MINNEAPOLIS — Dennis Green, a trailblazing coach who led a Vikings renaissance in the 1990s and helped Tony Dungy set the stage to become Bucs coach, died Thursday at 67.
Mr. Green's family posted a message on the Cardinals website Friday announcing the death. "His family was by his side, and he fought hard," the statement read. Other details were not disclosed, though the Cardinals said the cause was a heart attack.
"He did so much for me," tweeted Dungy, who in 1992 became Mr. Green's defensive coordinator with the Vikings. "Tomorrow not promised."
The Bucs hired Dungy in 1996.
"It's a tough, tough day, losing Denny," Dungy said. "He was making sure I was learning and making sure I had what I needed to learn for that next step. He was very intentional in putting me in the loop in what was going on with the team. Things like decisions he was making and the things I would need to know if I ever became a head coach. I owe a lot to him. It wasn't only important for Denny Green to be successful but for the rest of the guys on his staff to be successful."
Mr. Green was the first black head coach in Big Ten history when he took over Northwestern in 1981 and was the third black head coach in the NFL when the Vikings hired him in 1992.
"He was one of the forerunners, standard-bearers from an African-American standpoint," Vikings COO Kevin Warren said. "He then hired people and gave them opportunities."
Mr. Green led the Vikings to eight playoff appearances and two NFC championship games. He went out on a limb before the 1998 season, drafting Randy Moss at No. 21 after the receiver fell due to character concerns.
Moss was an immediate sensation.
Mr. Green went 4-8 in the postseason, one reason he was fired by Minnesota late in the 2001 season.
Mr. Green finished his three years in Arizona with a 16-32 record. Many remember his final season in Arizona in 2006 for a Monday night loss to Chicago, when the Bears rallied late from a 20-point deficit. Afterward, Mr. Green pounded the podium and yelled "The Bears are who we thought they were!" The line has been replayed endlessly since.
Mr. Green was well known for his "Denny-isms'' sayings. "Plan your work and work your plan," he would often say during practice and game preparation.
"I still use that 'Denny-ism' today," Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. "Coach Green is going to be missed dearly by everyone that was lucky enough to know him."
Green was an avid drummer, and Moss said Friday that "we had a team and one thing he taught us was to play to one beat. His legacy will live on."
ELLIOTT DENIES ACCUSATION: Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, accused of domestic abuse in Columbus, Ohio, denied the allegations to police. Elliott was not arrested or charged, and the case has been referred to the prosecutor's office. The team believes the allegations are suspect and that Elliott had been trying to end a relationship, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The woman, Tiffany Thompson, posted photos on her Instagram account showing bruises that she claims are the result of domestic abuse. Elliott said the bruises were a result of a bar fight Thompson had been in. Thompson said she was Elliott's live-in girlfriend.
Suspensions: Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell and Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones were each suspended four games for violation of the NFL's drug policy, according to reports. Bell is appealing. His suspension reportedly is due to a missed drug test, not a failed one.
REDSKINS: Linebacker Adam Hayward was released. Hayward had missed just five games in his first seven seasons with the Bucs, but in Washington was limited by injuries, playing 11 games in two seasons. Former Buc Mason Foster is among the linebacker options who will be in Redskins camp.