"His family was by his side and he fought hard," the family said in a statement to NFL.com.
Green coached the Vikings and Arizona Cardinals for 13 seasons, amassing a 113-94 record between the two teams.
Green got his first shot in the NFL with the Vikings after coaching the Stanford Cardinal, where he was influenced by Bill Walsh, and the Northwestern Wildcats. He was one of the first African-American head coaches in the NFL and his coaching tree with the Vikings included Tony Dungy and Brian Billick.
“We are incredibly saddened by the sudden passing of former Vikings Head Coach Dennis Green. Denny made his mark in ways far beyond being an outstanding football coach,” the Vikings said in a statement. “He mentored countless players and served as a father figure for the men he coached. Denny founded the Vikings Community Tuesday Program, a critical initiative that is now implemented across the entire NFL. He took great pride in helping assistant coaches advance their careers. His tenure as one of the first African American head coaches in both college and the NFL was also transformative. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Green family.”
Green coached the Vikings from 1992-2001, with his most memorable season being 1998, when the Vikings went 15-1 in the regular season before being upset in the NFC Championship Game by the Atlanta Falcons in overtime. That team – featuring Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Robert Smith and Randall Cunningham – set the NFL scoring record at 556 points, which has since been broken. His Vikings reached the conference championship game once again in the 2000 season before they were blown out by the New York Giants.
In taking over for the Vikings in 1992, Green declared that there was “a new sheriff in town” and got rid of several veteran players. Those who remained, however, found out that Green was very loyal to those he trusted.
“Rest in peace Denny. I lost my mother in April, I feel like I just lost father,” Smith tweeted Friday.
Green’s Vikings posted winning records in eight of his first nine seasons, but his early tenure with the team was marred by early exits in the playoffs before that 1998 team broke through to the conference championship game. His only losing season was in 2001, when he posted a 5-10 record before he was fired. He finished his Vikings career with a 97-62 record and four NFC Central Division titles, but he remained influential in the NFL.
“We are saddened to hear the news of Dennis Green’s passing,” NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said in a statement. “Denny was a terrific head coach and inspired his players on and off the field. He helped pave the way for minority coaches and recently served as a key advisor on the NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel. On behalf of the NFL, our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Green family.”
Green went 16-32 in three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
“All of us at the Cardinals are incredibly saddened by the news of Dennis Green’s passing,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwell said in a statement. “Coach Green will rightly be remembered as a true innovator, leader and pioneer among football coaches. We express our deepest sympathy to his family and his many friends.”