American Football Database
For the Australian canoer, see Dennis Green (canoer).
Dennis Green
Biographical details
Born (1949-02-17) February 17, 1949 (age 73)
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Alma materIowa
Playing career
BC Lions
Position(s)Running back
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Dayton (RB/WR)
Iowa (RB)
Stanford (RB)
San Francisco 49ers (ST)
Stanford (OC)
San Francisco 49ers (WR)
Minnesota Vikings
Arizona Cardinals
Sacramento Mountain Lions
Head coaching record
Overall26–63 (college)
117–102 (NFL)
Tournaments4–8 (NFL playoffs)
College Football Data Warehouse

Dennis "Denny" Green (born February 17, 1949) is an American football coach, most recently head coach for the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League. During his National Football League career, Green coached the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals.

Green's best season in Minnesota was in 1998, when the record-setting Vikings finished 15–1 and set the NFL record for most points in a season (since broken by the 2007 New England Patriots). However, the Vikings lost in the NFC Championship Game, 30–27 to the Atlanta Falcons in overtime. Prior to Tony Dungy's victory in Super Bowl XLI, Green's 1998 season was the most successful season record ever by an African-American coach in the NFL. Despite compiling a record of 97–62 in the regular season with the Vikings, Green was unable to reach the Super Bowl.

Early life

Green grew up in a working class household in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His father was a postal worker and his mother a beautician. His father died when Green was 11 and his mother died when he was 13. Green has said that he was in attendance at the March 2, 1962 NBA game in Hershey, Pennsylvania where Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points.

Green attended John Harris High School (now Harrisburg High School) in Harrisburg, and graduated cum laude from the University of Iowa with a BA in finance.[1] According to Green, he was planning to be a high school teacher if his football career didn't pan out. In college he started as halfback in each of his three seasons with the Iowa Hawkeyes.[2] Green played briefly for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League in 1971, then worked as an assistant coach at the University of Dayton, University of Iowa and Stanford University, initially under Bill Walsh.

College coaching career

In 1981, Green was named the head coach of Northwestern University, a school that had gone 1-31-1 in its last 33 games. In 1981, he was only the second African American head coach in Division I-A history (the previous coach, Willie Jeffries, coached at Wichita State, which no longer has a football team).[3] Green was named the Big Ten Conference Coach of the Year, as chosen by writers and broadcasters, in 1982 at Northwestern.[4] He left Northwestern in 1985, doing a stint as receivers coach for the San Francisco 49ers under his former boss at Stanford, Bill Walsh.

In 1989, Green took the head coaching position at Stanford University, inheriting a team that had graduated 17 of its 21 starters from 1988. Green led the Cardinal from 1989 to 1991. During that time, his teams finished with an overall record of 16–18, a .471 winning percentage, going 3–0 in the Big Game against the California Golden Bears. In 1990, his Stanford team defeated the top-ranked Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. His tenure culminated with an 8–3 record (Stanford's best since 1986). A loss to Washington in the opening game of the season was the deciding factor for the PAC-10 championship. The Cardinal made an appearance in the 1991 Aloha Bowl, where his team lost to Georgia Tech on a last-minute touchdown.

Professional coaching career

Minnesota Vikings

Green was a disciple of Bill Walsh's West Coast offense and was touted by Walsh and other NFL pundits as a likely candidate to be the second African-American head coach in the NFL. On January 10, 1992, Green was named head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, replacing the retiring Jerry Burns. He would be only the second African American head coach after Art Shell in the modern NFL era, and only the third of all time after Fritz Pollard and Shell.

Through his first six years with the team, Green never posted a losing record and the team failed to qualify for the playoffs only once. Initially, Green earned widespread praise for turning around a what had recently been a lackluster franchise. However, as the team's fan-base grew accustomed to regular season success, Green came under criticism for failing to advance the team deeper into the playoffs.

