Dennis Green, the pioneering coach who led a Minnesota Vikings renaissance in the 1990s, worked hard to provide opportunities for minorities on his coaching staffs and was beloved by his players for the loyalty he showed them, died on Thursday at age 67.
Here’s a look back at some of the highlights during Green’s NFL and college coaching career, and reaction to his passing:
▪ Green was the first black head coach in Big Ten history when he took over at Northwestern in 1981 and became just the second black head coach in the NFL when the Vikings hired him in 1992.
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Green spent 10 seasons in Minnesota, leading the Vikings to eight playoff appearances and two NFC Championship games. He only had one losing season and compiled an overall record of 97-62, a mark second only to Bud Grant in franchise history. That included a 15-1 regular season in 1998 spearheaded by an electric offense that scored a record 556 points that season, a mark that stood until New England broke it in 2007.
▪ When Stanford head coach Bill Walsh was hired by the 49ers, he gave Green his first taste of the NFL, bringing him along as a special teams coach in 1979. Green remained an assistant under Walsh on the dominant San Francisco teams of the 1980s.
▪ Green took over as Stanford’s head coach in 1989 and posted a 16-18 record during his three seasons with the Cardinal.
▪ Green coached the Arizona Cardinals for three seasons, finishing with a 16-32 record.
▪ Many remember Green’s final season in Arizona in 2006 for a Monday night loss to Chicago, when the Bears returned two late fumbles and a punt for touchdowns to rally from a 20-point deficit. Afterward, in one of the more memorable postgame rants by an NFL coach, Green pounded the podium and yelled “The Bears are who we thought they were!” afterward, a line that would be replayed endlessly over the years.
It ended with the emphatic line “And we let them off the hook!” He then stalked out of the news conference.
Green had a sense of humor about the episode, allowing video of it to be used in a beer commercial.
Reaction to Green’s death
Compiled by Stu Rosenberg