The day after former Vikings coach Dennis Green died from a heart attack in July 2016, the team formally opened U.S. Bank Stadium — a building chief operating officer Kevin Warren said might not be there if not for Green’s hand in guiding the Vikings’ current ownership group.
Warren recalled on July 28, 2016 how Green had called him back in 2004 to inform him Vikings owner Red McCombs was thinking about selling the team and suggest Warren put together a group to buy it. Less than a year later, the Wilf family purchased the Vikings from McCombs for $600 million.
“But for that phone call from [Green] that day,” Warren said, “I don’t know if the Wilf family would own this team.”
This fall, Green will be honored in the building that figures to be the Wilfs’ crowning achievement as Vikings owners.
The team announced Monday that Green — who won the second-most games in Vikings history — will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor on Sept. 23 against the Buffalo Bills.
“Dennis Green’s impact on the Minnesota Vikings, and really the entire NFL, is still felt to this day,” Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf said in a statement. “In addition to being widely regarded as one of the NFL’s top coaches, Denny was also known as a great mentor and leader by all who had the fortune of being in his presence. We’re extremely honored to forever memorialize Denny and his family in the Vikings Ring of Honor and we’re looking forward to the induction in September.”
Green, who coached the Vikings from 1992-2001, became the second African-American head coach in the modern NFL era. He led the Vikings to the playoffs eight times in 10 years, taking them to the NFC Championship Game after the 1998 and 2000 seasons. When Randy Moss — whom Green pushed to draft in 1998 after the receiver fell to the 21st spot — was announced as a Ring of Honor inductee last year, he was asked what he’d say to Green if he could still talk to him. Moss responded with a tearful eulogy that underscored what Green had meant to his career.
“I really don’t know why I was treated the way I was treated on draft day,” Moss said on June 14, 2017. “But, Coach Green gave me an opportunity, man. I told him, ‘Coach, you’re not going to regret this.’ So, you ask me what I would say to him? Man, I’d probably just fall in his arms and give him a hug. Man, it’s no words that I could tell him. The man passed away without me really, really giving him my love and thanks for what he was able to do for me and my family, man. There was a lot of teams out there that passed on me for wrong reasons. Coach Green gave me that opportunity. So, when all of y’all Vikings fans are sitting up here going back in the past, remembering the teams that I played on, the teams that Ahmad played on, the teams that Coach Green coached. Man, however you feel about me, you can feel. But if you feel a good way about me, Coach Green brought me here. Whatever talents I was able to showcase, he helped me do that. Just fall in his arms and give him a big hug, man. That’s my man. You see how emotional I am about him, I’m very thankful to be able to cross paths with Coach Green.”
Green will be the Vikings’ only Ring of Honor inductee in 2018, the team announced. The Vikings informed the late coach’s wife Marie of the honor on Friday.