Former San Francisco 49ers wide receivers coach and Minnesota Vikings head coach Dennis Green passed away on Friday, and tributes are already starting to pour in. Former 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice learned about Green’s passing while on hand at the American Century Championship golf tournament up in Lake Tahoe, and while warming up at the driving range, he had a chance to speak about his relationship with Green. Thanks to the tournament for providing this:
It’s very unfortunate. He was my wide receiver coach for so many years, and we stayed friends over the years also. So, I’m real saddened by it. He really did a lot for my career because you know, I can remember him just, he was one of those coaches, he never let me get complacent. He never let me, felt like I arrived. And he could always come to me, and say, “hey look, Jerry, this is the way you need to run that route … You got to be able to defeat that bump-and-run off the line of scrimmage … You gotta make that catch.” So he was, that, the type of coach that really influenced me throughout my career.
A follow-up question mentioned how all coaches are special and have special characteristics, and Rice was quick to clarify that his relationship with Coach Green went beyond that.
Nah, this one was really special to me because he was more than a coach. He was almost like my best friend. Someone I could always depend on. Someone that would always, even if I was having some difficult times, he had something positive to say to get me going.
Green was the 49ers wide receivers coach from 1986 to 1988. Rice joined the 49ers in 1985, and struggled out of the gate. He played in all 16 games, starting four of them, and drops were a big problem for him. However, starting in 1986, Rice absolutely blew up. He finished with 86 receptions, 1,570 yards, and 15 touchdowns, starting a run of 11 straight seasons in which he would be voted into the Pro Bowl, and earn some kind of All Pro nod. I don’t know specifically what Green’s involvement was in Rice’s development, but Rice’s words suggest a huge impact.