Dennis Green, a pioneering black head coach who led the Vikings to a consistent run of excellence in the 1990s, died Thursday. He was 67.
The cause was cardiac arrest, his family announced.
When he took over as coach of the Vikings in 1992, Green was only the second black head coach in N.F.L. history, after Art Shell was made head coach of the Raiders in 1989. Though he was a consistent winner in Minnesota, he was let down by his teams’ postseason performances and never made it to a Super Bowl as head coach.
Green was born in Harrisburg, Pa., the youngest of five boys. His father died when he was 11, and his mother died when he was 13. Thereafter, he was raised by his grandparents.
He played football at Iowa and started his coaching career as an assistant in 1973 at Dayton, earning $6,000 a year before moving his way up the ladder to jobs at Iowa and Stanford. When Stanford head coach Bill Walsh was hired by the San Francisco 49ers, he gave Green his first taste of the N.F.L., bringing him along as a special teams coach in 1979.
Green landed his first head coaching job at perennial losers Northwestern in 1981 and coached there for four years without ever winning more than three games in a season. Still, he was named Big Ten coach of the year in 1982 for engineering upsets of Minnesota and Michigan State.
“That’s where I learned to take my ego completely out of it,” Green said. “You weren’t going to a bowl game every year, and you weren’t going to win as many games as you liked. But you could graduate kids and leave every game with 100 percent pride.”
He had more success as the head coach at…