Joe Greene (American football)
No. 75, 72
|Date of birth:September 24, 1946|
|Place of birth: Elgin, Texas|
|High school: Temple (TX) Dunbar|
|College: North Texas|
|NFL Draft: 1969 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4|
|Debuted in 1969 for the Pittsburgh Steelers|
|Last played in 1981 for the Pittsburgh Steelers|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
|Pro Football Hall of Fame|
|College Football Hall of Fame|
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, Greene was one of the most dominant defensive players in the National Football League. Winning two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, as well as earning five first-team All-Pro selections, Greene is widely considered one of the greatest defensive linemen to ever play in the NFL. He was the cornerstone of the legendary “Steel Curtain” defense, and as of the passing of L.C. Greenwood on September 29, 2013, is its last surviving member. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a four-time Super Bowl champion. His alma mater, the University of North Texas' athletic teams are nicknamed the "Mean Green" in honor of Greene whose nickname during his time in the NFL was "Mean Joe" Greene. Greene is also well known for his appearance in the "Hey Kid, Catch!" Coca-Cola commercial in 1979, widely considered to be one of the best television commercials of all time.
Before his NFL career 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."
He got his nickname when the Pittsburgh fan base mistakenly assumed that the North Texas team nickname of "Mean Green" was Joe Greene's nickname; however, it was actually Coach Rust's wife who wanted to give a nickname to the team's outstanding defense who laid down the description which stuck in two instances. Since green is the school's main color, she gave the defense the name "Mean Green".
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. In addition to his skills, other teams saw Greene as a threat because of his size.
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 to have been the NFL's meanest player, to a fight.
In his early years with the Steelers, Greene was at times uncontrollable, and often let his temper get the best of him. On one occasion 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. 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 Steeler's history.
Greene was the leader and the anchor of the "Steel Curtain" defense that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s. He was recognized as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in both 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.
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 was also 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. With a defense considered one of the best in NFL history, 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 along with Greene, became the emotional leaders of the defensive squad. 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. Greene 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. Joe Greene had 190 tackles in 1978.
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. Greene retired from his position in the Steelers' front office in 2013.
It was Greene, in fact, who coined the phrase "One for the Thumb in '81" after the Steelers won Super Bowl XIV. 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.
Greene was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 1987.
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 Rocky Bleier Story (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
Joe Greene appeared in a famous commercial for Coca-Cola that debuted on October 1, 1979 and was aired again during the 1980 Super Bowl. The ad won a Clio Award in 1980 for being one of the best commercials of 1979.
- Best run stuffer? Finding the best defensive tackle in the NFL
- Fowler, Scott (February 23, 1992). "Take it from Mean Joe: Famous ad wasn't easy". Philadelphia Inquirer.
- ESPN.com - Page2 - Best Super Bowl commercials
- Coca-Cola Television Advertisements:The D'Arcy Era
- "Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials of All Time: Coke's Mean Joe Greene, #3". Warner Brothers. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
- "Joe Greene College Football Hall of Fame bio". College Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Shrine Game.com
- "Steelers legend Joe Greene retires from front office job". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 6, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
- BusinessInsider "The 10 Best Award-Winning TV Ads Everyone Must See" by Alyson Shontell, January 18, 2011.
- Mean Joe Greene Official Website
- Hall of Fame page for Joe Greene
- iFilm: Coca-Cola Ad
- Behind the scenes: The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid
- College Football Hall of Fame bio
- Member of the Cold, Hard Football Facts.com "All-Time 11" (2006)