John Madden dies at 85
The way you remember John Madden is probably a direct reflection of your age. He was one of football’s greatest titans, leaving his impact on the game in so many ways.
He became a Hall of Fame coach with the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s, worked as one of the best broadcasters in history for the next three decades, and exists today as the namesake of a video game franchise played by millions of people who never knew him as a coach or broadcaster.
In other words, not everyone knows John Madden for the same reason. But everyone knows John Madden.
John Madden’s football odyssey has humble beginnings
One of the most unique football trips in history began on April 10, 1936, when Madden was born in Austin, Minnesota. He played college football at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 21st round of the 1958 NFL Draft.
A knee injury during his first training camp ended his career even before appearing in a game and he quickly became a coach at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Calif., And San State. Diego (where he coached future Chargers coach Don Coryell).
Madden joined the Oakland Raiders in 1967 as a linebacker coach and served in the management role two seasons later. He was 32 at the time, making him one of the youngest head coaches in NFL history. He led the Raiders to a 12-1-1 season in his freshman year and has never looked back.
Madden has historic success with Raiders
In 1976, Madden reached the peak of his profession. His Raiders were 13-1 in the regular season, winning the AFC with a league game victory over defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. They went on to beat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 in Super Bowl XI and images of Madden blown off the field became one of the league’s most enduring images.
Madden retired in 1978 after coaching the Raiders for 10 seasons. He finished 103-32-7 and his 0.759 winning percentage is by far the best among coaches with at least 100 games. The second best? A guy named Vince Lombardi at .738.
That says something about Madden that for many people his life as a former NFL coach is an afterthought. And that’s because his second act in football has become just as legendary as his time as a coach.
Madden, one of the biggest broadcasting stars of all time
During the 1980s and 1990s, Madden and Pat Summerall formed one of the most famous broadcast teams in sports history. For two decades, nothing meant a bigger NFL game than Madden and Summerall on call. Madden’s excitable personality was perfect alongside Summerall’s calm demeanor. How many Thanksgiving in this country were saved by the annual games the two men called?
Both worked at CBS before moving to Fox when that network secured the rights to NFC games. Their last game together dates back to 2002, when the New England Patriots knocked down the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
After Summerall retired, Madden joined “Monday Night Football” on ABC and was associated with Al Michaels. Madden and Michaels moved on to “Sunday Night Football” on NBC in 2006. When Madden retired from broadcasting in 2009, he won a record 16 Emmy Awards for Sports Analyst / Outstanding Personality. Madden and Howard Cosell are above everyone else as the most famous broadcasters in NFL history.
Madden becomes a successful pitchman
If a great coaching career and a star turn in the broadcast booth weren’t enough, Madden’s outsized presence made him one of the most ubiquitous pitchers in NFL history. From Ace Hardware to “Tough-actin ‘Tinactin,” Madden has endorsed a wide variety of products as the NFL has grown into the billion dollar giant it is today.
However, no mention was more important to Madden than his eponymous soccer video game, first released in 1988 for the Apple II. The first version was pretty primitive but focused more on X’s and O’s than any soccer game before it. Over the years, “Madden” has become the gold standard of soccer games on a variety of platforms, with real NFL players getting so involved in the game that they complained about their grades.
Madden was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2006, but his impact on the game has gone far beyond the playing field. For nearly 50 years, you could say he didn’t there was no bigger name in the game.