The San Francisco 49ers saw nine players make the Pro Bowl, but there were two glaring omissions on both sides of the ball. Knowing how Pro Bowl voting works, the casual fan isn’t running to click on Dre Greenlaw’s ballot. He plays the type of position that won’t be glorified or stuff the stat sheet.
The 49ers defense asks Greenlaw to do a lot of the dirty work, from taking on lead blockers to being isolated in coverage. This stat may surprise some, but Dre has been the most targeted linebacker in the NFL this season. Yet, Greenlaw is still in the top half of the NFL for linebackers in tackles for loss and passes defended.
If you were watching the Niners defense for the first time, No. 57 would jump off the screen as the tone-setter. The bully. The energizer bunny. He leads the league in business decisions made against.
Unfortunately, Greenlaw’s value isn’t captured on a stat sheet. Two of his biggest fans, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and running mate Fred Warner, voiced their displeasure about Greenlaw’s snub to the media this week.
Here’s Warner on Greenlaw:
“It hurts my heart for him. I know that’s something he fully deserves. The level he’s played at for as many years now as he has. I mean, I guess it’s only a matter of time before people figure it out.
I know the kind of guy that Dre is. He doesn’t really care about those sort of things. He’s all about just playing ball. But at the same time, I want that for him, and I know the whole team wants that for him. Players, coaches, everybody.”
Greenlaw would’ve had to beat out Warner or Bobby Wagner to make the NFC Pro Bowl roster. Wagner getting the nod highlights how much of a popularity contest the game is at this point.
Steve Wilks used a word I did from above and also spoke about how disappointing it was that Greenlaw isn’t in the Pro Bowl:
“It’s definitely disappointing. He hasn’t mentioned anything. I’m just saying it’s disappointing in regard to myself because I think he’s still one of the elite linebackers in this league. The way he plays, he’s a tone setter for us, him and Fred both out there. He missed a few games. Once again that happens a little bit from a standpoint of the voting. But if you know football, he’s one of the best in the league.”
Greenlaw has developed somewhat of a reputation for the penalties he’s drawn this year. Being in the middle of a fiasco involving the Eagles security chief didn’t help. That may be what fans first thought of instead of the play on the field.
While it may not seem like a big deal from the outside in, it’s evident that the 49ers coaches and players wanted to see Greenlaw in the Pro Bowl. For some players, they earn an extra incentive for making the game. Bragging rights, recognition, and going with your teammates are enough for others.
Greenlaw lost money by not making the Pro Bowl, as he has a $500,000 base salary escalator for the Pro Bowl.
As Warner said, hopefully, the masses will appreciate Greenlaw for what he’s meant to this defense sooner rather than later.