Q&A: With Dennis Green

It's been a trying year for Vikings coach Dennis Green, with a rash of injuries and inconsistent efforts, but he has been handling the questions on a variety of topics.

Vikings head coach Dennis Green has won the NFC Central Division four times in his nine seasons with the Vikings and made the playoffs via the wild-card berth four more times. Green is now in his 10th season as head coach, but his best season was 1998, when he led the team to a 15-1 regular-season mark and an NFC Championship game appearance. He is also the Vikings' vice president of football operations.

While dealing with free agency, Green has led the Vikings to the playoffs with seven different starting quarterbacks — Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George and Daunte Culpepper.

Prior to coming to the Vikings, Green coached Iowa, Dayton, Northwestern and Stanford in the college ranks and was an assistant with San Francisco in the NFL.

Q: When was the last time you had a season with so many injuries during your coaching career?

A: We had one before. I'm not sure when it was. But it's been a tough year for us because what it comes down to is what is your starting lineup when you go into the season, and then how many guys have you lost along the way, how many games have they missed. And they make a difference. You lose a lot of close ballgames, and we have. Games, whether it be Pittsburgh or Chicago, both times, the game (against Detroit). Those games are closer games that could go either way. When you win, let's say last year you are 10-2 or you're 11-3, you won a lot of close ballgames. There is no way you are going to go out and blow everybody out. Those ballgames that we won last year, we have not been able to win this year.

Q: Do you take a lot of pride in the fact that your team was 5-2 at home entering the Jacksonville game?

A: We do. We've got some great fans. We're one of the few, probably out of 31 teams in the National Football League, there are probably seven teams that have 100 percent attendance. We're one of them. Some teams have 98 or 97 and some teams have fallen off a lot more than that. But we've had 64,106 plus, which is our maximum capacity, every single game. I think when Viking fans come into the stadium they expect us to win. We've got a 5-2 record. We would love to get that record to be 6-2. We think 6-8 is a lot better record than 5-9. So we're looking to come out and have a great game. I think the fans will expect us to have a great game. I think the fans will come into the stadium to be ready to roll. So we'll be ready to do that.

Q: If you had to put your finger on the one reason this team is in the position it is, what would it be?

A: It wouldn't be one thing. It would be a lot of things. I think, as I've mentioned, we've lost a lot of close ballgames. We have not had a lot of good luck. You need a little luck. If you're going to be 10-3, you've got to have a little luck. We've had a lot of injuries, including Daunte (Culpepper). I think all of those things add up and I think that's the difference probably between being 8-5 and 5-8.

Q: Do you project Patrick Chukwurah as a linebacker or defensive end?

A: I think he's an end. I see Chuck as a guy that has to learn to play end at 260, 270 pounds. He's about 255 now, but he's a very explosive player. He missed some games because of injury, but I think now that he is getting into a groove we expect him to really finish strong as a nickel rusher. There's a role. You can be a nickel rusher. That's enough for a guy to go out and do real well at it because of the amount of plays he gets. He'll get a lot of plays playing that position because they use a lot of three wide receivers, and we think he'll be effective. He's a very explosive football player.

Q: Has he been a surprise?

A: No. We thought he was a pretty ferocious player coming out. He's very fast and quick. He had an excellent preseason. It's just that, again, he wound up getting some injuries and it slowed him down.

Q: Does the fact you've had to make so many lineup adjustments this season present more challenges?

A: That's part of it. We're not going to cry about it. We are what we are. … We've got a great group of young guys. I love coaching them. I think our guys come out still with a great deal of enthusiasm and passion for the game. We've had to do a lot of adjusting, but it's created some opportunities for other guys to play, and they are anxious to go out on the field and show that they deserve to play.

Q: You acquired Stalin Colinet because you wanted to get bigger against the run. Do you think that is still an issue?

A: I think Stalin has made some big plays for us since we got him. We would like to be a little bigger in certain spots and then quick in other spots. I think our run defense has just been average. We have not been able to shut people down like we'd like to, but there have been some games when we have. We probably played our best defensive game against Ahman Green, and hardly anybody has ever shut him down, and Eddie George. Then we've had some other games where we haven't played quite as well. But Stalin has helped us. He's helped us because he can play outside or inside. He's helped us. He's batted down some balls. He's helped us defend the left side. VU

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