-steroids) got a player in. If it was, would any OLs be in? That’s facetious and I don’t want to be. Beyond that, Dr. Z was a voter I listened to more than any other. But ….

    I just don’t think Kevin quite makes it.

  2. Kevin Greene
    September 23, 2014

    Explain ‘always felt’ please. In what way? For what reason? Just curious. I would like to understand. Thanks. KG

  3. Ruth Love
    September 23, 2014

    now to commenter Dave Goldberg: Well Dave, you obviously need to check your “KNOW IT ALL” status, Because if you had truly taken the time to take a serious look at Kevin Greene then right off the bat you would realize that he wasn’t left unprotected… he was one of the first players to travel to another team via free agency. I am sure you recall that 1993 was the first year the NFL offered free agency to the players. Also I am sure you remember that in 1992 Kevin played OLB in the Rams 4-3 defense. That SAME year, ’92, I believe that Kevin Greene not only LED his team in SACKS(10) but also in TACKLES (87). Don’t know about you ,Dave, but I think a seasoned voter like you with all of your knowledge and such would find that as IMPRESSIVE as I do. Success in both 3-4 and 4-3. I guess it’s not all about the numbers…but lets just have a quick recap to refresh that keen memory of yours because even after 15 years Kevin Greene’s numbers look like this: 160 sacks (ALL-TIME LEADER FOR LINEBACKERS) (18 more than the great LT), 5 Pro-Bowls both in AFC and NFC, 3 times All-Pro, tied for 2nd ALL-TIME career safeties, tied for 5th ALL-TIME fumble recoveries, 1st team ALL-DECADE of the 90’s..and you know who votes on that…your PFHOF brothers, Led league in sacks 2 years, 10 years with double digit sacks only Reggie White and Bruce Smith have done that. He was the oldest player to lead the league in sacks at age 34. IMPORTANT NOTE: I am sure you noticed from all the film you watched on Kevin that he rushed from the QB’s front side or QBs sight side, Most Double digit sack seasons for 34 years old and beyond (4 seasons), I am also sure that in your research and interviews with coaches and players that you discovered that Kevin was renown for his sacks but he was also renown for his run defense. Just so you know, I can justify Kevin Greene’s Hall of Fame inclusion but You cannot justify his exclusion.
    just a note Mr. Goldberg: it is not voter integrity when you note that Gastineau was a jerk…who cares…LT was a “coke-head” but that didn’t keep him out of the Hall. Voters need to conduct themselves with integrity! Can’t find your name in the HOF voter list.
    I could happily discuss this with you further. Ruth Love

    • September 29, 2014

      Ruth, thanks for the note. Mean it. Always good to hear from Kevin Greene fans. Keep on reading. Thanks again.

  4. Rich Quodomine
    September 23, 2014

    Without any disrespect to Mr. Greene, I think his case is not one of quality, but of perception of lacking “a big moment”. That one thing that people remember. Bruce Smith has 200 sacks, a crazy sack dance and a “bad things” commercial done with the immortal Dennis Hopper. Failed appearances before legislatures aside, Reggie White had a great public presence. I think Greene’s biggest issue is his lack of national presence. He was absolutely someone you had to account for, and had great upfield speed and moves. He has the statistics, to be sure. I’d be curious to see a PFF or Pro Football outsiders rating on him, career wise, vs. others. He retired before we had a lot of publicly available advanced stats, maybe those could help his cause, lacking the public visibility of others he is compared to.

  5. Perry J
    September 23, 2014

    Listen I’m a long time Steeler fan . I loved K Greene but he was no Greg Lloyd. Lloyd was a beast like James Harrison.

  6. Ruth Love
    September 24, 2014

    Perry J….I can appreciate that Greg was a tenacious hard hitter and a sideline wacko but if you know football then you know that Greg played outside the scheme all the time….leaving his brothers hanging….the saving grace was the fact that every player on that defense was SMART. They each understood how they fit in the D and how their brother fit so they could help cover (by doing their job and assisting in the breakdown) when Greg randomly decided to go off grid. What helped Greg was the fact that he was very athletic . But those are the facts…. Steeler love and loyalty or not…. it is what it is period! SO GLAD KEVIN GREENE WAS NO GREG LLOYD BECAUSE ASPIRING TO BE LIKE GREG WOULD NOT LEAD TO A YELLOW JACKET. A STEELER HALL OF FAME NOD MAYBE BUT GREENE WAS SO MUCH MORE. Unlike many of the NFL’s All-Time stat leaders–Greene didn’t need the protection of one team to work his magic! He was able to be productive year after year–team after team–defense after defense. Even in 1997 with 49ers Greene as a back-up was able to have a double digit sack year.

    • September 26, 2014

      Great debate going on between advocates of Greg Lloyd vs. Kevin Greene on HOF LB/pass rusher debate. Keep it up!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.