Dallas Cowboys The “Manster” vs Pittsburgh Steelers Mean Joe Greene

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When it comes to comparing Dallas Cowboys DT Randy White and Pittsburgh Steelers “Mean” Joe Green, I must admit some personal bias. I have great respect for Joe Greene’s rare football talent and his many accomplishments. By any standard of measurement, he was a truly legendary player. Greene was blessed with size, tremendous strength and a relentless desire to win. Despite my ability to respect Green despite playing for the rival Steelers, I’ve encountered several Greene supporters in cyberspace that lack the appropriate amount of respect for White. To many fans of Mean Joe, the mention of Randy White in the same sentence with him is an insult to them. I’ve seen many comments claiming that Randy White was “over-rated”. To that end, I must speak briefly.

greene1Let’s begin by looking at the numbers. Greene played in 181 games over 13 seasons; White played in 209 games over 14 seasons, although White switched to defensive tackle from linebacker at the start of his third NFL season. Greene was voted to play in 10 Pro Bowls, received first-team All Pro nomination five times and received second-team All Pro nomination three times. White played in nine Pro Bowls and was named first-team All Pro nine times. Therefore, in 13 seasons at defensive tackle with the Steelers, Greene earned as many combined Pro Bowl and All Pro honors as White did with the Dallas Cowboys in 12 seasons at defensive tackle.

Over the course of their careers, Greene amassed 78.5 quarterback sacks; Randy White tallied 111 sacks. But comparing this statistic alone does not tell the entire picture. Greene lined up at left defensive tackle; White at right tackle. Historically, more left guards have earned Pro Bowl and All Pro honors than right guards. This has been true from the 1950s right up until the present. This trend is less obvious for offensive tackles, and only in the past two decades have the majority of award winning tackles played on the left side.

Of the greatest guards in NFL history, Jim Parker, John Hannah, Gene Upshaw, Randall McDaniel, Tom Mack, Ed Budde, Russ Grimm, Mike Munchak, Kent Hill, Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca, Steve Wisniewski and Larry Allen, all of them have all lined up on the left side. Bruce Matthews earned All Pro honors at both guard spots as well as at left tackle and center. With the Dallas Cowboys, White played against Hannah, arguably the greatest guard of all time, three times in the regular season and six more times in the Pro Bowl; Greene never faced Hannah. White routinely played against the best guards of his era. The two best guards Greene lined up against were Hall of Famers Larry Little of the Miami Dolphins and Joe DeLamielleure of the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns.white SB 13

The mystique surrounding Greene to this day is so great that some believe he was completely unblockable and had to be constantly triple-teamed. This simply was not the case. He was a brilliant player, without question, but consider this: in eight career games in which he lined up against DeLamielleure, Greene had a combined 15 tackles less than two per game and two sacks. In Super Bowl X against the Cowboys, right guard Blaine Nye, despite weighing 252 pounds to Greene’s 275 pounds, blocked him without help for much, though not all, of the game. In Super Bowl XIII, the Dallas Cowboys alternated right guards Tom Rafferty and Burton Lawless, each weighing 253 pounds, and again the Cowboys spent much of the game with their guards blocking Greene without the benefit of a double team. Meanwhile, in Super Bowl XIII, the Steelers often doubled White with center Mike Webster or the guard would pass White to Webster in pass blocking schemes.

On another point of comparison, Randy White lined up off the line in a four-point stance, not directly over the guard the way Joe Greene did. Greene played in a more attacking style of defense, and he played with a vastly superior linebacking corps (both Jack Ham and Jack Lambert were future Hall of Famers). White played in a read-and-react, gap control defense with a good but unspectacular group of linebackers and less effective blitzers to take some of the pass blocking commitments by the offense off of him.

deacon jonesIn 1978 the NFL changed pass blocking rules and outlawed the head slap used by defensive linemen. The head slap and other rule changes (including the one that allowed offensive linemen to fully extend their arms while pass blocking) tilted the field in favor of the offense. The Rams Deacon Jones, one of the greatest pass rushing ends in history, was famous for his head slap, which allowed him to get past the tackle and to the quarterback. White, who was even stronger than Jones or Greene, and who trained extensively in martial arts, did not have the benefit of the head slap at his disposal for almost his entire career as a Dallas Cowboys tackle, but Greene played nine of his 13 seasons under the old rules.

When all of these things are taken into consideration, those who say White is over-rated or not worthy of comparison to Greene fail to see how truly great White was and just how comparable to Greene as a player he was throughout his career.

