Former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green will be remembered for numerous achievements following his death on July 21 at age 67.

In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, American team head coach Dennis Green speaks to his players in the locker room before the start of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Stub Hub Center  in Carson, Calif. Green, a trailblazing coach who led a Vikings renaissance in the 1990s and also coached the Arizona Cardinals, has died. He was 67. Green’s family posted a message on the Cardinals website on Friday, July 22, 2016,  announcing the death. (AP Photo/Ric Tapia, File)

In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, American team head coach Dennis Green speaks to his players in the locker room before the start of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, Calif. Green, a trailblazing coach who led a Vikings renaissance in the 1990s and also coached the Arizona Cardinals, has died. He was 67. Green’s family posted a message on the Cardinals website on Friday, July 22, 2016, announcing the death. (AP Photo/Ric Tapia, File)

The numbers on Green’s resume don’t lie: two NFC championship game appearances, four division titles and a .545 winning record definitely highlighted Green as one of the better coaches to work in the NFL. However, it was Green’s ability to help others that was perhaps his biggest achievement.  

As the long-tenured Vikings head coach from 1992 to 2001, Green helped resurrect careers of fallen players including Warren Moon and Chris Carter. He also gave chances to future All-Pros such as Randy Moss and John Randle. Despite his list of character issues, Minnesota sprinted to the podium to select Moss in the 1998 NFL Draft. Green’s belief in the young but explosive Moss helped spark the Vikings to a 15-1 record in the ensuing season. Moss rearranged the league after a stellar rookie campaign and, coupled with Carter, who arrived to Minnesota in 1990, Minnesota made two NFC championship game appearances in 1998 and 2000, with Black quarterbacks Randall Cunningham and Daunte Culpepper leading the way, respectively.

In this Dec. 28, 1992 photo, Minnesota Vikings coach reacts after being doused after a 27-7 win over the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Green, a trailblazing coach who led a Vikings renaissance in the 1990s and also coached the Arizona Cardinals, has died. He was 67. Green’s family posted a message on the Cardinals website on Friday, July 22, 2016,  announcing the death. (Brian Peterson/Star Tribune via AP)

In this Dec. 28, 1992 photo, Minnesota Vikings coach reacts after being doused after a 27-7 win over the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Green, a trailblazing coach who led a Vikings renaissance in the 1990s and also coached the Arizona Cardinals, has died. He was 67. Green’s family posted a message on the Cardinals website on Friday, July 22, 2016, announcing the death. (Brian Peterson/Star Tribune via AP)

Green couldn’t win a championship in Minnesota, and headed to Arizona in 2004. Green’s 16-32 stint in three seasons with the Cardinals wasn’t impressive, but he did draft another future All-Pro receiver when the organization selected Larry Fitzgerald in the 2004 draft. Green’s familiarity with Fitzgerald, who served as the Vikings’ ball boy when he was a teenager, and Fitzgerald’s own talent made it a no-brainer for Arizona to take the 6-foot, 3-inch receiver with the third overall pick that season. While his Arizona coaching career will be forever highlighted by a famous rant after a 24-23 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football during what would be his final season, Green’s drafts from 2004 to 2006 helped set the foundation for Arizona’s subsequent 2008 Super Bowl appearance.  

Green’s legacy doesn’t just extend to helping players. Several Black coaches developed under his tenure, including former Tampa Bay and Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy and current Pittsburgh head man Mike Tomlin. Dungy became the first Black coach to win a Super Bowl in 2007, and Tomlin followed the feat the next season when his Steelers ironically beat Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII. 

Green will be remembered for a lot of things, but he may never get the recognition he deserves for being a true pioneer for African Americans in the NFL. 

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO