Dennis Green, Former NFL Coach, Dies at 67

Second African-American head coach in NFL history led both the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals

Dennis Green
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Dennis Green, who was a beloved former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals during a 13-year NFL career, died Thursday night. He was 67.

“Dennis passed away last night from complications of cardiac arrest,” Green’s family said in a statement, according to ESPN. “His family was by his side and he fought hard.”

Green was only the second African-American head coach both in NCAA Division I-A history (at Northwestern) and in modern NFL history (after Art Shell).

As the coach of the Vikings from 1992 to 2001, Green led the team to a 97-62 record, including a 15-1 regular-season record in 1998 and the then-NFL mark for the most points in one season.

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

Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Green played football for the Iowa Hawkeyes in college and went on to play briefly for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. He then turned to coaching in 1981, first at Northwestern and Stanford, then with the San Francisco 49ers, before his historic run with the Vikings.

Upon leaving Minnesota, Green was an analyst at ESPN for two years before he headed to Arizona to coach the Cardinals. His time there is best remembered by fans for his “They are who we thought they were!” explosion after Arizona blew a 20-0 halftime lead to Chicago on “Monday Night Football” in 2006. That rant went on to become part of a Coors Light commercial.

Aside from his gift for viral post-game press conference speeches, Green had a career record of 113-94 and went 4-8 in the playoffs.

He is survived by his wife, Marie, and children Patti, Jeremy, Zach and Vanessa.

See video of Green’s famous speech and messages of condolences on Twitter below.