In 1996, two members of the Vikings' ownership board, Wheelock Whitney and Jane Dyer, reportedly contacted Lou Holtz, who was the coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team and former coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team. They wanted to bring Holtz in to replace Green.[5] Holtz abruptly announced his retirement in 1996, and rumors surrounded the reasons, one of which was the possible Vikings head coaching position.[6]

In 1997, Green published his autobiography No Room For Crybabies, in which he responded to the criticism and perceived personal vendettas by Twin Cities sports writers Bob Sansevere, Dan Barreiro, and Patrick Reusse.[7] He threatened to sue the team as his response to the Lou Holtz rumors.[8] [9]

The high point of Green's Vikings career was the 1998 season, when the team went 15–1 and set the NFL record for the most points scored in a season (the 2007 New England Patriots under Bill Belichick currently hold this record). The Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship game, losing to the Atlanta Falcons in overtime after Vikings kicker Gary Anderson missed a field goal, and Atlanta's own Andersen made a field goal in overtime.

In 2001, the Vikings finished with a losing record for the first time in Green's decade with the team. The Vikings bought out Green's contract on January 4, 2002. Assistant coach Mike Tice led the team in their final regular season game against the Baltimore Ravens, and was eventually hired as the head coach.

Arizona Cardinals and press conference outburst

After spending two seasons as an analyst for ESPN, Green was hired as head coach by the Arizona Cardinals on January 7, 2004. Through his first two years with the team, Green totaled 11 wins with the Cardinals, sending players to the Pro Bowl, and finishing 3rd and 2nd in the NFC West, an improvement over predecessor Dave McGinnis. Unlike his previous two seasons, the 2006 season began with great expectations for the Cardinals with the opening of a new stadium, sellout crowds, the drafting of quarterback Matt Leinart, and the signing of Pro Bowl running back Edgerrin James. After a solid start, the Cardinals suffered some tough early losses. The worst of these came in a Monday Night Football game on October 16, 2006. After losing a 20-point lead over the Chicago Bears in less than twenty minutes, the generally soft-spoken Green threw a tirade during a post-game media conference. In that conference, Green lashed out in response to questions about Arizona's tenacious defense that forced six turnovers and for most of the game shut down the Chicago offense:[10]

The Bears are what we thought they were. They're what we thought they were. We played them in preseason — who the hell takes a third game of the preseason like it's bullshit? Bullshit! We played them in the third game — everybody played three quarters — the Bears are who we thought they were! That's why we took the damn field. Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let 'em off the hook!

The day after the press conference, offensive coordinator Keith Rowen was fired and replaced with quarterbacks coach Mike Kruczek. Though Green later apologized for the outburst, and the Cardinals eventually would rally to finish the season 4–3 in their last seven games, (including a rare win over playoff-bound Seattle) many pundits felt that the circumstances of the Cardinals' collapse against the Super Bowl-bound Bears on national television, combined with Green's tirade, had sealed his fate with the Cardinals. On January 1, 2007, the Arizona Cardinals fired Green, although he had a year left on his contract.[11]

Green's tirade is still used heavily in NFL media coverage today, often comically, to describe the obvious flaws of an opponent and the failure to capitalize on that knowledge. It was mocked in a Coors TV advertisement,[12] and during the Cardinals' 2008 NFC championship game, a sign in the crowd proclaimed "We are who we thought we were". In 2008, Green was interviewed for an NFL Network show on comebacks that covered the 2006 MNF Cardinals-Bears games, and he stated that "they are who we thought they were" referred to the Bears being a one-dimensional team that could not win if erratic quarterback Rex Grossman didn't have a strong running game taking pressure off of him. In the loss, Grossman actually committed six turnovers, but Arizona lost because Chicago scored two defensive TDs and got a Devin Hester punt return for the winning score, which held up when Arizona missed a field goal with seconds remaining.

Green's legacy at Arizona is mixed. When he arrived, the team had high expectations, and under Green the Cardinals failed to make a playoff appearance. However, he is credited with drafting and acquiring many of the players that formed the nucleus of the Cardinals' 2008 NFC West championship team.

