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Green is out as Vikings coach
By Brandt Williams
Minnesota Public Radio
January 4, 2002
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The Minnesota Vikings have fired head coach Denny Green. Green announced that he has accepted a contract buyout and will not be on the sidelines for the season's final game Monday night. The Vikings are 5-10 and will not make the playoffs for only the second time in Green's 10 years with the team. However, Vikings owner Red McCombs says the team's dismal record wasn't a factor in his decision.

Dennis Green
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Audio: Green reacts to firing
MPR Forum: Discuss the firing with others

(MPR Photo/Brandt Williams)

"I will no longer be the head football coach and vice president of football operations for the Minnesota Vikings," said Dennis Green. With his trademark stoicism, Green announced his departure from the Minnesota Vikings at a hastily called news conference at the team's headquarters.

Green says he reached agreement with team owner Red McCombs over the final two years of his contract, which is worth about $5 million.

As members of the team stood solemnly in the back of the Vikings weight room, Green expressed his admiration for the players he's worked with over the past 10 years.

Green has been credited for developing the talents of players who were castoff by other teams. He says he's glad to have worked with them.

"Some guys who most people never thought would have played in the National Football League, but they were lookijng for an opportunity. Those are the type of players that made up the 10 years that we've been here with the Minnesota Vikings. What we try to do is treat them all the same. We try to give them all an opportunity to reach their goals to reach their dreams to be successful. And that's something I've enjoyed," he said.

Green's project players include standout receivers Randy Moss and Cris Carter, both of whom came to the Vikings with troubled pasts.

For awhile, Carter and Moss controlled their attitudes and focused on catching passes and scoring spectacular touchdowns. However, as the Vikings began playing poorly and losing games this season, both became known more for their behavior on the sidelines than on the field.

"The criteria for the next coach is real and is established and that is to go to Super Bowl."

- Red McCombs, Vikings owner
Listen to an extended interview.

Fans and commentators speculated that Green lost control of his star players.

Owner Red McCombs was not specific about what led to Green's departure, but acknowledged he and Green had some issues that they couldn't resolve. McCombs was more specific on how the next coach will be judged.

"The criteria for the next coach is real and is established and that is to go to Super Bowl," McCombs said. McCombs named offensive line coach Mike Tice as the interim head coach. He will lead the Vikings in their final game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens Monday night.

Tice says he's glad to take the team reins, but does so with mixed feelings. "You know, this is a very tough situation for me because of the admiration I have for Dennis Green and his program. I've been with Dennis a long time. It's a great opportunity to lead Dennis Green's football team into Baltimore with all the great players and coaches we have to try and beat an old friend, Brian Billick, and knock him out of the playoffs," Tice said.

D.J. Boyer
D.J. Boyer, a senior writer at, says despite Denny Green's overall winning record, he thinks the Vikings made the right decision in letting him go. (Listen)

(MPR interview from All Things Considered)

Dennis Green was the most successful Vikings coach besides the legendary Bud Grant, who led the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances. Green achieved a record of 97 wins, 62 losses, four NFC Central titles and eight playoff berths. But unlike Grant, Green was at the center of several controversial incidents during his tenure with the team.

In 1995, the coach was accused of sexually harrassing women associated with the team. Green denied any wrongdoing and he and the team refused to confirm a settlement.

Two years later he published an autobiography with a chapter that appears to threaten a lawsuit for controlling interest.

Before this season, the most frequent on-field complaint has been Green's failure to take talented teams to the Super Bowl.

Green's first losing season gave fans something new to grumble about.

Former Viking Jim Marshall says he thinks fans today are a little more impatient than the Vikings fans of old. However, he can understand their frustration. "You got some very highly paid players here who are paid to go out and put on winning performances and certainly if I were a fan and I were looking at it the standpoint of how much I had to pay to go see a game I would be outraged," Marshall said.

Marshall says he thinks Green did a great job as coach. He also says Green stayed longer with the Vikings than most NFL coaches stay with teams today, regardless of how many championships they win.

"Look at Dallas and what happened down there. Here's a guy who comes in and wins a couple Super Bowls for them and they turn around and get rid of them. You never know," he said.

Owner McCombs said he hadn't had time to compile a list of potential replacements for Green.