By Don Banks, SI.com
TAMPA -- Even if you happen to believe he did some of his worst coaching -- not to mention post-game press conferences -- in Arizona, it's impossible to ignore the fact that Dennis Green deserves some of the credit for the Cardinals being the most unlikely Super Bowl team of all time.
Green's three-year coaching record in Arizona (2004-06) was an abysmal 16-32, and his teams were notorious for blowing more than their share of games (see meltdown, Monday night, Bears). But Green's ability to judge personnel in Arizona, which he demonstrated time and time again during his 10-year coaching tenure in Minnesota, looks pretty good from the vantage point of Super Bowl week.
The 2004 draft, his first in Arizona, provided the backbone of the 2008 team, and is arguably the best haul in franchise history. Green and Cardinals general manager Rod Graves selected Larry Fitzgerald in the first round, linebacker Karlos Dansby in the second, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett in the third, and defensive end Antonio Smith in the fifth round. That's three Pro Bowl-level players and a key contributor (Smith) in the draft's opening five rounds.
And while the Edgerrin James free-agent signing in 2006 didn't yield the kind of results the Cardinals hoped for, you can't say they didn't get their money's worth out of Kurt Warner, who Arizona signed in 2005 when almost no one else wanted him. As for the Matt Leinart pick, No. 10 overall in 2006, I say the jury's still out on whether the ex-USC Heisman-winning quarterback goes down as a bust of a selection, or proves to be a late bloomer.
Green's not the first head coach this decade to see a team he helped build wind up in the Super Bowl without him. Tony Dungy left Tampa Bay after six seasons and then watched Jon Gruden win a ring with his guys in 2002. And some would say that Bill Cowher left the cupboard pretty darn full in Pittsburgh for Mike Tomlin.
Take nothing away from the job second-year coach Ken Whisenhunt has done of transforming the losing mentality in Arizona -- that was a herculean feat. But Green's best work should at least not be forgotten in this, the Cardinals' singular moment of triumph.
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