Former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green died Thursday night. He was 67.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network provided comments from Green's family: "Dennis passed away last night from complications of cardiac arrest. His family was by his side and he fought hard." Rapoport also noted they would like contributions made to the Boys and Girls Club of San Diego in lieu of flowers.
NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent released a statement about the coach's passing to NFL.com:
We are saddened to hear the news of Dennis Green's passing. 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.
The Vikings organization also posted a statement on its official site:
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.
Former Vikings running back Robert Smith provided his reaction on social media:
Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy also provided his thoughts on Green's death:
Green, who became known for his fiery, demanding approach that led Minnesota to the playoffs eight times in his first nine seasons at the helm, started his coaching career as an assistant at the University of Dayton in 1971.
The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native worked his way through the ranks, including a stop at his alma mater, Iowa, before getting his first opportunity as a head coach with Northwestern in 1981. There was nowhere to go but up after his inaugural season in charge, as the Wildcats went 0-11.
Green finished his time at Northwestern with a 10-45 record in five years. He didn't find much more success during a three-year stint with Stanford. The Cardinal went 16-18 during his tenure, which did end on a high note with an 8-4 mark in 1991.
His career really took off when he moved to the NFL. He became the second African-American coach in modern league history and enjoyed immediate success in Minnesota, guiding the Vikings to an 11-5 record in 1992.
He ended up spending a decade as Vikings head coach. The team's best season during that stretch came in 1998 when they went 15-1 and reached the NFC Championship Game, where they lost to the Atlanta Falcons. It was the closest Green came to leading a franchise to the Super Bowl.
Kevin Negandhi of ESPN provided more details about Green's success in the 1990s:
Even without a multitude of postseason success, he watched over five 10-win teams in Minnesota. The organization had registered just two such seasons over the previous 15 years.
But perhaps his most memorable moment came during his time with the Cardinals. Green couldn't replicate his time with the Vikings in Arizona, going just 16-32 over three seasons, but his outburst after a loss to the Chicago Bears will be remembered forever, per Fox Sports:
The Bears are what we thought they were. They're what we thought they were. We played them in preseason -- who the hell takes a third game of the preseason like it's bulls--t? Bulls--t! We played them in the third game -- everybody played three quarters -- the Bears are who we THOUGHT they were! That's why we took the damn field! Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we THOUGHT they were! And we let 'em off the hook!
The moment helped encapsulate Green's coaching career. He possessed a burning desire to win and demanded a lot out of his players to make sure it happened. When things didn't go according to plan, as was the case against Chicago that night, he wasn't afraid to speak his mind.
That's why a coach who started his career with a winless season at the collegiate level could go on to enjoy so much success in the NFL. He never stopped fighting, and that rubbed off on his players over a coaching career that spanned four decades.