But what is it that Green brings to the job? "Continuity, I hope," Nelson said. "I've seen so many different systems and approaches here. Denny's an open book. He doesn't try to hide anything. But with him it's definitely his way or the highway."
Green describes himself as "dogmatic with a smile." His offense is the Washington Redskins' system, brought in by coordinator Jack Burns, who was the Skins' receivers coach. One back, three wideouts and one tight end; sometimes three tight ends and one wideout. The fourth-quarter touchdown drive Minnesota put together on Sunday was pure Redskin stuff: a 20-yard pass to Jones out of the Explode Package (three wideouts breaking out of a pack); a 51-yard dash over right tackle by Allen on the old Redskin counter-trey, with the left tackle and guard pulling to lead; and then a four-yard TD pass to Jones on a crossing pattern out of the three-wide set for a 20-17 lead.
Green's defense is the old Minnesota style taught by former Viking defensive coordinator Floyd Peters—hit the gaps, penetrate, rush upfield and pick up the run on the go. "We're a charging team," Green says. "Our mentality is to hit the traps and take the line of scrimmage, not sit back and read. Behind that we play a zone defense."
On Sunday the defense got off to a rough start. Holmgren's offense, a mirror of the attack he coached as the San Francisco 49er coordinator for three years, put together a 17-play, 84-yard scoring march on its first possession. Then the Vikings settled down. In overtime they held the Packers to a trio of three-and-out series. Green Bay's net yardage for those three possessions: minus seven. Minnesota had taken the line of scrimmage.
It will be a long road. Green can take the club only so far; talent must do the rest. One thing he made clear early on: His door is always open to the players. You got a complaint, come see the coach first. But what happens then?
"Well, one time it did work," Nelson said Sunday. "Just recently we had this big brouhaha. We were getting charged $5 for the lunches in the cafeteria. We had a team meeting about it. Coach Green said, 'O.K., you get breakfast thrown in, too...I must be getting soft.' "
Soft? We'll see. Right now the Dennis Green era is 1-0.