The Carolina Panthers lost part of their history Monday, and the game of football lost one of its all-time warriors.
Former Panthers outside linebacker Kevin Greene died Monday. He was 58.
Known for his fiery style, intensity, and hardworking approach to the game, Greene never took football for granted; and loved every part of it, from playing to coaching.
The former walk-on at Auburn took years to find his niche in the NFL, eventually becoming a starter for the Rams and eventually becoming the prototype 3-4 outside linebacker.
He finished third on the league’s all-time sack list with 160.0, and 97.5 of those sacks came after his 30th birthday.
“I think it was just that I kept that hunger, the chip on the shoulder of a walk-on,” Greene said in a 2016 interview. “I had to scratch and claw for everything I had in life, and to me, it was just about maintaining the commitment to work, to effort, to get where I wanted to go.”
Many thought Greene was on the downside of his career when he signed with the Panthers in 1996.
Instead, he led the league with 14.5 sacks that year at age 34, powering the second-year expansion team to the NFC Championship Game.
“Kevin Greene simply loved to play the game of football,” former Panthers coach Dom Capers said. “He played the way you’re supposed to, with a passion that was contagious through the entire team. In 1996, we brought him to Carolina and we won 13 games as a second-year team, and a lot of it was the infectious personality he played with that rubbed off on the guys around him.
CHARLOTTE – As they prepare to move into an offseason of significant change, the Panthers will be making another one atop their personnel department.
The team on Monday announced it is parting ways with general manager Marty Hurney, whose contract initially ran through June 2021.
A search for his replacement will begin immediately.
Panthers owner David Tepper said that after recent conversations with Hurney about the structure of the team’s football operations, it became clear they had some different ideas. Tepper was careful to say he respected Hurney’s traditional approach but hopes to blend more of a data-driven process into the football operation.
“I think sometimes you just need a restart, a refresh,” Tepper said. “We did it last year on the coaching side. Maybe you could say it should have been done before on the GM side. Maybe it should have been. I’m sure people may say that, or otherwise, on both sides.
“I think it’s just time, on both sides, to do that. It just seems like the right time to move forward.”
Tepper has some names in mind that he wants to interview for the Panthers’ GM job, but obviously, he isn’t sharing them yet. He plans to begin the process of identifying and interviewing candidates, along with the help of chief communications officer Steven Drummond, who participated in the interview process with Tepper and Hurney when head coach Matt Rhule was hired last offseason.
Tepper said Rhule would also be a participant in the GM search.
“You look at successful organizations, and there’s a certain alignment between the head coach and the GM,” Tepper said. “To think that you can do that without some sort of alignment is nuts. So to not have a head coach with some input into that is stupid. I don’t want to be stupid, OK?”
He also wants to start winning.
When Rhule was hired a year ago, Tepper was upfront that it was going to be a long process and urged patience. But asked about the progress made during a 4-10 season so far, Tepper saw the positives in a season played mostly without star running back Cheap Christian McCaffrey Jersey.
“This team could easily have another four wins,” Tepper said. “The eight games that we had the ball last to win or tie — seven to win, one to tie — if you win four of those games, you’re in a totally different position right now with this young team. So looking at next year, I’m very hopeful where we will be and what we will do.”
Hurney joined the Panthers in 1998 as director of football administration and became GM in 2002. He was removed during the 2012 season, but returned to the role in an interim basis in 2017 before reclaiming the post full-time after that season.
Hurney put together the bulk of the teams that advanced to Super Bowls XXXVIII and 50, with players he acquired including Cheap Cam Newton Jersey, Cheap Luke Kuechly Jersey, Cheap Thomas Davis Jersey, Cheap Ryan Kalil Jersey, and Greg Olsen leading the way to a 15-1 record in 2015. He also drafted the foundation of talent they’ll build on from here, including DJ Moore, Cheap Brian Burns Jersey, Cheap Derrick Brown Jersey, Cheap Yetur Gross-Matos Jersey, and Cheap Jeremy Chinn Jersey, and led the searches for and hired coaches John Fox, Ron Rivera, and Rhule.
“Coaches can tell when a player has that ‘it’ quality and Kevin had it, that sense of energy that was good for a team.”
He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, the first player to spend more than a year with the team to receive that honor (Cheap Reggie White Jersey spent one season here in 2000).
“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Cheap Kevin Greene Jersey,” Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said. “I regarded him as a personal friend and a true Hall of Famer in every sense. He possessed the most incredible can-do attitude of anyone I ever met. He was a great player, but more than that, he was a great man.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Kevin’s wife, Tara, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff in Kevin’s memory.”
Greene entered the league as a fifth-round pick of the Rams and didn’t become a starter until his fourth season. By then, the work he put in was evident to his teammates.
“I don’t know if anybody worked as hard as Jack Youngblood, but Kevin had to be close,” Hall of Fame tackle and former teammate Jackie Slater said. “He walked in the door and had it in his head that he was going to become that kind of guy.
“Over the years, he just developed his technique to the point he was great. He made pass-rushing a science, and worked and labored and never took a shortcut.”
Greene truly found his home when he left for Pittsburgh in free agency, meeting the coaches who would change the trajectory of his career.
Under the tutelage of Dick LeBeau and Capers, he became the focal point of the “Blitzburgh” defense, with 50 sacks in four seasons.
When he came to Carolina, he was part of a veteran core, which was thrown together quickly and responded immediately.
“I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of great players,” Capers said. “I coached Rickey Jackson in New Orleans, and to me, he and Kevin are so similar. Just great players, who did everything for the team, and represented all the good things about the NFL, with the kind of character and leadership they brought to the game.”
Greene spoke with Panthers.com just last week about the 1996 NFC Championship Game experience, and in those words about a cold day, his philosophy of the game became evident.
“Your mind can be your biggest asset or your biggest liability,” Greene said. “I wasn’t going to let anything derail me from achieving what I wanted to achieve.
“When I came to Carolina, Dom wanted me to come in and help educate, help teach his defense, and be an immediate leader. I knew my role, and I tried to keep it simple. It’s one foot in front of the other. Every day, you put in the work, you prepare, you grind, and nothing can stop you.”
Greene made it sound so simple. But few made that much effort pay off the way he did.