Kevin Greene, NFL's Great Sacker and Influential Assistant Coach, Dies at 58

Pro Football Hall of Famer with 160 Career Sacks Was HC Todd Bowles' OLBs Coach with 2017-18 Jets


Kevin Greene, the great pass rusher and Pro Football Hall of Famer who served for two years as Jets head coach Todd Bowles' outside linebackers coach, has died. He was 58 years old. No cause of death has been announced.

"It is extremely sad to hear about the untimely death of Kevin Greene," Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson said. "Many people are aware of the Hall of Fame Linebacker, but having worked with him for two years, I know another side of him. He was funny, caring, and a great teacher who loved the game and all of his players, who he often referred to as his children. He loved the lessons the game taught you about yourself and life. I speak for the entire organization when I say he was a good man who will be missed."

"Kevin was a great coach and an even greater person," Bowles said from Tampa, where he is now serving as the Buccaneers' defensive coordinator. "My heart goes out to the family. He's touched many people and he will truly be missed."

The goateed, always smiling Greene was one of the NFL's great sackers of quarterbacks. Whether he wore his blond hair short and stylishly uncombed or long and flowing with the suggestion of his pro wrestling persona to come, he was never far away from launching himself off blocks and around edges to lay the powerslam on the man in the pocket.

He played 15 years with four teams and racked up 160 regular-season sacks, third-most in NFL history behind only Bruce Smith's 200 sacks and Reggie White's 198. He's the only player in league history with double-digit sack seasons for four teams. He picked up another 8.5 sacks in nine postseason appearances totaling 17 games.

Greene was perhaps most remembered as a Pro Bowler and All-Pro for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1993-95, including their Super Bowl XXX team. He also made the Pro Bowl with the 1989 Rams and the '96 and '98 Panthers. He also played the 1997 season with San Francisco in between his two stints in Carolina.

Greene was asked what it took to play outside linebacker at the sport's highest level.

"You can't be soft, play the run hard at the point of attack You have to be a mean, physical dude. So we have to be able to stop the run and control blocks.

"Two, you have to be able to cover like a big strong safety. And then we have to rush the passer like a big defensive end.

"That's a very difficult job description and you have to be able to do all three of those phases equally at a high level. You just can't do one of them good and suck at the other two. It doesn't work that way. So in my humble opinion, it's the most difficult position on defense, period, bar none."

For his on-field exploits, Greene received a number of off-field accolades. At the top of the list, he was also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016. He also was named to the Hall's All-1990s Team and was a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2002.

After his retirement as a player following the 1999 season, Greene turned to his third career as an NFL assistant coach (after dabbling in his second career in World Championship Wrestling late in his playing career). He didn't win a Super Bowl ring as a player but he did earn the jewelry and the title that goes with it as a linebackers coach with Green Bay's XLV championship team. He also coached with the Panthers and, after a short hiatus from coaching, he joined Bowles' third and fourth staffs with the Jets in 2017 and '18.

"He loves the game," Bowles said at the time. "He coaches like he plays. He was an intense player, he's an intense coach. ... Kevin is like Hulk Hogan and Randy 'Macho Man' Savage."

"I enjoy being around football," Greene said after being hired. "It's good to be back on the field. I'm addicted, I'm an adrenaline junkie. I missed that energy, so it's good to be back."

One of the members of the current Jets who was affected by Greene's coaching was LB Frankie Luvu, who came to the Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Washington State in 2018.

"Coach Greene called me and the first thing he said was to trust the technique and fundamentals and 'I'm going to teach you, kid. You're going to see the field,' " Luvu said. "The first day I came to work, I put my head down and stayed humble."

Luvu has turned that advice and his technique and fundamentals into a now three-year career as a Green & White contributor on defense and special teams.

Greene's memory will live on, even as his loss will fill with sorrow his immediate family as well as his extended family that includes Luvu and all the young players that he referred to as "my kids," for whom he's "doing everything I can as a coach to lift them up so they can be the best freaking players that they want to be."

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