On December 28, 2021, one of the greats in NFL history passed away. One of his favorite words to use as a TV broadcaster for football games was “BOOM!” to describe the intensity of a hit. Last Tuesday, it’s safe to say, he left us with a boom, as it was a surprise to us all.
Madden’s career in football has spanned many decades. His name in football circles is known by millions and millions of people, but for different reasons. People in the 1950’s knew him as a football player in college and the pros. He was drafted 244th by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958 but suffered his second knee injury in four years while in training camp, which ended his professional playing career before ever playing in one game.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, he was known as a coach. While Madden was recuperating from the knee injury, fellow player Norm Van Brocklin would be watching films and would explain what was happening. He had a degree in teaching, and his love for football meshed perfectly with teaching. In 1960 John became an assistant at Allan Hancock College and was promoted to head coach in 1962. He then became a defensive assistant at San Diego State from 1964-1966, where they became one of the top small colleges in the nation.
Stemming from this success, Madden got his big break by being hired by owner Al Davis as linebackers coach for the AFL’s Oakland Raiders in 1967. That very year he helped the team reach Super Bowl II. Then a year later, the head coach left to become head coach for the Buffalo Bills, leading to Madden being named the Raiders’ head coach on February 4, 1969. He was 32 at the time, becoming the youngest professional head coach at that time.
His Raiders reached and lost five AFC championship games in seven years until finally winning the Super Bowl during the 1976 season. On January 9, 1977, Madden’s super team won the Raiders first Super Bowl with a 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings. They again reached the AFC championship game in the 1977 season but lost to the Denver Broncos. After the Raiders failed to qualify for the postseason in 1978, Madden announced his retirement on January 4, 1979, due to an increasingly deteriorating ulcer condition and occupational burnout.
He retired with a 103-32 record, a .750 winning percentage, which still stands as the second-highest winning percentage ever in the NFL. He became the youngest coach to have 100 wins, never had a losing record in 10 full seasons, and is still the winningest coach in Raiders history. The generation of Americans in these years thought this was the end of Madden’s great legacy, but they were greatly mistaken.
Madden then joined CBS as a color commentator for NFL games in 1979. This started a legendary career for him where he became the greatest and most innovative commentator of all time until his retirement after Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 1, 2009. During this illustrious career, he worked alongside popular analysts such as Vin Scully, Al Michaels, Dick Stockton, Frank Glieber, and Gary Bender.
But he was elevated to CBS’ top rung when he became the famous duo with Pat Summerall in 1981. They called eight Super Bowls before Fox Network gained the rights to NFC games in 1994. Madden was the biggest star in football broadcasting at this point, and his contract paid him more than any NFL player. This was the case until 2002 when he started commentating with longtime play-by-play announcer Al Michaels on ABC’s Monday Night Football.
He then switched to doing color commentary for NBC’s Sunday night NFL games in 2005 at the request of NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol. This made him the first ever sportscaster to have worked for all of the “Big Four” U.S. broadcast television networks. He left NBC after the Super Bowl in 2009, and his legacy was sealed as an all-time great announcer. So his second career was ended, and, once again, every one of this generation who knew him only as a commentator was certain his legacy was done and sealed.
But Madden still wasn’t done. In 1984, Madden took the advice of NFL coach John Robinson- a friend of Madden’s since elementary school- and created the “All Madden” team, a group of players who Madden thought represented football and played the game the way he thought it should be played. He continued to pick the All-Madden team each year through the 2001 season. It was one of the greatest honors a player could have to be selected to this team.
Then Madden had his “Haul of Fame” for his favorite players. He created a special 10th-anniversary All-Madden team in 1994, an All Madden Super Bowl team in 1997, and an All-Time All-Madden team in 2000. The players on these teams were the best of the best. He also appeared in commercials including Ace Hardware, Outback Steakhouse, Verizon Wireless, Rent-A-Center, Miller Lite, Toyota, Sirius Satellite Radio, and “Tough Actin” Tinactin. The Miller Lite beer advertisements cemented Madden’s image in the public eye as a bumbling but lovable personality.
His All-Madden teams led to him lending his voice and creative input to the John Madden Football series of football video games, later called Madden NFL, published by EA Sports/Electronic Arts. Madden viewed the game as an educational tool. During the initial planning stages of the game, Madden envisioned the program as a tool for teaching and testing plays.
Each year, the versions of the game have consistently been best-sellers, to the extent that they have spawned TV shows featuring competitions between players of the game. Even after Madden retired as a broadcaster in 2009, he still continued to lend his name and provide input to the series. This series became so popular that he became better known as the face of Madden to the younger generation than as a Super Bowl-winning coach and broadcaster up until his death in 2021. Madden transcended football, sports, and video games to have a unique and profound effect on many different generations for many distinct reasons.
Article by: Chris Steele, iHearts143Quotes Team member