The Pittsburgh Steelers could use change, and former player Kevin Greene may have what this team needs moving forward.
Not all good players evolve into great coaches. There are many other factors that go into coaching other than understanding the nuances of the game. Luckily for former Pittsburgh Steelers OLB Kevin Greene, he has that box checked.
A coach known for his outlandish attitude, Greene is known to bring a certain “swagger” to the team he coaches. A Hall of Fame player with an abundance of knowledge from a pass-rushing perspective, Greene is one of the best when it comes to teaching the art of fundamentals. Who better to learn the pass-rush than the NFL’s third all-time sacks leader, right? But as I stated earlier, not all great players translate to great coaches.
The Steelers had former player Joey Porter coaching the outside linebackers before relieving him of his duties earlier this year. That leaves the door open for Greene to possibly be the team’s next outside linebackers coach.
It took Greene, six coaching internships before landing a full-time gig with the Green Bay Packers, thanks to former Steelers Dom Capers. A position Greene would hold from 2009-2013, before taking a three year break to spend more time with his family.
But why hire Greene? What makes Greene so special?
It’s his simplistic approach to the game, allowing his players to get after it, rather than read-and-react, which in turn, gets the most out of his players. Simply put, establishing the violent, physical, nature of the game.
Those are the words I often heard him preaching to his players during pre-game warmups while covering the San Francisco 49ers 2012 Divisional playoff game. I briefly spoke with Greene before the game, and you could just sense the high-energy, passion, and fire he brought to the organization, as former Niners GM Trent Baalke looked on.
While in Green Bay, Greene had the luxury of coaching up OLB Clay Matthews, who in just two year’s time would be named the 2010 PFWA Defensive Player of the Year. In those two seasons, Matthews racked up 111 tackles, 23.5 sacks, 11 pass breakups, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and one 62-yard pick six. Talk about production at the highest level.
But while Matthews garnered all the hype, it was the development of Aaron Kampman who caught my eye.
Kampman, who was making the switch from a 4-3 defensive end to a standing two-point stance 3-4 outside linebacker, understood the job was a total 180, and sought out Coach Greene for guidance.
“This was the [3-4] job description. You have to cover like a big, strong safety, you have to rush like a big, strong, defensive end, and you have to play the run like a big, strong, inside linebacker,” Kampman said.
In Kampman’s lone season under Greene’s tutelage, he would record 42 tackles and 3.5 sacks in just nine games.
Aside from Greene’s simplistic approach to the game, what exactly makes him a true player’s coach? After all, a coach needs to be relatable to his players, for them to buy into their system.
It’s his charismatic approach in adapting to player’s needs. His innate ability to motivate players is a thing of beauty. His coaching style varies from player to player using either positive reinforcement or an old-fashioned scolding, often referring to them as “his kids” because he cares about them and their well-being, aside from the x’s and o’s. Aside from being the ultimate teacher of the game, Greene also relates to the players by advising what he would do, if he was on the field.
However, it’s his passion for the game that makes him the ultimate player’s coach. As a player you can’t coach heart, and as a coach you can’t fake passion. Greene is often seen on the sidelines working the officials and debating calls. He will use any type of body language necessary to get the officials attention. Whether it’s jumping violently up and down or screaming at the top of his lungs, Greene will do whatever it takes to ensure his kids are getting fair treatment. How many assistant coaches do you see in the NFL taking this extra step? Not very many. And although some coaching styles vary from team to team, like the great Bill Belichick, Greene’s passion is unquestioned, as he just wants his kids to “have fun.” A characteristic in which players can feed off of, is what makes Greene the ultimate competitor and leader, both on and off the football field.
In an era where the NFL coaching job description entails a game of musical chairs, the Steelers may have found their blessing in disguise. A Hall of fame player who has a reputable track record of developing young talent, Greene fits the team’s cultural identity to a tee, as his combination of passion, competitiveness, and heart is unrivaled, making him the perfect fit.