The HOF case for Kevin Greene: Isn't 160 sacks enough to get in?

By Josh Katzowitz | NFL Writer

Kevin Greene amassed 160 career sacks. (Getty Images)
Kevin Greene amassed 160 career sacks. (Getty Images)

Hall of Fame cases: The receiver trio (Marvin Harrison, Andre Reed and Tim Brown) | Charles Haley | Jerome Bettis | Eddie DeBartolo | Aeneas Williams | Kevin Greene | Tony Dungy | John Lynch | Morten Andersen | Will Shields

The day before the Super Bowl, 46 Hall of Fame voters will enter a conference room somewhere in New York City, and they won't leave until they emerge with the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. The election will take hours, because each of the finalists will be presented by a media member who extols his virtues and the reason why that particular man should be inducted in with the next class. Then, the debates will begin, and they will rage for hours. Eventually, a Hall of Fame class will be elected, and all will rejoice.

Until then, we're left to ponder the possibilities. On this page during the next few weeks, we'll debate most of those who have a chance to land a spot in Canton this year. At the end of the debate, we'll come up with our own ballot of those who we feel deserve to be enshrined (a quick FYI: I am not a Hall of Fame voter, and neither is anybody else on the current CBSSports.com roster). I can tell you right now that I'll include linebacker Derrick Brooks, defensive end Michael Strahan and offensive tackle Walter Jones on my ballot, so those three won't be among those we debate.

Until then, let's think things through with former linebacker Kevin Greene.

2014 Hall of Fame Finalists
NamePosition
Morten AndersenKicker
Jerome BettisRunning back
Derrick BrooksLinebacker
Tim BrownWide receiver
Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr.Owner (49ers)
Tony DungyHead coach (Bucs, Colts)
Kevin GreeneLinebacker/defensive end
Ray GuyPunter
Charles HaleyDefensive end/linebacker
Marvin HarrisonWide receiver
Claude HumphreyDefensive end
Walter JonesTackle
John LynchSafety
Andre ReedWide receiver
Will ShieldsGuard
Michael StrahanDefensive end
Aeneas WilliamsCornerback/safety

Nothing but the facts: From 1986, his second season in the league, until 1992, Greene averaged more than 10 sacks per year for the Rams. Then Greene really started knocking down quarterbacks, gathering 12½ in 1993 and leading the league in 1994 (14½) and '96 (14). Although he made five Pro Bowls during his career -- along with two All-Pro honors -- he moved around quite a bit in his final five seasons, playing for the Steelers, Panthers, 49ers and Panthers again. Overall, he recorded 160 career sacks, the third most all-time behind Bruce Smith and Reggie White.

Why he should be elected: Look at his sack numbers. They're impressive, especially considering the two men ahead of him on the all-time career list are Hall of Famers, No. 4 Chris Doleman is, No. 5 Michael Strahan and No. 6 Jason Taylor eventually will be, and the two tied for No. 7 (John Randle and Richard Dent) already are enshrined in Canton. And Greene's play never declined. In his penultimate season in 1998, he recorded 15 sacks and a career-high two interceptions, and in his final year in 1999, he eked out 12 more sacks at the age of 37.

Why he shouldn't be elected: Greene might suffer from the star power of the other pass-rushers on the ballot, Strahan and Charles Haley, and though has he 59½ more sacks than Haley, it seems more likely that the star power of Haley's five Super Bowl rings might outweigh that difference. Another problem is that he could be viewed as the Dave Kingman or Adam Dunn of the NFL. Either he hits a home run (a sack) or he strikes out (doesn't do much of anything else to affect the play). In other words, Greene might be looked at as one-dimensional, because he wasn't all that effective in stopping the run or dropping into coverage.

What a Hall of Fame voter thinks: "Good linebacker, decent stats. However he's probably still a couple years away. Kevin, to me, has always been a strange one. Late in his career, he bounced around, so we're trying to still figure out the effect of that. With the Rams, he was excellent. You compare him to a Haley or a Strahan. When I look at guys who have a real good shot, Kevin is almost in the middle. I could see him getting eliminated in the first round of the [HOF] voting or somehow getting to the final 10. If he gets to 10, he's got as good a shot as anyone."

How are his chances: Decent but not great. The voters can't ignore Greene forever, because his sack number is simply too massive. But they might put him off for another year or two. Greene, at some point, will get in, and I'm thinking it's about 50-50 that it happens this year.

Coming Monday: The HOF case for Tony Dungy.

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