Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac was asked this week if linebacker Chad Greenway has had a good season.
"That," said Pagac, "is something we will make the evaluation on after the season."
At this point, it's purely wishful thinking on Pagac's part to refer to the Vikings beyond Sunday afternoon as "we." He's expected to be let go after a season that began poorly for him and got worse.
It was a season that began with the Vikings becoming the first team in NFL history to open a year by blowing three consecutive double-digit halftime leads. Injuries mounted, the coaching came up empty, and the same tired schemes produced the 31st-ranked scoring defense and a whopping nine-game stretch without an interception. The stretch was capped when Drew Brees became the first player in NFL history to complete 80 percent of his passes while throwing for 400 yards and five touchdowns.
Pagac's departure isn't the only rumor swirling around a defense that has collapsed. Another one suggests the Vikings will move away from their vanilla 4-3, Tampa 2 scheme for the first time since 2005. Coach Leslie Frazier still expresses his belief in the system but is open to making changes in the offseason.
A switch to the increasingly popular 3-4 defense isn't necessarily the answer. It has its considerable merits, including the ability to disguise and surprise, but the timing doesn't feel right, considering the Vikings' best player, right defensive end Jared Allen, wants absolutely no part of it and wouldn't fit in it.
A switch to the 3-4 most likely would have to include trading Allen. And while he's the player with the most trade value on the team, unloading him would add another hole on a team that has more of them than a teenager's pair of brand new jeans.
Whatever the Vikings tweak, fix, repair or overhaul on defense, they need to put their best players in better situations to succeed. In other words, don't make outside linebacker Greenway your franchise player, pay him $41 million over five years and then waste him in a scheme that is often doomed before the ball is even snapped.
Greenway is third in the NFL in tackles with 144 and will lead the Vikings for a fourth consecutive season, a feat topped only by Scott Studwell's six-year streak from 1980 to 1985. But Greenway isn't a playmaker. Not in this scheme.
"I think Chad is playing solid," Pagac said. "He would obviously tell you if you asked him that he would like to make more splash plays."
Many of Greenway's tackles are made at least a little too far downfield. But a lot of times, that's because he's playing zone schemes that ask him and middle linebacker E.J. Henderson to cover more ground than is realistically possible.
The Saints game was a classic example. There were times when Greenway had running back Darren Sproles and receiver Marques Colston running routes into his zone at the same time. That's the quickest running back in the league and the Saints' top wide receiver flooding a zone and looking for a pass from the league's most accurate passer.
Ain't. Gonna. Work.
Leading the league in tackles generally gets overlooked because it usually means your team stinks. This year's top four tacklers come from teams that are 5-10, 4-11, 3-12 and 2-13.
"But it does mean you're active, running around, trying to get in as many plays as you can," said Greenway, who has one takeaway and one sack. "Obviously, I'd like more splash plays."
Yeah, Greenway probably could have done more splashing within the scheme. But he also needs to be put in a more splash-friendly role that measures up to a 28-year-old guy getting $20 million guaranteed.
That's something the Vikings really need to evaluate after the season. With or without Pagac.