Dennis Green, who led the Minnesota Vikings to 97 wins in his 10 seasons as their head coach, died of cardiac arrest at age 67.
The news of Green’s death was reported by multiple outlets including NFL.com. Green coached 13 NFL seasons, from 1992-2001 with the Vikings and then 2004-06 with the Arizona Cardinals. His most memorable moment in that Cardinals run was a fiery rant after a loss to the Chicago Bears, but Green’s legacy goes far beyond that press conference blowup. He’ll be remembered for some great seasons with the Vikings and as a pioneer. Green was one of the first black coaches in NFL history.
“All of us at the Cardinals are incredibly saddened by the news of Dennis Green’s passing,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said in a statement. “Coach Green will rightly be remembered as a true innovator, leader and pioneer among football coaches. We express our deepest sympathy to his family and his many friends.”
The Vikings put out a statement on Friday morning: “We are incredibly saddened by the sudden passing of former Vikings Head Coach Dennis Green. Denny made his mark in ways far beyond being an outstanding football coach. He mentored countless players and served as a father figure for the men he coached. Denny founded the Vikings Community Tuesday Program, a critical initiative that is now implemented across the entire NFL. He took great pride in helping assistant coaches advance their careers. His tenure as one of the first African American head coaches in both college and the NFL was also transformative. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Green family.”
Green, who also was a head coach in college at Northwestern and Stanford, helped build the Vikings into one of the NFL’s stronger franchises in the 1990s. The Vikings won four division titles and made the playoffs eight times in his 10 seasons. He also coached one of the best regular-season teams in NFL history, the 1998 Vikings. The Vikings went 15-1 with incredible rookie receiver Randy Moss leading the way, but were upset in the NFC championship game that season by the Atlanta Falcons. The Vikings also advanced to the 2000 NFC championship game with Green at the helm but were defeated by the New York Giants.
Green became just the second black head coach in the NFL’s modern era when the Vikings hired him in 1992, following Art Shell. Green also became the second black head coach at a major college football program, when Northwestern hired him in 1981.
“Well, I feel very fortunate. I’ve always said I was born at the right time, with being born in 1949 and growing up right at the height of the Civil Rights Movement,” Green told Vikings.com in 2015. “I came along at a time when opportunity was created by very brave and determined people that came before me, and I was fortunate enough to benefit from it.”
He was popular with his players, and many players and others around the NFL expressed their grief on social media, including former Vikings running back Robert Smith.
Rest in peace Denny. I lost my mother in April, I feel like I just lost father.
— robert smith (@Robert26Smith) July 22, 2016
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