Joe Greene (American football): Wikis

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Joe Greene
Position(s)
Defensive Tackle
Jersey #(s)
75 (72 early 1969)
Born September 24, 1946 (1946-09-24) (age 63)
Temple, Texas
Career information
Year(s) 19691981
NFL Draft 1969 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4
College North Texas State
Professional teams
Career stats
Sacks 78.5
Games 181
Interceptions 1
Stats at NFL.com
Career highlights and awards

Charles Edward Greene, known as “Mean Joe” Greene, (born September 24, 1946) is a former all-pro American football defensive tackle who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL. Throughout the early 1970s he was the most dominant defensive player in the National Football League.[1] He is considered by many to be the greatest defensive lineman ever and was the cornerstone of the legendary “Steel Curtain” defense.[1] He is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a four-time Super Bowl champion.

Contents

College career

Before his NFL career, "Mean Joe" Greene had an outstanding college football career at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) (1966-68), leading the team to a 23-5-1 record during his three seasons. In his 29 games at defensive tackle, North Texas State held the opposition to 2,507 yards gained on 1,276 rushes, a per carry average of less than two yards per attempt. His collegiate coach, Rod Rust, said of the 1968 consensus All-America, "There are two factors behind Joe's success. First, he has the ability to make the big defensive play and turn the tempo of a game around. Second, he has the speed to be an excellent pursuit player." A pro scout said, "He's tough and mean and comes to hit people. He has good killer instincts. He's mobile and hostile."[2]

He got his nickname when the Pittsburgh fan base, mistakenly assumed the North Texas team nickname "Mean Green" was Joe Greene's nickname; however, the wife of Coach Rust wanted to give a nickname to the team's outstanding defense. Since green is the school's main color, she gave the defense the name "Mean Green".

In 1984, he was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2006, Greene was voted to the East-West Shrine Game Hall of Fame [3].

Pro football career

In 1969, he was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the fourth pick of the NFL draft and spent his entire career with them until his retirement in 1981. When Greene was drafted, a newspaper headline asked, Who's Joe Greene? The question was quickly answered as Greene became so good that teams double-teamed, and even triple-teamed, him throughout his entire career.

After he was drafted Greene quickly established himself as a dominant defensive player. He was strong, quick and intense. He was the NFL's rookie of the year in 1969, even though he played on a Steelers team that went 1-13 in Chuck Noll's first year as its head coach. The Steelers quickly improved over the next few seasons. Greene later admitted that he was upset with being drafted by the Steelers due to their long history of losing. He often showed his displeasure on the field, including an incident during a game with the Chicago Bears in which he spat in the face of Dick Butkus and challenged Butkus, long considered the NFL's meanest player, to a fight. Butkus declined, and though he said he walked away because he was more concerned with his team winning than fighting Greene, many Steeler historians point to the incident as a key moment in the Steelers' transformation from perennial losers to one of the league's elite.

In his early years with the Steelers, Greene was at times uncontrollable and often let his temper get the best of him. At one time during a 1975 game against the rival Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in which the Steelers won 42-6, Greene repeatedly kicked Browns lineman Bob McKay in the groin while McKay was lying on the ground.[4] Another incident had Greene snap the ball away from the center while the opposing team was lining up for a play. He had no tolerance for losing, and the team veterans quickly took notice. His intense desire to win rallied the veterans around him, and with great drafts as well as superb coaching the Steelers franchise soon began to undergo a dramatic makeover. Joe Greene was credited as the cornerstone of the great Steelers dynasty and the most important player in team history.

Greene was the leader and the anchor of the Steel Curtain defense that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s[citation needed]. He was twice recognized as the NFL defensive player of the year in 1972 and 1974. He, along with other members of the Steelers' front four (L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White and Ernie Holmes) even appeared on the cover of Time magazine. In Super Bowl IX, Greene became the first player ever to record an interception, a forced fumble, and fumble recovery in a single Super Bowl. He went to the Pro Bowl 10 times during his career.

Greene is also well-known for the "stunt 4-3" defense in which he would line up at an angle, between the center and guard, and would explode into the line taking up 2-3 blockers. He started doing this sometime in the 1974 season, and while it cut down on the number of sacks he racked up it freed up his other defensive teammates like middle linebacker Jack Lambert to make tackles with ease[citation needed].

After leading the Steelers to another Super Bowl win after the 1975 season over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X, Greene missed the first several games of the 1976 season with a back injury. The Steelers started off the season 1-4 and looked like they would not make the playoffs. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw also got injured and was replaced by rookie Mike Kruczek. The season looked lost. But Greene and the Steelers defense carried the Steelers to nine straight wins and the playoffs. In what was probably the greatest NFL defense in the modern era[citation needed], the 1976 Steelers held opponents to an average of less than 10 points per game (138 points over 14 games). During their nine-game winning streak, the Steelers defense recorded five shutouts, another modern record, and gave up a total of just 28 points (roughly 3 points per game). The defense allowed only two touchdowns over nine games.

Ten of the eleven starters on that 1976 Steelers team were players who made the Pro Bowl at least once in their career (eight starters made the Pro Bowl after the 1976 season). Middle linebacker Jack Lambert had, along with Greene, become the emotional leader of the defense and over the next several years became the dominant player at his position while Greene continued to perform at an all-pro level, becoming a 5-time All-Pro (1972-74, 77, 79) and in 1969 receiving the first of his 10 Pro Bowl invitations. He retired after the 1981 season after 13 years in the league.

