Waking up on Friday morning, it seemed like it would be just like any other Friday that could not go by quick enough in order to begin the weekend. But for people within the NFL community, Friday began with the unexpected news of the passing of former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green as a result of cardiac arrest.
Everyone knows that death is a part of life and its process, but knowing that does not make it any easier when it actually happens. Especially when it happens to a person like Green, who had built many strong relationships with his former players and colleagues throughout his lifetime.
It has been quite a rough year for Minnesota in terms of losing some its most beloved people. Green is the latest who had strong, notable ties to the state to pass away. A list that no person would like to become a part of, but one that includes Prince and Flip Saunders.
The former Vikings coach’s death coincidentally comes on a day in which his former employer celebrated the opening of their brand new stadium. A stadium that may have not even existed if it were not for the team’s success under the leadership of Green during his time in Minnesota.
In late 1991, the Vikings announced that the team’s current head coach, Jerry Burns, would be retiring at the end of Minnesota’s season that year. Early rumors of then Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz becoming the Vikings next head coach began soon after the Burns announcement. But they were quickly squashed after Holtz agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Irish before Minnesota could even schedule a meeting with the successful college coach.
The Vikings search for a new head coach had come down to two people, Pete Carroll and Dennis Green. Carroll was the defensive coordinator for the New York Jets at the time while Green was coming off a season where he lead the Stanford football team to an 8-4 record.
Minnesota eventually went with Green and from that moment, he brought a winning, no nonsense mentality to a Vikings team that had just missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
Under Green, Minnesota would go on to make the playoffs in nine of the next ten seasons. The Vikings also finished in first or second place in the NFC Central division during seven of Green’s ten years in Minnesota.
Throughout his time with the Vikings, Green took chances on numerous players that other teams had scoffed at including Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Robert Smith, John Randle, Randall Cunningham, and Jeff George among others. His risks produced more rewards than consequences and the state of Minnesota knew their football team was in great hands under the guidance of Green.
With a head coach leading the Vikings to numerous wins during each season, Minnesota started to see more and more fans at their games. The Vikings average attendance at their home games increased from the previous season in eight of Green’s seasons as the team’s head coach.
It took Minnesota having to play a home game in England in 2013 to break the team’s all-time average attendance record for a season that was previously held by the 2001 Vikings while under coach Green. U.S. Bank Stadium has the ability to have a capacity of 73,000, so the attendance records will likely to be broken some time during the upcoming 2016 season.
The dream of even building a new stadium may have not even been imaginable if it were not for the hard work that Green put in during his time in Minnesota. The city likely would not have approved the construction of a new home if they did not believe in the team’s ability to, once again, turn into a consistently winning franchise like they were with Green.
Luckily, the Vikings now have Mike Zimmer manning the lead and the team seems like it could finally be back to the direction that Green had steered it towards.