Greenway says Vikings’ losing ways are an unwelcome, new experienceChad Greenway isn’t used to losing this many football games.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
Chad Greenway isn’t used to losing this many football games.
The Minnesota Vikings linebacker and Mount Vernon native had a season-high 16 tackles in a 24-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, handing the team its ninth loss of the year and guaranteeing a second straight losing season.
In the last 27 times Greenway and the Vikings have taken the field, they have endured 19 losses.
“You don’t forget the reasons you play the game and what makes it special to you,” Greenway said in an interview with The Daily Republic Friday afternoon when discussing the Vikings’ 2-9 record. “That’s what I always try to keep in perspective, because I try to have as much fun on the football field that anybody can possibly have.”
Through his career, Greenway has had good reason to have fun on the field. Before the Vikings’ 6-10 record last year, Greenway hasn’t been a contributing member on a losing team since his freshman year in high school, a year when he started on the defensive side of the ball.
In 1997, his Stickney/Mount Vernon nine-man football team went 3-5 under head coach Myron Steffen.
“Thanks a lot for telling me,” Steffen said when he was notified. “Is that an honor or what? I don’t know.”
Greenway took over as quarterback as a sophomore for Stickney/Mount Vernon, but there wasn’t a large amount of success until his junior year. In 1999, Stickney/Mount Vernon finished with an undefeated, 12-win season and won the 9AA state title. It was the first year the South Dakota High School Activities Association went to three classes of nine-man football.
“We had one of the best nine-man teams the state has ever seen, and that’s debatable,” said Greenway, who had a 32-9 record as a high school football player. “We really didn’t have any problems with anyone.”
As a senior, Greenway and Stickney/Mount Vernon went 11-1 and repeated as 9AA state champions.
“If I remember right, when Chad was a freshman, our team was fairly young,” Steffen said. “I don’t remember much from his freshman year, but when we went 6-2 in his sophomore season and lost to Centerville in the first round of the playoffs, I knew we’d be pretty good the next couple of years.”
Greenway redshirted in his first year at the University of Iowa, meaning he didn’t contribute in games allowing him eligibility for four more years at the collegiate level. The next four years, the Hawkeyes went 38-12 and won two Big Ten Conference championships and two bowl-game victories.
When asked which season sticks out to his as most successful at any level of his career, Greenway noted the 2004 season when he was a junior and Iowa went 10-2 and won a share of the Big Ten Conference title.
The season was capped when the Hawkeyes defeated Louisiana State University in the Capital One Bowl on a game-winning touchdown as time expired.
“We came together and created a level of success that we probably shouldn’t have been at, but we had a lot of fun once we got rolling,” Greenway said. “That was probably the biggest level of success. It was a level that sort of stands on its own.”
After he was drafted in 2006, Greenway was injured on his first play of the team’s first preseason game. A season-ending injury kept him from contributing to Minnesota’s 6-10 season. The Vikings went 8-8 in 2007, Greenway’s first year as a starting linebacker.
The next two seasons, he was a factor in helping win back-to-back NFC North Division titles. That included the 2009 season, where veteran quarterback Brett Favre led the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game, a game that Greenway said was the biggest stage of his playing career.
“I’ve certainly been lucky to be a part of some really good teams,” Greenway said.
But lately, things haven’t been as fortunate for Greenway, who signed a five-year extension worth a reported $41 million in early September. Last season, the Vikings finished 6-10 and tied for last place in the conference with the Detroit Lions.
The Vikings have won two of 11 games this season and could match the franchise low for wins in a season if they lose the final five games on their schedule.
In 1962, the Vikings went 2-11-1. Three times in franchise history, the Vikings have won three games.
“In the NFL, it’s a little bit of a different animal,” Greenway said. “You have to consider how good the talent level is and how easy it is to go from the pinnacle (2009 season) to being toward the basement now. We hope the ride back can be just as fast.”
Last year, Greenway led the Vikings in tackles for his third straight season. He had a career-best 144 tackles and finished with one sack. This season, he’s already posted 104 tackles, third best in the NFL. He also has one sack, but he said there’s always room for improvement.
“I haven’t played as well sometimes during some games as I would have liked,” Greenway said. “I probably haven’t made as many plays as I would have liked that were difference-makers. I have no interceptions and not having really any big game-changing plays is frustrating at a personal level. It makes you feel like you’re falling short.”
If Greenway didn’t sign his extension earlier this year, he could have tested the free-agent market at the end of the season and potentially signed with a winning team. But that’s not how the sixth-year pro sees it.
“I don’t have any regrets,” said Greenway, whose team hosts the Denver Broncos at noon Sunday. “One of my goals when going into the NFL was to be someone who’s loyal to the team that gave me the opportunity. The Vikings gave me the opportunity to come into their organization and their family and paid me handsomely for that. I wanted to show them that I was truly a Minnesota Viking through and through, not just here for the money or opportunity.
“In my mind, you can always come back and there’s always next year. We want to come back next season and hopefully we can get more of the pieces of the puzzle in place.”