His spot on the team was technically not replaced: the Steelers switched to a 3-4 defensive alignment for the 1982 season, which has only one nose tackle as opposed to two defensive tackles, giving the extra spot to a second middle linebacker. The team has used the 3-4 alignment since Greene's retirement.

His end stats were 181 games, 78.5 sacks (unofficially, as sacks were not an official statistic until 1982) and 16 fumble recoveries.

Retirement

After retiring from the NFL, Greene spent one year (1982) as a color analyst for CBS' NFL coverage before becoming an assistant coach under Steelers' head coach Chuck Noll in 1987. He spent the next 16 years as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, and Arizona Cardinals. In 2004, he retired from coaching and was named the special assistant for player personnel for the Steelers. In this position he earned his 5th Super Bowl ring after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, and a sixth from Super Bowl XLIII. Greene is one of four people outside the Rooney family to have Super Bowl rings from the first six championship teams.[5]

It was Greene, in fact, who coined the phrase "One for the Thumb in '81" after the Steelers won Super Bowl XIV[citation needed]. After the Steelers missed the playoffs in 1980, the saying was shortened to "One for the Thumb" and became the unofficial rally cry for the Steelers' search for the elusive fifth Vince Lombardi Trophy until the team finally won it in 2005.

Although the Steelers do not officially retire jersey numbers, Greene's number 75 has not been issued since his retirement and is understood to be "unofficially retired". Greene also briefly wore number 72 during his rookie season before switching to his more familiar 75 midseason.[6]

Greene now resides in Flower Mound, Texas.

Film and Television

Greene made a number of television and film appearances:

  • The Black Six (1974) as Kevin Washington
  • Horror High (1974) as the coach's buddy, a policeman
  • Lady Cocoa (1975)
  • Fighting Back: The Story of Rocky Bleier (1980TV) as a Steeler player
  • Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) as himself
  • ...All the Marbles (1981) as himself
  • The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid (1981TV) as himself
  • SCTV in the episode "Battle of the PBS Stars" as himself
  • Family Guy episode "Road To Germany" as himself

Greene has also appeared in commercials, the most famous of which first aired on 1 September 1979 in which a child (Tommy Okon) gives him a Coke, prompting "Mean" Joe to smile and give the kid his team jersey. The commercial was listed as one of the top ten commercials of all time by TV Guide magazine. The advert was also shown in many other countries (including the UK) even where Greene wasn't well known.

Greene later recalled that in filming the commercial, it took several takes to get his final line in the commercial right ("Hey, kid. Catch!") "It's very hard to gulp down an entire bottle of Coca-Cola, and then speak clearly. The first three takes we did, when I finished the bottle, I looked at the kid and said, 'Hey, kid...Urrrp!' It wasn't intentional. I just couldn't say the line without burping."

The commercial was later adapted to star other countries' sports stars, including Argentina (with Diego Maradona playing Greene's role), Brazil (with Zico), Italy (with Dino Zoff) and Thailand. Also, a similar themed advert for Pepsi aired in the UK with David Beckham many years later. In 1981, "The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid" expanded the Coke commercial into a TV movie with Greene playing himself and the kid played by Henry Thomas, who soon after starred as Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. This advertisement was paid homage to in 2006, in a TV ad promoting asthma awareness. In the 2006 ad, a child with asthma tosses his Jerome Bettis Steelers jersey to Jerome himself, who is also an asthma sufferer.

Due to the longstanding popularity of the Coke commercial featuring Greene, Coca-Cola and the Steelers have since developed a longtime partnership, which includes the Coca-Cola Great Hall at Heinz Field, which honors the Steeler greats, including Greene, despite the fact that the NFL as a whole currently has a sponsorship deal with Pepsi.

In 1980, Greene appeared as himself in a sketch parodying the Coca-Cola ad on the CBS comedy-variety series The Tim Conway Show, with the "kid" portrayed by the comedian himself. When Conway says, "Uh Mr. Greene?", Mean Joe throws him the football and knocks him to the ground. In season one of Star Wars: Clone Wars, Mace Windu lands in front of a small farm child during the Battle of Dantooine, who then offers him a sip of his canteen before Windu force jumps away in a reference to the Coke kid commercial. It has also been parodied in the Family Guy episode Peter, Peter, Caviar Eater where "Mean" Joe not only offers his jersey, but throws the rest of his clothing as well. This same reference was portrayed once again in Family Guy in the episode Road to Germany, when Stewie is given some much-need uranium, to complete his time machine, by Mean Joe Greene. "Mean" has the same line as his previous appearance in Family Guy, saying "Hey kid, catch".

During Super Bowl XLIII in which the Steelers would defeat the Arizona Cardinals for their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy, a commercial of current Steelers player Troy Polamalu aired that had him do a remake of the famous Coke commercial, except it was advertising for Coca-Cola Zero instead.[7] Two Coke "brand managers" take the Coke Zero bottle away right when the kid was to give it to Polamalu, with Polamalu subsequently tackling one of the "brand managers", then instead of giving the kid his own jersey ripped the shirt off the "brand manager" he had tackled and tossed it to the kid. Greene, who like Polamalu lives a very quiet lifestyle off the field in contrast to his on-the-field play, liked the commercial and gave his stamp of approval.[8]

References

External links

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