Johnson threw four interceptions in the Vikings' preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints but remained the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart. That prompted him to tell Green, "Denny, I appreciate your not giving up on me."
"Are you kidding?" Green said, slapping Johnson on the back. "You've been here five years. You're our guy. We know you. And we all have bad days."
Green has often had to play Norman Vincent Peale. The most recent occasion came in the wake of a last-minute, 21-17 loss to the Denver Broncos on Nov. 24, which dropped the Vikings to 6-6. When the players gathered for a meeting three days later, the playoffs seemed miles away. Green put a graphic on the overhead projector, showing Minnesota's December schedule: Arizona, at Detroit, Tampa Bay, at Green Bay. "All four of those teams aren't playing that hot right now," Green said. "So you know what? Our destiny's in our own hands. We're going to run the table, and we're going to make the playoffs."
They did just that on Sunday, and the prospect of facing a formidable foe in the wild-card round of the playoffs doesn't faze Green. "Whoever it is, we'll fight 'em and lay it on the line, like we've always done," he says. "My lineage is clear. [African-Americans] aren't supposed to get fed up with things. We're supposed to fight and try to make things right."