EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Dennis Green's stormy run with the
Minnesota Vikings ended abruptly Friday when he was forced out with
one game left in a grim season.
Green, whose 10-year tenure tied him with Pittsburgh's Bill
Cowher for longest in the league, accepted a buyout of the last two
years of his contract.
"I've been very blessed and very fortunate. The players have
been absolutely fantastic," said Green, who took no questions in
announcing his departure.
"This year we had to fight our way from close to the bottom,
and that's life in the National Football League," he added. "You
cannot love something and have passion for something only when it
goes the way you want it to go."
ESPN reported that Green will receive his salary in full for the next two seasons. Green receives $2.6 million in 2002 and $2.8 million in 2003 for a total of $5.4 million.
There's one restriction: If Green gets another head coach or general manager position, the
amount the new team pays Green is subtracted from what the Vikings owe him.
Green was only the second black head coach in modern NFL history
when he was hired in 1992. His dismissal leaves Tampa Bay's Tony
Dungy and the New York Jets' Herman Edwards as the league's only
black head coaches.
Offensive line coach Mike Tice was appointed interim head coach
for the team's finale Monday night at Baltimore. The Vikings are
0-7 on the road and have been beaten by the two teams that have
just one win -- Detroit and Carolina.
The Vikings are 5-10 and will miss the playoffs for the first
time since 1995. This is their first losing season under Green but
owner Red McCombs said the record wasn't the reason for the change.
McCombs alluded to the issue of control when he said he
"couldn't find a way for leadership with Dennis that worked."
"I admire Dennis a lot and appreciate what he's done," McCombs
said. "But I also know that we live by the fact there ain't never
a horse that can't be rode and there's never a cowboy that can't be
Tice called it a "very tough situation" before leaving to run
the team's first practice without Green.
"It's a great opportunity to lead coach Green's team into
Baltimore," he said.
Green was a popular coach, and many players were tearful about
his firing. Others were angry.
Travis Prentice, who was happy to get out of Cleveland when
Green acquired him in a trade in September, angrily threw his
jersey into his locker and wouldn't talk to reporters.
Safety Tyrone Carter was among several players who credited
Green for his personal success.
"He's one of the reasons I'm here," Carter said. "He believed
in his players, and gave you an opportunity to prove yourself."
"I don't know what to say, I'm as shocked as all of us,"
linebacker Jim Nelson said. "We have one game left, and this will
be a distraction a little bit, but we still have to play."
Under Green, the Vikings won four division titles and went to
the playoffs eight times. They also lost two heartbreaking NFC
championship games -- in 1998 when they were 15-1 and favored over
Atlanta, and last season when they were humiliated 41-0 by the New
Green guided the Vikings to the best record in the NFL over the
previous three seasons, but things got off to a rocky start in 2001
with the championship game loss. Then, on the second day of
training camp, offensive tackle Korey Stringer collapsed of
heatstroke. Stringer, a Pro Bowl player and team leader, died the
In recent weeks, wide receiver Randy Moss has been inconsistent
and said he only plays when he feels like it. Green was criticized
for appearing to tolerate Moss's attitude. And Green's relationship
with receiver Cris Carter, a longtime leader on the team, had
On Dec. 11, McCombs gave Green a vote of confidence despite the
turmoil. Asked then if he could say Green will be the Vikings'
coach next season, McCombs replied: "Yeah. Absolutely."
McCombs said he hadn't had time to compile a list of potential
replacements, but Tice appears to be one. ESPN reported that Dungy,
a former University of Minnesota quarterback and Vikings defensive
coordinator, would be a leading candidate. But a source close to
Dungy, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated
Press that it's unlikely Dungy would want the job.
University of Texas coach Mack Brown also has been mentioned as
a possible replacement. Brown said Friday he wouldn't comment on
the sudden Vikings opening.
Moss avoided reporters Friday. His agent, Dante DiTrapano, said
the wide receiver did not want to see Green leave.
"I could just tell you that if coach Green is gone, I'd say
that Randy is disappointed," DiTrapano said. "He's extremely
loyal to coach Green. ... Coach Green is the one he wants to play
Punter Mitch Berger said he respected McCombs' right to change
coaches, but said he was surprised to see Green go.
"When you walk through this building, the guy in charge is
Denny Green," Berger said. "And for that not to be anymore is
very strange to me."