In August 2007, the Westwood One radio network announced that it had hired Green to serve as a color analyst on their Thursday night NFL broadcasts.[13]

California Redwoods

On March 11, 2009, it was announced that Green would be the head coach of the San Francisco franchise for the United Football League's inaugural season.[14]

Green's first game as California Redwoods coach was a 30–17 loss to the Las Vegas Locomotives.[15]

Sacramento Mountain Lions

For the 2010 season, the Redwoods moved to Sacramento and renamed themselves the Mountain Lions. Green remained as head coach for 2010 and 2011. After three years, Green left the team and sued the league for lack of payment on a $1.5 million contract.[16]

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Northwestern Wildcats (Big Ten Conference) (1981–1985)
1981 Northwestern 0–11 0–9 10th
1982 Northwestern 3–8 2–7 T–8th
1983 Northwestern 2–9 2–7 T–8th
1984 Northwestern 2–9 2–7 9th
1985 Northwestern 3–8 1–7 T–9th
Northwestern: 10–45 7–37
Stanford Cardinal (Pacific-10 Conference) (1989–1991)
1989 Stanford 3–8 3–5 T–7th
1990 Stanford 5–6 4–4 T–6th
1991 Stanford 8–4 6–2 T–2nd L Aloha 22 22
Stanford: 16–18 13–11
Total: 26–63
#Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.


Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
MIN 1992 11 5 0 .688 1st in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Washington Redskins in NFC Wild-Card Game.
MIN 1993 9 7 0 .562 2nd in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to New York Giants in NFC Wild-Card Game.
MIN 1994 10 6 0 .625 1st in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Chicago Bears in NFC Wild-Card Game.
MIN 1995 8 8 0 .500 4th in NFC Central
MIN 1996 9 7 0 .562 2nd in NFC Central 0 1 .000 Lost to Dallas Cowboys in NFC Wild-Card Game.
MIN 1997 9 7 0 .562 4th in NFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to San Francisco 49ers in NFC Divisional Game.
MIN 1998 15 1 0 .938 1st in NFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to Atlanta Falcons in NFC Championship Game.
MIN 1999 10 6 0 .625 2nd in NFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to St. Louis Rams in NFC Divisional Game.
MIN 2000 11 5 0 .688 1st in NFC Central 1 1 .500 Lost to New York Giants in NFC Championship Game.
MIN 2001* 5 10 0 .333 4th in NFC Central
MIN Total 97 62 0 .610 4 8 .333
ARZ 2004 6 10 0 .375 3rd in NFC West
ARZ 2005 5 11 0 .313 3rd in NFC West
ARZ 2006 5 11 0 .313 4th in NFC West
ARZ Total 16 32 0 .333
Total[17] 113 94 0 .546 4 8 .333

*Only coached 15 games

United Football League

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CAL 2009 2 4 0 .333 3rd in UFL
SAC 2010 4 4 0 .500 3rd in UFL
SAC 2011 2 3 0 .400 3rd in UFL
Total 8 11 0 .421 -

Coaching tree

NFL head coaches under whom Dennis Green has served:

Assistant coaches under Green who have become NFL head coaches:

Other prominent coaches:


  2. Iowa City Press-Citizen, 1969-12-25 (all-Big-Ten honorable mention for Green).
  3. Black Coaches Association – Default
  4. Big Ten Conference – Football media guide
  5. Vikings' owners divided on Holtz. Ron Holtz. Associated Press. November 19, 1996. copy hosted on
  6. VIKINGS' GREEN SAYS HIS TEAM'S IN HUNT Lee Shappell. Arizona Republic
  7. Robson, Britt (January 14, 1998). "Personal Foul". City Pages.
  8. Green, Dennis; Gene McGivern (November 1997). No Room For Crybabies. Sagamore Publishing. p. 224. ISBN 1-57167-175-7. "There's no room for crybabies."
  9. Seidel, Jeff (October 25, 1997). "Will Vikings throw the book at Green?". St. Paul Pioneer-Press. Archived from the original on October 25, 1997.
  10. YouTube – Dennis Green Flips
  11. Yahoo! Sports – Sports News, Scores, Rumors, Fantasy Games, and more
  12. [1]
  13. Thursday Night Football on Westwood One
  14. "United Football League Announces Former NFL Coaches Jim Fassel, Dennis Green, Jim Haslett & Ted Cottrell as Head Coaches for "UFL Premiere" Season". Reuters. 2009-03-11.
  15. Associated Press (October 9, 2009). "Las Vegas beats California in UFL debut".
  16. McMorris, Bill (August 16, 2012). Former NFL head coach Dennis Green sues husband of House minority leader for breach of contract. Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  17. Dennis Green Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks –

External links