Final Impressions:

I recall watching the 1979 Pro Bowl played in Los Angeles. The AFC featured on its offensive line New England Patriots left tackle Leon Gray, Hannah at left guard and Webster at center. The NFC defensive line featured future Hall of Famers Lee Roy Selmon of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jack Youngblood of the Rams at right defensive end and left defensive end, respectively, and White at right tackle. In those days there were blitz restrictions on passing downs. With White in the game, my eyes, as always, were fixed on him. And what I saw amazed me. The AFC squad showed White so much respect that even with Selmon and Youngblood flanking him, White was double-teamed by Hannah and Webster for most of the plays when he was on the field.rw10

What most impressed me about Randy White was that in a meaningless All Star game where the winning team would go on to earn only $2500 more per man than the losing team, while going against two of the strongest and greatest offensive linemen of all time, White played every snap as if his team was protecting a three point lead in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Most guys would’ve just mailed it in that day. But White was not most guys. He played every snap as though it was his last.

Randy White had tremendous measurables and great talent, but his greatest asset was his heart: he had the heart of a lion. White was not just a Dallas Cowboys football player; he was a warrior and a gladiator on the gridiron. He was not only one of the greatest defensive linemen I have ever seen, he was also one of the greatest competitors I have ever seen.

rw11Randy White Today

Today, White still weighs 265 pounds and, at 60, is as solid as many men half his age. He continues to lift weights, although he does not throw up the kind of weight he did during his playing days. White watches his diet zealously, eats healthy, takes protein supplements and continues on in the practice of the martial arts. He no longer spars as he once did, but he will hit the Thai pads and he works with kali sticks in the style of the Filipino arts. Drills such as sombrada and sinawali build up speed, conditioning and movement to simulate combat conditions. Many who see White today claim he could probably still line up and play a few snaps.

Despite all of his fame and on-the-field accomplishments, White remains an unassuming, quiet man who would rather avoid the limelight. Since 1994 he has owned Randy White’s Hall of Fame Barbeque in Frisco, Texas. Locals can find him in there where he warmly greets people sitting in booths dedicated to Lilly, Walt Garrison and Roger Staubach.

If I’m ever in the Dallas area and have a taste for good ribs, I think I might drive over to Frisco and hope to see White there. I would call him Mr. White, but I am sure he would smile a little, curl up his mustache and say, “Just call me Randy.”

If I could meet any of the great Dallas Cowboys players from the 1970s and 1990s dynasties, Randy White would be at the top of my list along with Roger Staubach. Who else but Captain Comeback and the Manster?

Links:

Randy White video highlights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rd22keHlqhQ

Wiki link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy_White_(American_football)

[The author wishes to acknowledge two source materials, without which this story could not be told to the extent it is here. The first is an October 22, 1994 article by John Underwood that appeared in Sports Illustrated. The second is a March 4, 2013 interview of Randy White by Jim Steel, Strength Coach for the University of Pennsylvania, found at startingstrength.com.]

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  • Football Mensa

    Both great players , both great men. We’ll take ours and they’ll take theirs. I’m content with that. To me Randy will always be The Man.

    • MichaelValentino

      Mensa – could not be said any better than that. How ironic that Joe Greene played at West Texas State and lived in Texas (still does) and played for Pittsburgh, while White was born in Pittsburgh, grew up in SE Pennsylvania, and played for Dallas. I would agree: Steelers fans would never give up Mean Joe and Cowboys fans would never give up the Manster. (I’d never give up Lilly either, but that is a blog for another day, my friend.)

      • Football Mensa

        Well said…

      • Ask Questions Later

        There in lies the irony. Opposing players played in opposing states.

        • It is quite strange lol. You would think they would have ended up on their local teams.

  • Californy

    They dont make player like this anymore both men are true champions and both deserve to be called the best at their position.  Good players make their team better and this is how both men played.

    • MichaelValentino

      They were great players who raised the game of their teammates. Joe Greene played on a defense that has its own wing in Canton and he was still the best player on that defense. White had lesser talent around him (Jack Ham and Jack Lambert were HOF players, as was Mel Blound, and LC Greenwood is HOF caliber, while Bob Breunig was solid at MLB but light years from Lambert; Henderson was, athletically-speaking, the most impressive linebacker I have ever seen, but still Ham was the superior strongside LB, and no corner on the Cowboys during White’s time, other than Mel Renfro (who was in the twilight of his career in 77) could compare to Blount, who was a terror before the 1978 rule changes) but White, like Greene, was the focal point for offensive coordinators.

  • cjwright

    I agree both players were close to the best at their positions in their eras, but I have to wonder whether Greene’s status and the legend that surrounds him isn’t at least partially a factor of how effectively that coca-cola commercial captured the imagination of the nation. I wasn’t a Steelers fan, but that commercial made me dream, when both sleeping and waking, of giving Tony Dorsett a cold bottle of coke after a game.

    • cjwright

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xffOCZYX6F8
      I just watched the commercial again; it gave me goosebumps.

      • MichaelValentino

        Haha, I did NOT like the Steelers but, man, this commercial got to ALL of us. 🙂

    • waynoootn

      cjwright I think you are correct. White was the better player but Pittsburgh won more super bowls and everyone remembers the coca-cola commercial.

      • cjwright

        waynoootn cjwright It was a fantastic commercial!

