Whomever coach Mike McCarthy hires, it will behoove him and general manager Ted Thompson to give Greene’s replacement some players who are natural fits for the position.
In his five seasons on the coaching staff, Greene often had the difficult task of trying to convert defensive ends into outside linebackers.
Take last year’s group, for example. Of the five outside linebackers on the roster for the entire season, only Clay Matthews played linebacker in college.
Although Greene made some progress with Nick Perry, the Packers’ 2012 first-round pick, it remains to be seen whether Perry will ever fully excel at outside linebacker after playing defensive end in college at USC.
Greene was keen enough to suggest that Mike Neal, a former second-round pick who played defensive end in his first three NFL seasons, should move to outside linebacker last offseason. The move worked out perhaps better than could have been expected, but the transition had to be arduous work on the part of both the player and the coach. Neal produced five sacks, including four in the final seven regular-season games, and also set career highs in tackles and interceptions.
The other two outside linebackers in Greene’s group were a pair of rookies: Nate Palmer (sixth-round pick) and Andy Mulumba (undrafted). Both played defensive end in college, Palmer at Illinois State and Mulumba at Eastern Michigan.
Even for perhaps the best outside linebacker to ever play the position (Greene’s 160 career sacks rank third overall and first among outside linebackers), it was asking a lot to turn some of those players into natural fits at the position.
Although Greene stated the desire to spend more time with his family as his reason for stepping aside, it’s worth wondering if he became frustrated by the difficult task of regularly converting defensive ends into outside linebackers.
Either way, it’s an important position for McCarthy to fill. Finding and/or developing another outside linebacker to complement Matthews will be an important part of improving upon a defensive that ranked 25th out of 32 teams last season.
It’s one of at least four openings McCarthy has on his staff this offseason. A year after he retained all 20 members of his coaching staff, McCarthy also lost quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo (who left to the become the New York Giants offensive coordinator), assistant special teams coach Chad Morton (who was not retained, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette) and assistant strength and conditioning coach Zac Woodfin (who left to become the strength coach at UAB, his alma mater).
Running backs Alex Van Pelt will take over for McAdoo, but the change has not yet been made public. Typically, McCarthy waits until all of his open positions are filled before he announces the changes.