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Dennis Green And The Revolving Quarterback Door

I think I know why Green looks so happy

I think I know why Green looks so happy

Dennis Green passed away on Friday at the age of 67. Green’s most memorable team, of course, was the 1998 Vikings that went 15-1. And we all know what his most memorable moment was. But Green’s entire career was memorable, particularly for the way his career intertwined with some of the most interesting quarterbacks of his era.

Green coached in 219 games in the NFL, including playoffs. Warren Moon, who forever changed the path of black quarterbacks in the NFL, was his starting quarterback in 40 of those games. Daunte Culpepper, who was part of the 1999 class that represented the inflection point for black quarterbacks in the first round of the draft, was Green’s quarterback in 29 games. Randall Cunningham and Jeff George, two of the most talented quarterbacks in recent history, started 27 and 12 games for Green.

Late-bloomers like Brad Johnson (24), Kurt Warner (15), and Rich Gannon (12) started games under Green. So too, did Jim McMahon (12). Green coached Josh McCown and Matt Leinart, and somehow McCown — who is four years older than Leinart — is the one still in the league.

There have been 35 coaches since 1960 to coach in at least 175 games (Green coached for 207 regular season games). Of those coaches, 32 had one quarterback for at least 20% of those games, but Green joins Mike Shanahan and Marty Schottenheimer (no surprise to regular readers) as the only coaches to fall below that mark:

Bill Belichick336Tom Brady22366.4%
Hank Stram238Len Dawson15263.9%
Marv Levy264Jim Kelly16060.6%
Tom Coughlin320Eli Manning18357.2%
Don Coryell195Dan Fouts11056.4%
Sam Wyche191Boomer Esiason10756.0%
Tony Dungy208Peyton Manning11253.8%
Andy Reid272Donovan McNabb14252.2%
George Seifert176Steve Young8548.3%
Marvin Lewis208Carson Palmer9746.6%
Weeb Ewbank194Joe Namath9046.4%
Chuck Noll342Terry Bradshaw15846.2%
Jeff Fisher326Steve McNair13140.2%
John Fox224Jake Delhomme9040.2%
Norv Turner239Philip Rivers9640.2%
Mike Holmgren272Brett Favre10940.1%
Dan Reeves359John Elway14239.6%
Dick Vermeil229Ron Jaworski8738.0%
Don Shula490Dan Marino18437.6%
Bud Grant259Fran Tarkenton9335.9%
Chuck Knox334Dave Krieg11434.1%
Bill Parcells303Phil Simms10133.3%
Lovie Smith176Jay Cutler5631.8%
Bill Cowher240Kordell Stewart7531.3%
Tom Flores184Jim Plunkett5731.0%
Jim Mora231Bobby Hebert6929.9%
Mike Ditka216Jim McMahon6128.2%
Joe Gibbs248Joe Theismann6827.4%
Tom Landry418Roger Staubach11427.3%
Jon Gruden176Rich Gannon4827.3%
Ted Marchibroda186Bert Jones4926.3%
Lou Saban201Joe Ferguson4723.4%
Mike Shanahan308John Elway5919.2%
Dennis Green207Warren Moon3918.8%
Marty Schottenheimer335Drew Brees5817.3%

Let’s close with one remarkable bit of trivia. Green took 8 teams to the playoffs, and in those postseasons, he started seven different quarterbacks: Sean Salisbury in 1992, McMahon in ’93, Moon in ’94, Johnson in ’96, Cunningham in ’97 and ’98, George in ’99, and Culpepper in 2000. That’s unbelievable: one franchise, eight playoff berths in nine years with seven different quarterbacks. That may not be Green’s legacy, but I’d be stunned if that ever happens again.

  • Adam

    “one franchise, eight playoff berths in nine years with seven different quarterbacks.”

    That’s mind blowing, and a testament to Green’s coaching acumen. The Bears are who we thought they were. RIP Denny.

  • I’m wondering where Green ranks on the “Most Quarterbacks Started in a Postseason Game” list. He’s below Schottenheimer, who’s at nine (!) by my count,* but perhaps he’s second.

    *Kosar, Strock, DeBerg, Krieg, Montana, Bono, Grbac, Brees, Rivers… and what’s more is that he had three other QBs who played a substantial portion of a playoff game but didn’t start — Pagel, Vlasic, and Gannon.

  • welshpete

    That chart just looks like an indication of “How to have success in the NFL”
    There’s a good deal of Superbowl winners covered by those partnerships and in most cases the coach had their best periods with the Quarterback that was there longest. It might be a bit chicken/egg (success means you keep your good coach and QB, Good coach and QB means success) but sticking with the right combo would seem to be a plan!
    I guess Vermeil is the first debateable one with Warner rather than Jaws….then Shula who had a higher peak with Griese (and Morrall!) than Marino, but it’s hardly the low point of his stellar career.

    • Richie

      I also think it tells us that coaching is so much easier if you have a good QB.

    • Shula also has some success with some no-name quarterback in Baltimore.

      • welshpete

        Ah yeah…that one!
        I’m a Miami fan – Shula didn’t do anything outside Florida! (I’m joking of course!).

  • t.d.

    My dad used to play golf with Denny in the ’70s, when Green coached at Northwestern. He always spoke highly of him. 67 is far too young