Greene at Packers preseason training in August 2011
|Position:||Linebacker, Defensive End|
|Born:||July 31, 1962|
New York, New York
|Height:||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight:||247 lb (112 kg)|
|High school:||Granite City (IL) South|
|NFL Draft:||1985 / Round: 5 / Pick: 113|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Kevin Darwin Greene (born July 31, 1962) is a former American football linebacker and defensive end who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 15 years. Greene retired after the 1999 NFL season and ranks third amongst all-time sack leaders, leading the NFL twice in that category. He was a three-time All-Pro, was voted to the National Football League 1990s All-Decade Team, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
Greene was a two-year starter and honorable mention All-conference selection as a senior at Granite City South High (Illinois). He also played basketball and was a high jumper for the track team. He is in the Granite City Sports Hall of Fame in Granite City, Illinois.
Greene played college football as a walk-on at Auburn University, and in 1984 won the Zeke Smith Award as Defensive Player of the Year. He had 69 career tackles as an outside linebacker and 11 sacks his senior year where he led the Southeastern Conference and won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1984.
He was selected by the Birmingham Stallions in the 1985 United States Football League Territorial Draft and later selected by the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League in the fifth round (113th overall) of the NFL Draft the same year. He earned a degree in Criminal Justice at Auburn. He completed ROTC while at Auburn and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Alabama Army National Guard. After playing his first year in the NFL, during the off season, he graduated from the RC-1-86 Armor Officer Basic Course, Fort Knox, Kentucky. During his military career, he earned the rank of Captain and completed airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia to become a paratrooper.
He played for the Rams from 1985 through 1992. From 1985 through 1987 Greene played on left defensive end in the Rams nickel defense and was second on the team in sacks in both 1986 and 1987. His first sack came in 1985, in a playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys and it was in the defensive end role that the sack came. In 1988 Greene became the starting left outside linebacker in the Rams base defense that was enhanced by defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur's Eagle 5-Linebacker defense which he used extensively from 1988 to 1990.
In 1988, Greene led the Rams with 16 sacks which was 2nd overall in the NFL behind Reggie White. That total included 4 sacks against the San Francisco 49ers' Joe Montana in a key late-season game that the Rams had to win order to make the playoffs which they did.
The following year, Greene made All-Pro in 1989 and was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time with his second consecutive season of 16 sacks (4th in the NFL). In 1988 and 1989 Greene earned $225,000 each season and in 1990 wanted a multi-year contract worth $1 million per season. After a 39-day holdout, Greene signed a 3-year $2.5 million contract with the Rams His 13 sacks (tied for 6th in the NFL) in 1990 gave him 46 sacks for that three-year period, the most of any player on the NFL for that span. Also from 1988 to 1990, Greene's first three as a starter, the Rams allowed an average of only 101.6 yards and 3.9 yards per rush against them while compiling 128 sacks.
In 1991 the Rams changed defenses and defensive coordinators. Jeff Fisher became the new defensive coordinator and switched the Rams to a 4-3 defense, a system he was familiar with, after being a 3-4 team since 1983. Although Greene had compiled 46 sacks during the previous 3 seasons, Greene was moved from left outside linebacker in a 3-4 to right defensive end in a 4-3. Although he was a pure outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, he attempted the transition. After five games Greene was moved to left linebacker for a month and a half and then due to injuries he was moved to left defensive end for the remainder of the seasons. In all, he started five games at right defensive end, five games at left linebacker and six games at left defensive end and even though he had a career-high in tackles for loss (8) he ended the year with only 3 sacks. His lowest total, by far, since his rookie season. The entire Rams coaching staff was released after the 1991 season.
In 1992 the Rams hired Chuck Knox as head coach. The Rams remained a 4-3 defensive team under defensive coordinator George Dyer and Greene continued to play left outside linebacker. His production returned as he led his team in both tackles and sacks. Greene accepted his new role saying, "On third downs I am still rushing the passer, but I would like to rush the passer more often, from more downs and distances, but I can't because of the role I am now asked to play". He finished the 1992 season with 10 sacks and Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman picked Greene for his annual All-Pro team, citing Greene's coverage ability, "The OLB spot opposite Cox came down to the Eagles' Seth Joyner, my Player of the Year in last year, versus the Rams' Kevin Greene. I picked Greene. He had more coverage responsibility than ever before, and he did just fine. He was a consistent pass rusher. Dick Selcer, his linebacker coach added, "Kevin's a more complete player than he is given credit for, people only seem to notice the home run, but not seem to see the singles.
In 1993, the first year of free agency, Greene sought out teams that employed a 3-4 system. He visited the Green Bay Packers where his former defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur was employed as the defensive coordinator but they were a 4-3 team. He then visited the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 3-4 team. Dom Capers was the defensive coordinator. He signed a 3-year $5.35 million free-agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Returning to his left outside linebacker position, he had a solid season with 12 sacks which tied him for 7th in the league. The following season, Greene was a consensus All-Pro choice in 1994 as he led the NFL in sacks (14) and made another appearance in the Pro Bowl. Additionally, Greene was voted the NFLPA AFC Linebacker of the Year (tied with Junior Seau) for the first time in his career. In 1995, he went to his third Pro Bowl, where he finished with 9 sacks and also played in Super Bowl XXX, a loss to the Dallas Cowboys. During Greene's three years with the Steelers, the defense allowed only 3.48 yards per rush, best in the NFL. As part of that defense, which also led the NFL in sacks with 139 over the same three-year period, Dick LeBeau said, "Kevin Greene is a great player against the run and of the best pass rushers in NFL history. He is almost unblockable."
