Wolves Circling Around Green

For years, members of the Twin Cities have sought to get rid of Dennis Green. Now that subject is heating up again as details of his contract extension come out.

For years, Dennis Green always seemed one loss away from being fired -- much to the delight of several local media types in newspapers, radio and television.

Green has had an adversarial relationship with the local media almost since the day he was hired. At his opening press conference, a columnist for a Minneapolis paper, who is rumored to have double-dated with Napoleon, broke into a curse-laden screaming jag at then-president Roger Headrick, since it was believed Pete Carroll was going to be hired to replace Jerry Burns.

Since then, the relationship with the opinion makers of the Twin Cities has always been anti-Green. He has been chided for clock management, turning players against the media and, when they had nothing else to complain about, even his weight became an issue.

For the past three seasons, Green was able to avoid that talk, only bringing the venom out when the team fell apart in playoff games. Prior to that, it went in increments -- you have to make the playoffs to keep your job, then you had to win a playoff game to keep your job, then you had to win two playoff games, etc.

This season, however, Green has been made to blame for the collapse of the Vikings and the subject of firing Green has become a very real prospect. While Red McCombs has said nothing bad about Green publicly -- he's stood behind him to date -- VU reported on his reaction leaving Philadelphia. He was disgusted and expected more from his team and from Green.

The talk of firing Green has heated up extensively and the latest development has been requests from several media types, including VU, concerning the status of Green's contract. He was given a three-year extension worth a reported $9 million that would keep him as the Vikings coach through 2004. But now, those numbers are coming into question.

In actuality if the Vikings were to fire Green, the team would be on the hook for $5 million at most, since the final year of the contract was a team option to pick up and not guaranteed money. Of course, if Green would be fired and hired by another team for a comparable salary, the Vikings wouldn't owe him anything.

The mere discussion of such matters is the starting point of handwriting on the wall. At this point, it's illegible graffiti, because McCombs hasn't shown any public indication that Green is on the chopping block. But, it is giving fodder for Green's vocal media detractors and a chance to get their pent-up venom out, and it looks only to get worse.

* The Vikings are still concerned about their thinning linebacker corps, which has seen Ed McDaniel, Kailee Wong and Jim Nelson all trying to play through injuries. For that reason, the team announced the signing of LB Andre O'Neal Tuesday. O'Neal, who played at Marshall with Randy Moss and Doug Chapman, was an undrafted free agent who signed with Kansas City in 2000. He was cut a month into the season this year and, after being picked up by Green Bay, was released Oct. 29. He is expected to back up at weakside linebacker and play special teams.
* The Titans, like the Vikings, are injury-plagued and not looking at the playoffs -- although Jeff Fisher isn't being viewed as a casualty. The team has QB Steve McNair expected to play with a sore left elbow that needed X-rays Monday, while OT Brad Hopkins has a broken left hand, WR Chris Sanders will try to play with a back injury, CB's DeRon Jenkins and Donald Mitchell are both question marks with knee injuries and safeties Blaine Bishop (hand/foot) and Daryl Porter (ankle/knee) -- both starters -- are likely going to miss Sunday's game.
* One interesting development from last week with the Titans came from Eddie George. The RB has been dogged with injuries all year and, while he came out last Sunday to have his sore ankle re-taped, Skip Hicks came in to replace him. Hicks played so well, he spelled George for much of the second half, that he finished with 10 carries for 51 yards.

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