Five years ago, David Greene was college football gold. He broke the NCAA record for most wins. He threw for more passing yards than any quarterback in SEC history (including Peyton Manning). Maybe he wasn’t projected as an NFL star. But he was drafted in the third round by Mike Holmgren, who had made a career of molding quarterbacks into Super Bowl champions, so that had to mean something.
Today, David Greene sells insurance. “We’re in the risk-management consultant business,” he said. Yeah. Sounds better.
He spent four NFL seasons with four teams and never played in a regular-season game. The systems were different. The terminology was different. The playbook read like Latin. It was year one and, “There I was being re-coached on a three-step drop. I felt like I had zero carryover from college.”
David Greene was a star at Georgia.
Matthew Stafford was a star at Georgia.
It’s the sincere hope of Stafford and the Detroit Lions that the similarities will end there.
“As talented as Stafford is, he’s got the arm to be successful,” Greene said. “But I don’t know any college quarterback who doesn’t have growing pains as a pro. It’s just a completely different game. Everybody struggles. Look at [Troy] Aikman. Look at Manning. [Ben] Roethlisberger is about the only one who did well, but he had the perfect system to step into and a great team around him.”
When reminded of Matt Ryan’s spectacular first season with the Falcons, Greene said: “He throws off the curve. What he did was unheard of.”
NFL training camps start in two weeks. The Lions aren’t saying if Stafford will start right away. But a franchise doesn’t guarantee $41.7 million to a rookie quarterback with the expectation of him being a potted plant.
Aikman started as a rookie in Dallas and went 1-15.
Ryan started as a rookie, threw a touchdown pass on his first NFL attempt and went to the playoffs.
Stafford? Nobody disputes his NFL talent. His NFL readiness might be another matter. Some scouts have questioned his feel for pressure in the pocket. There were accuracy issues at times in Athens. Also a few underwhelming performances in big games.
Greene never had Stafford’s physical attributes. But on the field, it was as if coach Mark Richt cloned himself and sent his copy into the huddle. Greene operated the offense to perfection. He even spoke in the same monotone voice as Richt. Greene projected as at least a solid NFL backup because he was successful, smart and never appeared overwhelmed.
But he struggled with the West Coast offense in Seattle. He struggled with the size and speed of pro defensive fronts. He played only in exhibitions with the Seahawks for two years. New England had him on the practice squad for almost a year. He passed through Kansas City, then Indianapolis. The New York Giants phoned this past winter, but Greene said: “I felt like I was beating a dead horse.” He had a wife and toddler at home in Gwinnett County and grew tired of his vagabond life. So he retired and went into business with another former Bulldog, Matt Stinchcomb.
If nothing else, Greene hung with the NFL elite. His coaches: Holmgren, Bill Belichick, Herm Edwards, Tony Dungy. (Those guys don’t sign dumb quarterbacks.)
His classmates: Matt Hasselbeck, Tom Brady and Manning.
He went to a Super Bowl with the Seahawks. He watched an undefeated season (until the Super Bowl) with the Patriots. But it just never clicked for him.
“With Stafford, it’s just going to depend on how well he catches on,” Greene said. “I never got comfortable playing in the system and my reps were limited.”
Stafford will get his shot. Reps won’t be an issue. Defenses could be. Greene learned carryover isn’t automatic.