Dennis Green, the second Black head coach in the National Football League following Art Shell of the Los Angeles Raiders, died suddenly July 21 from a heart attack. He was 67.
Green coached the Minnesota Vikings from 1992 to 2001, and coached three seasons (2004-2006) with the Arizona Cardinals. He compiled a 113-94 record in 13 seasons. At Minnesota, his teams made eight playoff appearances in 10 seasons, reaching the NFC Championship game in 1998 and in 2000. He coached the Vikings to a 15-1 regular-season in 1998 and ranks second in franchise history in games coached, wins and winning percentage, trailing Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant in each category. In Arizona, Green may be remembered best for his post-game tirade: “They are who they thought they were” after the team blew a 20-0 half-time lead to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in 2006. In total, Green was 4-8 in the playoffs.
Before the NFL, Green was head coach at Northwestern University and at Stanford. At Northwestern, Green was the first Black head coach in Big Ten football history.
The Vikings issued a statement: “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.”
“All of us at the Cardinals are incredibly saddened by the news of Dennis Green’s passing,” said Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwell. “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 many friends.”
The NFL also issued a statement, calling Green an inspiration to minority youth. “We are saddened to hear the news of Dennis Green’s passing,” said Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president for football operations. “Denny was a terrific head coach and inspired his players on and off the field. He helped pave the way for minority coaches and recently served as a key advisor on the NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel. On behalf of the NFL, our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Green family.”