MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green died early Friday morning after suffering a heart attack. He was 67.
"We are incredibly saddened by the sudden passing of former Vikings head coach Dennis Green," the Minnesota Vikings said in a statement. "Denny made his mark in ways far beyond being an outstanding football coach. 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 news of Green's passing was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter. Moments earlier, former Vikings running back Robert Smith posted this message on Twitter: "Rest in peace Denny. I lost my mother in April, I feel like I just lost father."
In a statement to NFL.com reporter Ian Rapoport, Green's family said, "His family was by his side and he fought hard."
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Denny Green's legacy
When he was hired by the Vikings in 1992, Denny Green was just the second African American head coach in the modern NFL era, after Art Shell. The Vikings made the playoffs in 8 of his 10 seasons with the Vikings, including two trips to the NFC Championship game.
Green also made his mark off the field, starting the team's Community Tuesdays initiative in which Vikings players spend their off-days making positive contributions to the community.
"When nobody wanted me to play the sport I fell in love with, this man gave me a chance to pursue my dreams," former Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss said in an Instagram post. "My family and I are forever grateful, appreciative and truly blessed to have crossed paths."
"Denny Green did so much for me but the best thing was allowing his assistant coaches to have time with their families," said Tony Dungy, who was a defensive coordinator under Green.
Former Vikings cornerback Tyrone Carter said he's "lost for words" and called Green a great coach and teacher.
Statement from Troy Vincent, NFL executive VP of football operations
"We are saddened to hear the news of Dennis Green's passing. Denny was a terrific head coach and inspired his players on and off the field. He helped pave the way for minority coaches and recently served as a key advisor on the NFL's Career Development Advisory Panel. On behalf of the NFL, our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Green family."
Arizona Cardinals era
Green's tenure with the Arizona Cardinals is remembered by many for his postgame outburst following a Monday Night Football loss to the Chicago Bears. The Cardinals blew a 20-point lead in less than 20 minutes that night, leading to the following postgame podium quote:
"The Bears are who we thought they were! And that's why we took the damn field. If you wanna crown 'em, then crown their ass! They are who we thought they were, and we let 'em off the hook!"
Statement from Arizona Cardinals president Michael Bidwell
"All of us at the Cardinals are incredibly saddened by the news of Dennis Green's passing. Coach Green will rightly be remembered as a true innovator, leader and pioneer among football coaches. We express our deepest sympathy to his family and his many friends."