Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ahead Of His Time

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin leads his team in the Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday February 6th at Cowboys Stadium, if he's fortunate enough to lead this franchise to their seventh title, he should be thankful that he's coaching in the era of the Rooney Rule, where minority candidates have to be considered for head coaching and management positions.

There is one former Steeler who didn't get that opportunity due to the lack of timing.

When Mean Joe Greene retired from the NFL in 1981, he was selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times and won four Super Bowls as the anchor of the famous Steel Curtain defense in a career that was from 1969-1981.

The 64-year-old graduate of North Texas State is not only known for his famous Coke Commercial that was filmed on September 1, 1979, but he was a respected Assistant Coach in the league for 16 seasons.

Greene began his coaching career in 1987 with the Steelers under Chuck Noll. He would later work with Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins and Dave McGinnis of the Arizona Cardinals.

I had the good fortune of meeting with Greene when I was writing about the Cardinals for three contests during the 2001 season. We mainly talked about his Super Bowl years with the Steelers and what it was like to play under Noll having Terry Bradshaw as his quarterback. Greene and I had a few laughs about his Coke Commercial.

But as I look at the list of African American Head Coaches over the years, there will always be the "What If" Greene had the opportunity to interview and land one of these positions?

How would he have fared?

We'll never know now. To learn from Hall of Famers like Noll and Shula is a great starting point.

As I look at Tomlin, Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, Dennis Green, Jim Caldwell, Marvin Lewis, Herman Edwards, Ray Rhodes, Art Shell, Mike Singletary, Romeo Crennell along with the question marks that surround Leslie Frazier, Raheem Morris and Hue Jackson, it would have been interesting to see Greene match wits with these coaches.

But unfortunately, that will never happen as a result of timing.

Yet, as I watch the Steelers face the Packers, I'm amazed at how much history connects these two teams.

The only African American Head Coach in Packers History was Rhodes, who was 8-8 during his only season in 1999. Eleven years later, Tomlin is looking to win his second title in three years.

When I look at the Steelers and Packers contest, I'll view it as the "What If Bowl?"

What if the legendary Vince Lombardi faced Noll? Which coach would win?

How would Bradshaw have fared against Bart Starr or Brett Favre?

Will Ben Roethlisberger win his third title following Bradshaw or will Aaron Rodgers win his first championship as Favre's successor? We'll find that out soon enough.

If Roethlisberger is successful, Green will own his seventh championship ring because after he retired from coaching in 2004, the Steelers hired him to be the special assistant for player personnel. He is one of four people outside the Rooney family to have Super Bowl rings from the first six championship teams.

How would Greene have looked wearing those Motorola Head Sets talking to his Assistant Coaches in the Press Box and leading his team on the sidelines?

We'll never know now, but the question is worth thinking about as the 25th Anniversary of the Commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day has passed us.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at http://www.scottsports33.com/.

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