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Former NFL, Northwestern football coach Dennis Green dead at 67

Dennis Green is dead at age 67, ESPN is reporting. | AP Photo

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dennis Green, the fiery football coach who led the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals in the NFL, and helped begin the turnaround of the Northwestern football program, has died. He was 67.

Green’s family posted a message on the Cardinals website on Friday announcing the death.

“His family was by his side and he fought hard,” the statement read. Other details were not immediately disclosed, though the Cardinals said Green had died of a heart attack.

In his final season, the Cardinals won their opener and then lost eight in a row to quickly fall out of the playoff hunt. The skid included close home losses to the St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and, most memorably on a Monday night, to the Bears.

The Bears rallied from 20 down, returning two late fumbles and a punt for touchdowns, and that all led to 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.



Green was fired after the season, one day after the Cardinals concluded a 5-11 run with a 27-20 loss at San Diego. He finished with a 16-32 record at Arizona, none of his teams winning more than six games in his three seasons.

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, including a 15-1 regular season in 1998 spearheaded by a record-setting offense.

Green went out on a limb in the draft before that season, plucking Randy Moss at pick No. 21 after the super-talented receiver fell due to character concerns. Moss was a sensation from the start, teaming with Cris Carter, Jake Reed, quarterback Randall Cunningham and running back Robert Smith to give the Vikings the most dynamic and explosive offense the league had ever seen.

But the Vikings were upset at home by the Atlanta Falcons that season and also were embarrassed by the New York Giants 41-0 in their other trip to the NFC title game after the 2000 season.

Green went 4-8 in the postseason, one of the reasons he was fired by Minnesota late in the 2001 season.

“Denny made his mark in ways far beyond being an outstanding football coach,” the Vikings said. “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.”

The Vikings posted a statement about Green’s death on the team’s website.

Green was also a head coach in college at Northwestern and Stanford and served as an assistant to Bill Walsh on the dominant 49ers teams of the 1980s.

He was hired at Northwestern in 1980 to take over a team that had lost all its games that year, and most of its games the season before that. After a winless 1981 season, Green’s team beat Northern Illinois in 1982, ending the losing streak at 34 games; it was, at the time, the longest in Division I football.

Dennis Green speaks to reporters after being introduced as Northwestern's new football coach in December 1980. With him is athletic director Doug Single. | Sun-Times file photo

Dennis Green speaks to reporters after being introduced as Northwestern’s new football coach in December 1980. With him is athletic director Doug Single. | Sun-Times file photo