Green Watched Film, Appoints Emmitt

Some around the NFL were shocked when Dennis Green named Emmitt Smith as his starting running back. But it shouldn't come as a surprise, given Smith's key role in keeping the Vikings out of the 2003 playoffs.

Dennis Green's first game as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals is going to be a preseason tilt at his former home, the Metrodome, when the Cards come to town. When they do, future Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith will be Green's starting running back.

Many thought this might be the end of the line for Smith, who has clearly shown the signs of wear and tear from being the focal point of the Cowboys offense for a decade. But Green, who has always been a proponent of playing veterans, needed to see just one thing in his film study of the Cardinals to make his decision -- Smith's fourth-quarter performance in the Cardinals' crushing defeat of the Vikings in the regular-season finale.

For those who watched those painful final minutes, what may have been missed by casual observers was Smith's role in the comeback. While he didn't make any huge plays for long touchdowns, any fans (i.e. masochists) who still have the game on film should check out Smith's fourth-quarter performance -- you can be sure that Green did.

In watching the film, you can see Smith with his team still two touchdowns behind, emploring his offensive linemen to get off the ball and get the team back to the line of scrimmage. He didn't do it just once. He did it several times. This saved his team valuable seconds that, as it turned out, they would need.

Many players, including some key current and former Vikings, likely wouldn't have played with that level of passion -- much less for a team that entered the game with a 3-12 record and were throwing an inexperienced quarterback to the wolves. Green, who spent much of time going over game film of his new team, saw this and was impressed with the kind of work ethic that would spawn such a reaction from a player with championship rings and a ticket to Canton already punched.

Will Smith be the answer for the entire season? Not a chance. He simply can't handle the 300-350 carry workload a featured back must endure. But what he showed at the end of a meaningless game with nothing at stake (other than losing out on the first pick of the draft) showed VU a lot -- and apparently Green as well.

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