The Tragic Death of Former NFL Head Coach Dennis Green

There have been many professional coaches who have had a lot of success throughout their coaching careers. Coaches have different personalities and ways of running their teams. One coach that was known for his personality was Dennis Green.

Green was a former NFL coach who had some good seasons. In 2016 he passed away, and that was a huge blow to the NFL community.

How Dennis Green got into coaching

Before Green became a coach, he had the opportunity to play in college and in the Canadian Football League. He played running back at the University of Iowa and went on to play for the BC Lions. After his playing career was over, he worked as an assistant coach at the University of Dayton, Iowa, and Stanford University.

He got his first head coaching position in 1981 when he was hired at Northwestern University. Northwestern struggled the last few seasons when Green became head coach. During the 1981 season, he was only the second African American coach in Division I-A history. In 1982, he was named the Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year. Green left Northwestern in 1985 to take a position in the NFL as the receivers coach for the San Francisco 49ers.

Green returned back to college football for his second head coaching position at Stanford. He coached at Stanford from 1989 to 1991. During that time, he finished with an overall record of 16-18. In 1990, Stanford defeated top-ranked Notre Dame and finished the season with an 8-4 record. That was Stanford’s best record since 1986. The 1991 season was the last time that Green coached in college.

Dennis Green made a big jump to the NFL

In 1992 he became the second African American head coach in the NFL when the Minnesota Vikings hired him. Green was named the fifth head coach of the Vikings, and he was the first African American to become an NFL head coach without playing in the NFL. He coached the Vikings for 10 seasons and had success during his time there. During his first six seasons with the Vikings, the team never had a losing season and missed out on the playoffs just once.

In 1996, two members of the Vikings’ ownership wanted to replace Green but did not find a coach. Two years later, Green had arguably his best season as a head coach. During the 1998 season, the Vikings went 15-1 and set the NFL record for the most points scored in a season at the time. The Vikings lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game. In 2001, the Vikings finished with their first losing season under Green. The 2001 season was Green’s last one with the Vikings.

After spending two seasons as an ESPN analyst, the Arizona Cardinals hired Green as their new head coach on January 7, 2004. Green coached the Cardinals from 2004 to 2006, and he was known for his big rant in 2006 after his team blew a 20-point lead to the Chicago Bears. “But they are who we thought they were! And we let ’em off the hook!” Green said during the postgame interview. You could simply hear the frustration in Green’s voice, and he was not happy with the way his team played. That was a moment that quickly surfaced across the NFL and sports world.

Dennis Green’s death was a blow to the NFL community

On July 21, 2016, Green died at the age of 67 due to cardiac arrest complications. When Green passed away, the Vikings released a statement that said, “He mentored countless players and served as a father figure for the men he coached. 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.”

For Green to be one of the first African American head coaches speaks volumes to how dedicated he was to the game of football. He had a huge passion for the game and wanted to share his knowledge with others, and that’s what he did.