Kevin Greene has chosen family over football.
Greene, the Green Bay Packers’ outside linebackers coach for the past five seasons, resigned on Friday, coach Mike McCarthy announced in a press release.
“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 the release. “I will miss coaching and will try to return after our kids move on to college if a team will have me.”
It was a mixed bag of results for Greene’s players. Other than four-time Pro Bowler Clay Matthews, his outside linebackers only rarely were anything more than sporadic difference-makers. Then again, the Packers handed him a mixed bag of talent. Other than Matthews and oft-injured Nick Perry — a pair of first-round picks — Greene had to coach up undrafted players such as Frank Zombo, Dezman Moses and Andy Mulumba or street free agent Erik Walden. To bookend his tenure, in 2009, one of his starters was converted defensive end Aaron Kampman. In 2013, he had to rely on converted defensive end Mike Neal.
“That’s the nature of my job is they give me guys to develop,” Greene said. “That’s the nature of all of our jobs: You get them in your hands, you teach them some things, you love them up and you let them go hunt. And I know that’s being simple but that’s what we do.”
Greene, a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the third time, collected 160 sacks from 1985 through 1999. That’s the third-most in NFL history and tops among linebackers. However, he relied on more than his playing background. Rather, it was about “passion” and “heart” and “love” — three words he used frequently when discussing his players. That’s because he played with “passion” and “heart” and “love” in rising from walk-on at Auburn to five-time Pro Bowler.
Greene was out of the game for a decade, beyond working five coaching internships. Greene took the full-time coaching plunge when Dom Capers — his defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and Carolina — was hired as coordinator by the Packers following the 2008 season. Greene reached out to Capers, thinking it was the “right opportunity,” Greene said at the time.
Initially, Greene coached like he played — a thousand miles an hour of yelling and celebrating, preaching and teaching. He gradually tempered back that style — relatively speaking.
“Kevin provided an incredible amount of energy, passion and knowledge each and every day he was with us,” McCarthy said in the release. “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.”
In 2009, the Packers finished second in the league in defense. In 2010, the Packers finished second in scoring defense and won the Super Bowl. The last three seasons weren’t nearly as successful, due in part to Perry’s struggles with injuries since being drafted in 2012.
Over the past five seasons, the Packers ranked fourth in the league with 204 sacks. With only Matthews as a consistent difference-maker, Greene’s outside linebackers contributed 91.5 sacks — 18.3 per season. In 2013, with Matthews missing five games with a twice-broken thumb and never being full strength after the initial break against Detroit in the fourth game of the season, his players contributed 17.5 sacks. That ranked 10th out of the 15 teams operating out of a 3-4 scheme.
In the release, Greene called his experience “nothing but positive” and said he as “eternally grateful” for the opportunity.
“Individually, I’m really happy with the young men they have given me over the last five years and the fine men they put in my room and given me an opportunity to put my hands on and to develop and work with,” Greene said after the playoff loss to San Francisco. “I’m really happy with them, getting on the field, having fun, playing the game, laying it on the line for their brothers, being productive and doing some really fine things for their brothers and this organization. So, I’m really happy with the young men they’ve given me. They’ve been really productive for the Packers.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.