Greene has since stated that he had the "time of his life" playing for the Steelers and decided to receive his Hall of Fame ring from the team despite only playing three of his 15 years in Pittsburgh. His departure from Pittsburgh was due to the salary cap and the Steelers wanting to focus on younger players; Greene, though understanding of the business decision, felt hurt from the organization but continues to hold them in high regard.
On May 21, 1996, Greene signed with the Carolina Panthers (a two-year $2 million deal)  following their 1995 inaugural season and helped them reach the NFC Championship Game where the team lost to the eventual Super Bowl XXXI champion Green Bay Packers. In 1996, he was named the NFC Linebacker of the Year and received the NEA Defensive Player of the Year Award. In addition the NFL Alumni voted Greene the NFL Linebacker of the Year Award. He was also voted the NFC Player of the Year by the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club. Additionally, he set an NFL record with five consecutive multi-sack games and finished leading the NFL in sacks for the second time in three years with 14. Along the way he was a consensus All-Pro in 1996 for the second time in three years. He was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl. Said by Panther teammate Dwight Stone to be, along with Sam Mills, the most "professional guy" on the 1996 Panther team. In 1996 the Panthers defense allowed only 96 yards rushing a game and 6 rushing touchdowns against them while sacking opposing quarterbacks 60 times, which led the NFL. The Panthers advanced to the NFC Championship game, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers.
After one season with the Panthers and a dispute with the organization, he played one season for the San Francisco 49ers. Greene signed what the 49ers called a six-year, $13 million contract, that included a $750,000 signing bonus on September 25, 1997. Greene had been released by the Panthers on August 25, 1997. With the 49ers, Greene had 10.5 sacks. Greene was called on to play the famed "Elephant" role with the 49ers, the player to rush the passer and come in the games on likely passing downs. While doing so, he chipped in the run game as the 49ers allowed 3.5 yards a rush and Greene had 10.5 of the 49ers 54 sacks. Once again in back-to-back years his season would end in an NFC Championship Game loss to the Packers.
After the 1997 holdout and a year with the 49ers Greene re-signed with the Panthers on February 28, 1998. In 1998, he repeated his honor of being named NFC Linebacker of the year by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). Greene was also named to the Pro Bowl after the 1998 season bringing his Pro Bowl total to five. Greene was tied for third in the NFL for sacks, after Michael Sinclair (16 sacks), Reggie White (16 sacks), and tied with Michael Strahan who also totaled 15 sacks. As of 2017 , Greene's 15.0 sacks in 1998 remains tied with Greg Hardy's 2013 season for the Panthers' franchise record.
Greene retired after registering 12 sacks (good for 7th in the NFL) playing as a 4-3 outside linebacker in 1999; he finished his career as a five-time Pro Bowler and the NFL's third all-time sack leader with 160, behind only Bruce Smith and Reggie White. He also finished as the NFL's all-time leader in sacks by a linebacker, ahead of players like Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas, Rickey Jackson, and Andre Tippett; Greene is also one of only four players to lead the NFL in sacks in multiple seasons ('94 with the Steelers and '96 with the Panthers). He is also tied for second in career safeties with three and third all-time in fumble recoveries with 26 (which he returned for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns); he described his aggressive style of going after fumbles as "a hog going after a sweet tater in the mud". During his career, Greene recorded five interceptions, returning them for 53 yards and a touchdown, and he is one of three players to record 10 or more sacks in at least 10 different seasons; he averaged over 10 sacks a year for 15 seasons. Greene ended his career with 160 sacks, 62.5 tackles of running backs behind the line of scrimmage, 23 forced fumbles, 26 recovered fumbles, and 3 defensive touchdowns and 3 safeties. Greene opted for retirement while still playing at a high level than becoming a "designated pass rusher".
Greene played in 228 games in his 15-year career; in the modern era (since 1970), only four other linebackers (Clay Matthews Jr., Bill Romanowski, Ray Lewis, & James Harrison) had longer careers. Eight times he was among the NFL's Top 10 sackers, leading the NFL twice. Eleven times in his 15 years he led his club in sacks. Played in six conference championships in his 15 seasons. He is considered to be one of the greatest pass rushers of all-time."I was an outside linebacker in a 3-4, so I actually had coverage responsibilities. So my rush was more limited. But, still, I think my numbers match up pretty good, even with those that rushed the passer every passing down."
Greene had a couple of short stints in World Championship Wrestling. He debuted in WCW as a tag team partner for fellow NFL alum Steve McMichael, but McMichael turned on him in favor of joining the Four Horsemen. Greene disappeared from WCW for several months before returning to get revenge on McMichael in a singles match, where he defeated McMichael when the latter's ally Jeff Jarrett accidentally nailed McMichael with a briefcase.
He then made a final return in mid-1998, teaming with former football player Bill Goldberg against the nWo Black and White. Greene left wrestling when NFL teams began requiring a "no wrestling" clause in his contract.
During the 2008 season Greene, along with former Steeler Jason Gildon, served an internship for the Pittsburgh Steelers as an assistant linebackers coach during training camp. On January 26, 2009, Greene was hired as an Outside Linebackers Coach for the Green Bay Packers by Dom Capers. The Packers were transitioning into a 3-4 base defense from their traditional 4-3 base. Greene played for Capers for two years as a Steeler, and then followed Capers to Carolina when Capers was named first head coach of the Panthers. On February 6, 2011, the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, the first time Greene had ever been part of an NFL championship team. On January 17, 2014, it was announced that he would be stepping away from coaching "in order to spend more time with (his) wife, Tara, and (his) children, Gavin and Gabrielle". He hopes to return to coaching after his children are in college.
In January 2017, the New York Jets hired Greene as their outside linebackers coach. Greene replaced Mark Collins, who was one of five assistants not brought back by head coach Todd Bowles for the 2017 season.
This section contains a list of miscellaneous information. (July 2020)