Tennessee Titans & Shonn Greene: The Case For and Against


Celebrate or mourn? Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Titans have met almost universal approval from the fan base on their free agency moves so far. Active hardly describes it as they seem intent on turning over the entire roster that doesn’t concern their young core players. The one move that has met some resistance and been the most divisive is the signing of former NY Jets running back, Shonn Greene.

Some see this move as a good signing and a return to the “Smash and Dash” days of Titans football. Others see it as a waste of money for a mediocre back. The Editor of Titan Sized, Justin Stewart, will weigh in on the topic with me as we debate the pros and cons of the signing.

Here’s his stats over the past 4 years to get us started:



Shonn Greene’s signing has many layers to it the way I see it. Chris Johnson can be one of the most exciting and yet frustrating backs at the same time. Everyone is jumping through the ceiling when he breaks off an 80 yard TD run, only to have had your head hung in despair on every previous carry that went for little to no gain.

The Titans offense struggled mightily on getting into 3rd and short situations and need better first attempts with a young quarterback. Shonn Greene may not hit the home run, but he can grind out 3 yards on a first down run play and keep the playbook open. Way too many times last year, a negative yard or no gain run on first or second down left the offense predictable.

Shonn Greene may not have eye popping numbers, but he does have a 4.2 yard/carry average over his four years which is nothing to sneeze at.

Smash and Dash II:

Chris Johnson himself will tell you he’s only effective if he gets his attempts. He needs the 20-25 carries a game in order to break the big one that makes him the threat he is.   So how does giving a handful or even half the carries to another back allow CJ to do his thing?  By buttering up the defense.  Get the defense on their heels and then let CJ do his thing.

Not A Rookie:

Many will tell you this was a waste of money. Why pay this handsome of a salary when you can get a mid round rookie for next to nothing that can perform just as well? My answer is two-fold:

  1. Offensive scheme and Blitz Protection:  Remember LeGarrette Blount?  Of course you do.  Why did the Titans try and stash him, and subsequently he lose his starting spot for the Bucs?  Playbook and protection.  Blount knew how to run and that was it.  It’s not a given that a college back can come into the NFL and pick up on exotic blitz schemes in order to protect the QB.  Greene is a 4 year pro and very adept at blitz protection.  Something the Titans have to have with Jake Locker.
  2. I’ve been over this a million times, but just because teams HAVE gotten a mid round RB to become a starter, doesn’t mean it WILL happen.  The Titans in particular have shown a deficiency in the “drafting a RB” department over the years.  What makes everyone think that this is the year the Titans get a cheap mid round back to carry the load?  Odds are it would be just another wasted draft pick like so many before.

Giving Johnson Competition:

It’s been Johnson’s backfield for a few years now, and it’s been unquestioned. After getting his ginormous contract the other year, it’s been even more unquestioned. Bringing in Greene and talking about him taking a chunk of the carries should light a bit of a fire under Johnson’s butt. He’s a competitive guy and the fact that the Titans felt he needed someone like Greene to back him up should make him want to prove himself that much more on every carry. He has someone similar to Lendale White, where he looks to tear off something big so he can get back to the sideline, look at Greene and say “Top that.”

Short Yardage and the 4-Minute Offense

One of the best stats from Shonn Greene’s 2012 campaign was that he was 11-11 on 3rd and 3 yards or less for converting first downs.  Phenomenal!

The Titans are trying to move to a more ground based attack with a stouter line up front.  One of their biggest weaknesses last year was the inability to close out a game with then lead.  They completely lacked a four minute offense where they could just run the clock out.  If the other team knows they’re running, then it’s all over with.  Greene may not be elusive  but he rarely goes backwards.  Something this team could really use if they;re fortunate enough to be ahead late in the 4th.


Oct 21, 2012; Foxboro, MA, USA; New York Jets player Shonn Greene (23) fumbles a hand off against the New England Patriots and the ball went out of the back of the end zone for a safety at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Farrell/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Power Back Struggles to Break Tackles:

When someone calls a RB a power back, you envision a guy who can run people over and break tackles; someone like Adrian Peterson. Greene is not Peterson. In fact, when looking at elusiveness ratings (courtesy of PFF), Greene ranks second to last in the league.

Let’s repeat that. Greene ranks second to last in the league.

Greene forced only 16 missed tackles this past year and averaged a yards per carry after contact of 2.15, compared to Chris Johnson’s 29 missed tackles and 2.03 yards per carry after contact. Not much of a difference there.

Maybe Johnson should be used as the short yardage back in 2013.

 Never Been Special:

Man, does that feel mean to say, but it’s true. While Greene seemed to flourish in the playoffs during his first few seasons, he’s never been that rock a team needs during the other 16 weeks of the season. While he won’t be asked to be that rock for the Titans, why pay $10 million dollars for a an average back? Especially when they’re revamping the offensive line so much. There should be holes big enough for Albert Haynesworth to run through this year. Or at least the Titans hope so.

Free Agent For A Reason

If Shonn Greene was so special, why did the Jets let him go after his initial contract?  I know that’s a cliche argument, but this time it seems to hold a little water.  The Jets actually have a decent offensive line and like to play hard nosed defense with a power run game.  That’s exactly what the Titans want to get back to as well.  So why would Greene work for the Titans and not the Jets?

Not to mention that combining Greene’s and CJ’s contracts, the Titans now have close to a trillion dollars in the RB position.  They had better be able to run the ball next year!

So which side of the argument do you fall on?

We can argue on Twitter  @gunnelsj or below in the comments!