February is Black History Month, a time to reflect and honor important African-American figures who have made an impact on society and sports.
Chad Graff of The Athletic recently highlighted former Vikings Head Coach Dennis Green and the impact he had on both the organization and the NFL.
Green, who passed away July 22, 2016, at the age of 67, coached in Minnesota from 1992 to 2001. He won 97 regular-season games with the Vikings, which ranks second in franchise history.
Green’s teams won division titles four times and advanced to the NFC Championship Game after the 1998 and 2000 seasons.
Graff wrote that Green, who was the first African-American head coach in Vikings history, third in NFL history and second in the modern era, opened doors for numerous coaches and players across the league.
Graff chatted with former Vikings safety Robert Griffith about the impact Green had on him and the NFL.
For many players, their time with the Vikings was the first time they played for a black head coach.
“This is just being real,” Griffith said, “it was never hard to understand that you were playing for a black coach when you were playing for him. I’m saying that matter of factly. We got treated differently (as black players) — from the NFL in general, from the referees in general. In the early ’90s, you weren’t getting any calls in Dallas or Green Bay. You’re just not. And you really weren’t getting any if you were with Denny. So we knew extremely well who we were playing for and what it represented. You know what, for Black History Month, go back and look at our team.”
His point was simple. Under Green, the Vikings had star black quarterbacks (Warren Moon then Randall Cunningham then Daunte Culpepper) and a black wide receiver taking the country by storm (Randy Moss). Their best offensive lineman was black (Randall McDaniel), as was their best defensive lineman (Randle).
“We rolled up to games looking like an R&B band,” Griffith said.
Green made the playoffs in eight of 10 seasons in Minnesota, with his most memorable campaign coming in 1998.
The Vikings went 15-1 that season and reached the NFC Championship as Minnesota’s offense racked up 556 points, which set an NFL record at the time.
In 1998, their popularity exploded. The Vikings led the NFL in points, yards per play, and passing touchdowns. They were as fun to watch on TV as any. Moss became a household name and their hotels became flooded with fans.
“In 1998, we were like the freaking Beatles,” Patterson said. “There were fans everywhere we went. We had a black head coach, a black quarterback, the new young phenom had hit the scene in Randy Moss and the whole country was excited about the Vikings.”
At the team’s practice facility, Green remained the same. He arrived around 5 a.m. and made his way through about six different newspapers before turning his attention to that week’s opponent. He played the drums when he needed to take his mind off things and talked about offseason fishing plans. And he always had jazz or R&B playing through the speakers in his office.
CBS Sports lists Barr as one of top free-agent linebackers
The free agency period officially opens up in 20 days, meaning dozens of players could chose to re-sign with their old teams or move on to a new one.
The Vikings have a handful of free agents on the roster, including linebacker Anthony Barr, whom CBS Sports listed as one of the top options for teams at his position.
Sean Wagner-McGough said Barr’s recent production make him a top target for teams looking to help their defense.
The top-10 pick of the Vikings has pretty consistently been a good, not great, player in Mike Zimmer's defense. He's capable of rushing the passer, evidenced by his 13.5 sacks in five seasons despite not being asked to rush the passer on a consistent basis. PFF noted that Barr led all linebackers in pass-rushing productivity percentage with 23 pressures on 94 pass-rushing opportunities. And according to Sports Info Solutions, he missed one tackle against the run last season.
Perhaps most importantly, he'll be 27 when next season begins, so whoever ends up signing him should be getting him for the remaining years of his prime.
The Vikings can use the franchise tag on Barr or sign him to a contract extension if they choose to bring him back to Minnesota.
Barr has made four straight Pro Bowls as a key player on Minnesota’s defense.