      • MichaelValentino

        Steeler fans will argue Greene has four rings, White has one, ergo, MJG > RW.  By that logic, Charles Haley, who has five rings, is better than Gino Marchetti, Lee Roy Selmon, Deacon Jones, Bruce Smith and Reggie White at DE. Haley was good, very good, but he was not Marchetti or Jones or Reggie.

      • MichaelValentino

        btw, I’m not saying Randy White was a better player than Greene. I’m just saying White was good enough to be in the same conversation as Greene. And White was good enough to be mentioned with all-time greats like Lilly or Page or Olsen.

        • waynoootn

          MichaelValentino True. I watched both of them and White was better than Green no matter what the steeler fans think.

        • MichaelValentino

          Steelers fans will tell you MJG was triple-teamed during SB X and XIII by the Cowboys. Well, if Greene didn’t have such a loaded team around him, they probably would have quadruple-teamed him, but when you have to worry about LC Greenwood, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Ernie Holmes and Dwight White, you cannot triple team MJG and you can’t even double him often. Fitzgerald (C) had to deal with Lambert at MLB. Sure he doubled down on Greene to help Nye, Rafferty or Lawless (RGs) but not every play. Greenwood killed the Cowboys in SB X. Pittsburgh also blitzed quite often on both SBs, forcing Newhouse to pick up the blitzer. There just weren’t enough guys to double everyone. Well, I could argue this points all day long. At least here I’m preaching to the choir.

        • MichaelValentino

          *in both SBs

        • MichaelValentino

          *these points

  • Californy

    It weird how we remember certain players. lol.  Bubba Smith was way before my time but I remember him for that gentle person In the Police academy movies not part of the fearsome four some that he was playing for the Rams.  The same can be said by Merlin Olson, watching him on Little house on the Praire

    • Football Mensa

      Bubba Smith till the day he died thought the Colts/Jets superbowl was fixed. If you never his version try to find it on sirius. It was revealing.

  • Defense 28

    if the boys would have beat the steelers in one of those super bowls they would have i think a few more players named to hall of fame. and on a personel note still think the ref interfered with captain crash on franco’s long t.d. run

    • MichaelValentino

      Was it Harris? I seem to recall it was Waters who was interferred with (accidentally…um, I think). lol  So many “what if” moments from that game – the biggest sports-related heartbreak of my life. That game was/is so painful for me.  Gerela slipped on the Orange Bowl turf, snubbed the kick and it went to White on the right side of the field, out there to be a wedge buster on the return team. White had a cast on his left hand, courtesy of a broken left thumb from Rams QB Pat Haden’s helmet two weeks earlier. White switched the ball from his right hand to his left and fumbled. Steelers got the ball at the 18. Swann scored on the next play. Harris, up until that 22 yarder on the inside trap left, was held to 46 yards on something like 19 carries. The Cowboys D stuffed the Pitt running game that day. Bogus PI call on Barnes. It was incidental contact. Jackie Smith drops the sure TD in the end zone. Cowboys open the game slicing the Steelers front four with Dorsett running three times for 37 or 38 yards. A shoe saving tackle by Donnie Shell saved a first possession TD. Later, in Steeler territory, Coach Landry called the reverse. Drew Pearson fumbled the Dorsett handoff and Pitt scored on that possession. They should have continued to hammer the ball down Pitt’s throat. Dallas was their own worst enemy that sad, sad day.

      • waynoootn

        MichaelValentino That was a great game but it broke my heart.

      • Defense 28

        MichaelValentino yeah it was harris. we were definately our own worst enemy that day.

    • MichaelValentino

      If the Cowboys had beaten the Steelers in either one of those SBs, particularly XIII, you would probably see Harvey Martin and Cliff Harris in the HOF by now. Other than those from the 78 team that are in Canton – Staubach, Dorsett, Wright, White – it is unlikely any more will be added. I just don’t see the HOF voters putting Drew Pearson, Harris, Martin or Too Tall in the Hall. I do think Martin, of those I mentioned, is most deserving. His career was pretty close to that of Richard Dent’s and Dent is in Canton. And if White is the only player from his era to make the HOF, what does that tell you about how good he was that his teams made it to six NFC championships and three SBs? Even Dent had two other HOFers with him on that defense – Dan Hampton and Mike Singletary. There’s no love for the Cowboys with the east coast HOF voters.

    • Defense 28 we lost to the steelers cuz they ruled drews catch as no good! had there been instant replay challenges we won

      • Defense 28

        CowgirlCas22 Defense 28 yeah probably sb 13 loss bothers me alot more than 10, because in ten we were real young team 13 we were the better team. that game along with what they call the catch, ( I still think Montana was throwing it away) haunt me as much as any games.

  • MichaelValentino

    Hey….where’s Cas been lately?

    • MichaelValentino I have finals at school this week

      • MichaelValentino

        CowgirlCas22 MichaelValentino ok, Cas – hope you ace them.