TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Dennis Green era with the Arizona Cardinals included the franchise’s best draft, an epic rant and a new stadium, but it ended without a winning season.
Cardinals President Michael Bidwill on the passing of Dennis Green: pic.twitter.com/5dpTYZDNkC
— Mark Dalton (@CardsMarkD) July 22, 2016
Green, who died Friday morning at age 67, was hired by the Cardinals in January 2004. Three months later, he helped orchestrate the draft that would eventually transform the franchise. The Cardinals’ 2004 class included first-round pick Larry Fitzgerald, linebacker Karlos Dansby, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and defensive end Antonio Smith.
All four have played at least 10 years in the NFL and were among the foundation of the Cardinals’ Super Bowl run in 2008. Fitzgerald, in particular, has developed into a superstar and become the face of the franchise.
A year after drafting that group, Green signed free-agent quarterback Kurt Warner, who eventually guided the Cardinals to their only Super Bowl.
My heart goes out to family of my former coach Denny Green - we lost a good man way too soon!
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) July 22, 2016
Green had his closest relationship with Fitzgerald, who was a ball boy for Green’s Vikings. Fitzgerald was allowed to run route drills alongside Minnesota greats Chris Carter and Randy Moss -- but, Fitzgerald said last season, he had to be last in line.
"The best internship I ever had," Fitzgerald said.
Green never achieved a winning season in Arizona with the Cardinals, finishing 6-10 in 2004 and 5-11 in 2005 and 2006.
Green helped usher in University of Phoenix Stadium in his final season. That season, Green also delivered one of sports’ most epic rants. After the Cardinals squandered a 20-0 lead en route to a 24-23 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in Week 6 of 2006, Green slowly exploded.
"The Bears are who we thought they were!" Green proclaimed, which was the tipping point.
"If you want to crown them, then crown their ass, but they are who we thought they were and we let them off the hook," Green later yelled.
The next year, Green told ESPN he was at his wit's end with his team and that season.
"You know what," Green said, "I had had it. We had had a run of such bad luck that I was at a boiling point. Maybe if I had had an extra 10 minutes, maybe I would have calmed down. But I don't even know if 10 minutes would have made a difference."
Green’s tenure in Arizona was also highlighted by inconsistency at quarterback. The Cardinals had five starting quarterbacks -- Warner, Josh McCown, Shaun King, John Navarre and Matt Leinart -- in Green’s three seasons, and a different leading passer each year. Green initiated a quarterback controversy in 2006 by installing Leinart as the starting quarterback in place of Warner in Week 5. Warner regained the starting job in Week 17.