Durability and excellence are two terms that have followed Forrest Gregg throughout his life … and for good reason. Gregg didn’t miss a game over the course of 14 years in the National Football League.
Like Skoronski, Gregg was part of an offensive line that was the bulwark for Lombardi’s teams of the 1960s. They are the reason the team won championships year-in and year-out.
The excellence of that offensive unit could be attributed to many reasons … one of them being Gregg.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with Forrest Gregg, from which I put together this story on lombardiave.com …
Here is how John Maxymuk describes Gregg:
"Forrest Gregg … did not play on opening day of his rookie year, but aside from the year he spent in the service, he never missed another game for Green Bay. In 14 years, that adds up to 187 consecutive games played, a team record. He once said of himself as an offensive lineman, ‘We don’t have any statistics to be remembered by so I don’t want anyone to overlook the fact that I haven’t missed a game since I came into the league in 1956.’
He wasn’t just tough and durable, though, he was a great lineman. He played most of his career at tackle, but moved over to guard in 1961 when Jerry Kramer broke his leg, and he made All Pro there, too. In his career he was named All Pro nine times (each year Lombardi coached) and went to nine Pro Bowls (as a tackle, that’s been surpassed only by Anthony Munoz’s 11 Pro Bowl appearances – a player Gregg himself drafted when he was coach of the Cincinnati Bengals). He won five championships and two Super Bowls with the Packers and then spent his last year in Dallas earning another ring as a substitute on Tom Landry’s Cowboys. He went right into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
Lombardi said of him, ‘He’s a fine downfield blocker, too. His speed isn’t great, but he’s very quick off that ball and he has that mental sharpness to adjust quickly to sudden situations. He has that knack of getting in front of the runner and, with his excellent sense of timing, of making the key block.’
Vince would also call him the ‘best player I ever coached.’
Rival coach George Allen wrote, ‘He had size, strength, and speed – all the tools. He used his talent to the fullest. He had quick feet and hands and superior intelligence. He had the best footwork I’ve ever seen on an offensive lineman and the best techniques.’
In the opinion of fellow teammate and fellow tackle Bob Skoronski, ‘Forrest was the greatest tackle in the world because of his downfield blocking. He was the premier downfield blocker in the game.’
Forrest had the fiery temperament of his coach Vince Lombardi. Vince himself pointed out, ‘I’ve seen him, with that quick temper, flare at some of [his teammates] in practice.’
And so he went into coaching … he landed his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns. His tenure there would prove to be fairly representative of his coaching career. He had some success, being named NFL Coach of the Year in 1976 and successfully battling cancer, but ultimately he had a losing record and was fired … he took the Bengals to Super Bowl XVI, where they lost to San Francisco. After a couple of losing seasons, he resigned to return to Green Bay, where he followed up Bart Starr’s crest of mediocrity with two 8-8 seasons before attempting to rebuild the team and enduring another couple of losing seasons. His cumulative NFL coaching record was 75-85-1."
Here are Gregg’s career statistics from Pro Football Reference: