Greene resigns from Packers staff

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Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, January 18, 2014

GREEN BAY—Over the past five seasons, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson continually delivered undersized college defensive linemen to assistant coach Kevin Greene and told him to turn them into outside linebackers.

The bar was set high when in his first season Greene helped first-round pick Clay Matthews become an instant star and eventual four-time Pro Bowl selection. Matthews played with the same ferocity and open-throttle approach his Hall of Fame-finalist coach did, and Greene simply had to sharpen the edges of his pupil’s game.

But that was the last blue-chipper Greene would get for awhile, and in the years to follow, all he got were rookie free agent and veteran castoff defensive linemen candidates. No one ever emerged as an every-down complement to Matthews at that critical position. And heading into next season, it is still a position of uncertainty.

However the Packers address it, it will not be Greene’s concern anymore.

After giving coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers five years, Greene decided to step down so he could focus on other pursuits, mostly the raising of his two children.

“I am stepping away from the NFL at this time in order to spend more time with my wife, Tara, and our children, Gavin and Gabrielle,” Greene said in a Packers release. “I will miss coaching and will try to return after our kids move on to college if a team will have me.

“My experience here with the Green Bay Packers has been nothing but positive. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity that Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson have blessed me with. I have a peace about the productivity that I helped bring forward in all of the fine young men that have been entrusted to me these past five years. I am most proud of all their accomplishments and the fine young men they’ve become in this league.”

Greene had not said anything publicly during the season that would lead anyone to believe he would be leaving, so the announcement came as a surprise to many. Earlier this week, quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo left McCarthy’s staff to become offensive coordinator of the New York Giants.

With a son in high school and a daughter a few years younger than him, Greene apparently felt he didn’t want to miss out on their teenage years. It is a common tug-of-war NFL assistant coaches go through because of the incredible number of hours they are away from home, especially those who had long playing careers.

After serving six coaching internships but never feeling he was ready to devote all of his energy to a full-time job, Greene called Capers, his former head coach in Carolina, and asked for a job. Capers had understood that Green was not fully committed to the hours it would take to be an assistant coach and had been simply dipping his toe into the waters.

“We had talked over the years, and I never thought it was the right time,” Greene said in an interview shortly after his hiring. “I told him when I called him this was the right time. I wanted to get into it.”

Perhaps the amount of time away from his family proved to be more than he was willing to offer. He gave Capers a full five years, won a Super Bowl ring and at age 51 could conceivably resume his coaching career later.

There doesn’t appear to be any indication that McCarthy or Capers forced Greene out. McCarthy said directly in a statement included in the Greene announcement that it was Greene who initiated the discussion of his exit.

“Kevin approached me recently to express his desire to step away from coaching so that he could spend more time with his family,” McCarthy said. “Kevin provided an incredible amount of energy, passion and knowledge each and every day he was with us.

“The dedication he showed to maximizing the potential of his players was clearly evident to anyone that worked with him, and he will be missed.”

Greene, a finalist this year for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was a dominant pass rusher during his 15 years in the NFL and tried to pass along as much of his knowledge to Matthews and the others. The Pittsburgh-style 3-4 defense has a long history of developing great outside linebackers from Greene to Greg Lloyd to Chad Brown to Jason Gildon to Joey Porter to James Harrison.

The Packers have not been able to replicate that success.

After one year trying to convert end Aaron Kampman and several more working with free agents and low-round picks like Erik Walden, Frank Zombo, Brad Jones, Diyral Briggs, Brady Poppinga, Cyril Obiozor, Jeremy Thompson, Dezman Moses and Vic So’oto, none proved to be the answer,

Greene was given another first-round pick in 2012 in USC’s Nick Perry, but Perry has been injury prone. And last off-season, Greene was given the job of overseeing Mike Neal’s transition from defensive lineman to outside linebacker. It was one of his better coaching jobs because Neal developed quickly and had far more success there than he did in previous years on the line, finishing with 47 tackles and five sacks.

Greene brought an incredible amount of energy to the job. Anyone who ever attended a training camp practice would undoubtedly have heard him loudly encouraging his players, especially during padded contact drills such as one-on-one pass rush and the run-oriented “combo” drill.

He often referred to his players as “his kids”, and one of his most famous moments as a coach was when he was caught on camera telling Matthews, “It is time,” during a break in Super Bowl XLV. Matthews then went out and caused a fumble that played a huge role in the Packers’ victory.

Greene’s 160 sacks were the most by a linebacker in NFL history and third among all players behind Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198).

As one of 15 finalists for the Hall of Fame, Greene’s fate will be in the hands of the Hall of Fame committee on Feb. 1 when the 2014 class is decided.

There aren’t a lot of obvious choices to replace Greene. There has been a lot of changeover in the NFL coaching ranks, but recently hired head coaches have snatched up most of the best assistants. An in-house candidate could be defensive quality control assistant Scott McCurley.

It is a critical position on Capers’ staff and won’t be taken lightly.

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