EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — It was a year ago this week that Dennis Green blew the lid off the Minnesota Vikings’ muddled ownership situation with the final chapter in his curiously timed autobiography.
The organization hasn’t been the same since. In fact, it’s never been better.
Eight months of turmoil followed the release of Green’s book last Oct. 24. But since Red McCombs bought the team in July, the Vikings haven’t lost a game (10-0, including the four exhibitions), have sold out every home game and have rekindled the dying fan allegiance that only last season drove season-ticket sales to a franchise low.
“There was a feeling, in my opinion, that you were foolish if you supported the Vikings,” Green said. “I think it was clear. It was as if, if the team doesn’t go 8-0 at home, the team should be better. Even if the team was 6-2, nothing the team did was ever good enough. I think Red McCombs brought an idea that if you don’t support the team you’re being foolish.”
The Vikings have made that notion an easy sell for the Texas car salesman, and for that Green gets much of the credit.
He has weathered a stormy tenure — some of which he created himself, some that was brought on by the stingy previous 10-person ownership group — to build an explosive team that seems ready to recapture the glory of the 1970s, when the Vikings went to the Super Bowl three times in a four-year stretch.
On the brink of being fired last January and without a contract beyond the end of this season as recently as the first week of September, Green now is signed through 2001 and leads the NFC’s only unbeaten team. He is being recognized for his ability as a coach rather than the controversy that once surrounded him off the field.
“I think he’s done an outstanding job, as have his coaches, and the organization,” said Detroit coach Bobby Ross. “Denny is probably one of the top two or three coaches in the National Football League.”
Green’s life also is as settled off the field as it has been in years. The target of sexual harassment allegations in 1995 (he vehemently denied them), Green lost 60 pounds last offseason, is expecting his second child with his second wife next month and remains as active as any NFL coach in the community.
On Tuesday, he was named the national spokesman for the White House-sponsored National Coachathon Against Drugs, which runs from Friday through Oct. 30. Earlier in the day, Green was directing traffic, signing autographs and collecting donations at team headquarters for a clothing drive to benefit the Epilepsy Foundation.
The company that published his book recently asked to re-issue it with some changes. Green, whose hardcover version sold out the limited 8,000-copy run last year, declined — for now. A trip to the Super Bowl could change those plans.
“We’re chomping at the bit back here,” said Mike Pearson, vice president of acquisitions for Sports Publishing Inc. “But we’re abiding by his wishes to put it on hold until the time comes.”
Said Green: “If somebody’s interested in reading the book, just go to the library.”