The 2001 season brings with it a lot of expectations on the Vikings front, but nowhere is it being more focused that on coach Dennis Green. Although he has led the Vikings to the playoffs in all but one of his seasons as coach and is the only coach to lead his team to the playoffs each of the last five years, Green has been the constant center of controversy among the Minnesota media and, despite past success, the future is what is the concern now.
Green has been unfairly blamed for many of the team's current salary cap woes, although he wasn't the general manager at the time of most of the signings before and during the 1998 season. Now as the Vikings try to dig themselves out of the hole created by the cap -- more than $13 million of the team's 2001 salary cap number is assigned to players no longer with the team -- he is forced to make due with less than he would like to or Red McCombs could afford to have.
The task facing Green this season will be under the microscope of the media and of McCombs, who is a businessman who can be swayed by public opinion. Green's first-round draft selections of Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper and Michael Bennett have set the cornerstone for the Vikings offensive future and he has made limited efforts through the draft and free agency to shore up a weakened defense.
One question that will be answered this year is whether defensive coaches Emmitt Thomas and Willie Shaw will be able to elevate the Vikings defense from its current lowly standing to a unit that can get the Vikings back to the NFC Championship Game and perhaps get the game at the Metrodome instead of a blustery outdoor stadium.
If the Vikings struggle this season, the call will come out once again to get rid of Green -- something VU has been told won't happen under any circumstances after this season. However, if Green can get the Vikings back deep into the playoffs once again, he should be named NFC Coach of the Year. With no disrespect to the Saints or Eagles, Green should have won the honor last year.
Green Will Again Be Focus In 2001
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