Dennis Green was one of the most successful and influential coaches in the history of the National Football League (NFL). He led the Minnesota Vikings and the Arizona Cardinals to multiple playoff appearances, and mentored some of the greatest players of all time, such as Jerry Rice, Randall Cunningham, and Larry Fitzgerald. He was also a trailblazer for African American coaches, being only the second one to be hired as a head coach in the modern era of the NFL. But how did Dennis Green die, and what was his legacy?
The Life and Career of Dennis Green
Dennis Green was born on February 17, 1949, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He grew up in a working-class household, where his father was a postal worker and his mother was a beautician. He faced tragedy at a young age, when his father died of a heart attack when he was 11, and his mother died of cancer when he was 13. He was raised by his older sister and his grandmother, who instilled in him a strong work ethic and a positive attitude.
Green was a talented athlete, who excelled in football, basketball, and baseball. He attended the University of Iowa, where he played as a running back and a cornerback. He was also a standout student, who graduated with a degree in finance and earned a master’s degree in public administration. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Iowa in 1972, and then moved on to coach at Dayton, Iowa, and Stanford.
In 1979, he joined the San Francisco 49ers as a special teams coach, working under the legendary Bill Walsh. He helped the 49ers win their first Super Bowl in 1981, and then returned to Stanford as the head coach in 1989. He turned around the struggling program, leading them to two bowl games and developing future NFL stars such as Ed McCaffrey and Tommy Vardell.
In 1992, he was hired by the Minnesota Vikings as their head coach, becoming only the second African American head coach in the NFL after Art Shell. He quickly transformed the Vikings into a powerhouse, leading them to eight playoff appearances in 10 seasons, including a 15-1 record in 1998, when they set the NFL record for most points scored in a season at the time. He coached some of the most explosive offenses in the league, featuring players such as Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Robert Smith, and Daunte Culpepper. He was also known for his fiery personality and his motivational speeches, as well as his famous rant after a loss to the Chicago Bears in 2006, when he said, “They are who we thought they were, and we let ’em off the hook!”
In 2004, he was hired by the Arizona Cardinals as their head coach, hoping to revive the franchise that had been mired in mediocrity for decades. He had a rocky tenure with the Cardinals, posting a 16-32 record in three seasons, and clashing with some of his players and the media. However, he also laid the foundation for the team’s future success, drafting and developing players such as Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Karlos Dansby, and Darnell Dockett, who would later lead the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl appearance in 2008.
After being fired by the Cardinals in 2006, Green continued his coaching career in the United Football League (UFL), where he coached the California Redwoods and the Sacramento Mountain Lions from 2009 to 2011. He also worked as a broadcaster and an analyst for various media outlets, and wrote a memoir titled No Room for Crybabies.
The Death and Legacy of Dennis Green
On July 21, 2016, Dennis Green died of complications from cardiac arrest at his home in San Diego, California. He was 67 years old. He is survived by his wife, Marie, and his four children, Vanessa, Zachary, Jeremy, and Patti. He was also a grandfather of seven grandchildren.
Green’s death shocked and saddened the NFL community, as many of his former players, colleagues, and friends paid tribute to him and his impact on the game. He was widely regarded as one of the best coaches of his generation, and one of the most influential figures in the history of the NFL. He was posthumously inducted into the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor in 2018, and his name and legacy live on in the hearts and minds of many football fans.
According to the Encyclopedia, Green was also a philanthropist, who supported various causes and charities, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the United Negro College Fund, and the Dennis Green Foundation, which provides scholarships and mentoring to underprivileged youth. He was also a devout Christian, who relied on his faith to overcome the challenges and adversities in his life.
Dennis Green was more than just a coach. He was a leader, a mentor, a father, a friend, and a legend. He was a man who loved football, and who made football better. He was a man who saw challenges as opportunities, and who never gave up on his dreams. He was a man who left a lasting mark on the NFL, and on the world. He was Dennis Green, and he was who we thought he was.