IS DENNIS GREEN the best NFL mind since Vince Lombardi or is he unfit to lead a peewee squad? Depends on whom you ask. Every pundit in the land has decried Green's 1999 draft-day decision to pass up defensive-end phenom Jevon Kearse in favor of unproven quarterback Daunte Culpepper (Kearse had an All Pro year for Tennessee while Culpepper picked the splinters out of his benchwarming butt), but beyond that, the further you get from home, the less it appears Green sucks wind. Here, by way of example, is a smattering of observations from New York Times scribe/Green backer Mike Freeman, contrasted with our local crew of columnists:
* One of the best personnel moves of the season took place in Minnesota, when the Vikings signed quarterback Jeff George to a free agent contract. Coach Dennis Green has been able to keep George focused, and George has shown the kind of arm strength the Vikings knew was there but are still amazed to see.
--Mike Freeman, November 21, 1999
* Minnesota Coach Dennis Green has done some smart coaching, such as calling for the Randy Moss pass play to Cris Carter for a touchdown against the Giants. They're in [the playoffs] and are the team no one wants to play. Green has coached the Vikings to seven playoff appearances in his eight years as head coach.
--Freeman, December 28, 1999
* Dennis Green's abilities as a coach continue to be underestimated.
--Freeman, December 31, 1999
* [S]igning [Jeff] George might be the only astute personnel move made by coach Dennis Green, since being made all-powerful in the football department last February.
--Patrick Reusse, Star Tribune, December 21, 1999
* That's the truly inspiring thing about [Dennis Green]. Jimmy Johnson's team gets outscored 38-0 in 1-1/2 quarters, and he has the decency to resign. Denny's team does it, and he's up at the podium, congratulating himself about his team never quitting.
--Dan Barreiro, Star Tribune, January 17, 2000
* For the eighth year in a row, the Vikings failed to win or even reach the Super Bowl under Green. No coach in the league has gone longer without at least getting to the Super Bowl.
--Bob Sansevere, St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 17, 2000
* It is becoming ever more difficult to separate the lies from the truth at Winter Park: Who's coming, who's going, and how many of the folks left standing will be [Dennis] Green['s] bobos and cronies.
The dangerous part about this approach is that sooner or later, [Green] is going to run out of people to blame for his team's postseason dysfunction, and be forced to check the mirror.
--Barreiro, January 21, 2000
The Story Behind the Story
LATE LAST MONTH Star Tribune gossip maven C.J. praised perennial ratings cellar dweller KSTP-TV (Channel 5) for making "diversity history" by hiring a black woman to co-anchor its 5:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts. She also took note of a little ratings-boosting synergy: The newcomer, former Kansas City anchor Harris Faulkner, recently published a memoir called Breaking News. Quicker than you can say Ruminator (though who would want to?), Off Beat sallied forth to the bookstore. Turns out that the book, subtitled God Has a Plan--An Anchorwoman's Journey Through Faith, chronicles Faulkner's experience as a stalking victim. In 1995 her ex-boyfriend--a former off-camera colleague who at various points broke into her apartment, stole her mail, and wrote her all sorts of creepy letters--became the first person in Missouri's Jackson County ever to be convicted under the state's anti-stalking law. Faulkner credits God, and the efforts of a prosecutor (named, of all things, C.J.) with helping her through the ordeal.
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