Green out as Vikings coach

He accepts buyout of final two years on his contract

January 05, 2002|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

After months of unrest and two days of rampant speculation, Dennis Green accepted a buyout of the final two years of his contract yesterday and stepped down as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

Assistant head coach Mike Tice, who quarterbacked the University of Maryland in the 1980 Tangerine Bowl, will replace Green for Monday night's season finale in Baltimore against the Ravens.

Green, 52, had been under scrutiny in Minnesota for reasons ranging from wide receiver Randy Moss' behavior to his refusal to fire longtime confidant Richard Solomon, who is the Vikings' inside linebackers coach and director of pro personnel.

Green and team owner Red McCombs had planned to meet Tuesday to discuss issues that had surfaced in recent months. But when ESPN reported Thursday afternoon that the coach would be fired at that meeting unless McCombs changed his mind, Green essentially forced McCombs' hand.

"Dennis had informed me several days ago that there were issues that concerned him," McCombs said in a news conference at the team's training facility yesterday. "I really thought we'd be working next week on those issues."

Green, who was also vice president for football operations and had authority over all personnel moves, held his own news conference earlier in the day. He took no questions, but wished the Vikings well and said he would take the "high road."

So ended the 10-year marriage between Green and the Vikings. During that time, Green posted a 97-62 record and took them to eight playoffs and two NFC championship games, but not the Super Bowl.

The Vikings are 5-10 this season, the first losing season in Green's tenure and only his second non-playoff campaign.

"Last year we were very close to the top, but this year we had to fight our way from close to the bottom, and that's life in the National Football League," Green said. "You cannot love something and have passion for something only when it goes the way you want it to go."

The Vikings were 11-2 at one point last season. They've won just six of 20 games since then, including a 41-0 loss to the New York Giants in last year's NFC championship game.

McCombs insisted that the Vikings' record this season was not a factor in Green's departure.

"I admire Dennis a lot and I 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 throwed."

Green reportedly will receive his full salary - $5.4 million - for the next two seasons under terms of the buyout. He signed a two-year extension only last year.

Green was only the second black head coach in modern NFL history when he was hired in 1992. The only other black coaches in the league today are Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay and Herman Edwards with the New York Jets.

The issue of control seems at the heart of the unrest. There were reports that McCombs would strip Green of his personnel duties in the off-season. There was also a report that Green nearly quit last November after a 28-16 victory over the Giants.

Said McCombs: "I personally feel like I failed in that I couldn't have found some way that we still would've had leadership with Dennis. But that didn't work."

McCombs insisted he had not reached a decision to fire Green.

He called Tice a candidate for the job, but said he had not yet put together a list.

Tice played at Maryland from 1978 through 1980. He was the quarterback in the 1980 Tangerine Bowl, which Maryland lost to Florida, 35-20. Tice played tight end with three teams (Seattle, Washington and Minnesota) in the NFL, and joined the Vikings' coaching staff in 1996.

"This is a very tough situation for me because of the admiration I have for Dennis Green," Tice said.

There should be several coaching openings in the NFL this off-season, but one situation that might attract Green is the Oakland Raiders' job if Jon Gruden departs. Raiders owner Al Davis is known to be fond of Green. Green's record

Regular season

Year Team...............W.....L.....T.... ..Pct

1992 Minnesota.....11....5......0..... .688

1993 Minnesota......9.....7......0...... .563

1994 Minnesota....10.... 6......0...... .625

1995 Minnesota......8.....8......0...... .500

1996 Minnesota......9.... 7......0....... .625

1997 Minnesota......9.....7......0........ .625

1998 Minnesota.....15....1......0......... .938

1999 Minnesota.....10... 6..... 0......... .625

2000 Minnesota..... 11... 5.....0......... .688

2001 Minnesota.......5....10....0......... .333

Totals........................97...62....0...........610

Postseason

.......................................W L Pct

8 appearances............4.... 8.... .333

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Minnesota Vikings

Site: PSINet Stadium

When: Monday, 9 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 2, 7/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 10

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