John Madden dies aged 85: 5 things you probably didn’t know about the Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster

On January 9, 1977, John Madden was hoisted up by his players after the Raiders won their first Super Bowl. And although he reached the pinnacle of his profession at age 40, Madden was still in the early stages of an unparalleled football career, including 10 years as an NFL head coach and an additional 30 years with the broadcaster. Madden is also the name behind the most iconic football video game of all time.

Madden, who died Tuesday at age 85, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. When he stopped broadcasting, Madden advised the NFL league committee and the safety panel. With a new documentary about his career airing on Christmas Day, here are five things you might not know about Madden, a legendary coach and the voice of NFL Sundays to a generation of football fans.

1. A Lifelong Coaching Friend

While he was born in Minnesota, Madden spent most of his childhood in Daly City, California. His childhood best friend was John Robinson, the former coach of USC and the Los Angeles Rams. Madden and Robinson both went to Oregon on football scholarships. While Robinson played for the Ducks for four years, Madden eventually transitioned to Cal Poly, where he became an all-conference offensive tackle. He also played catcher on the school’s baseball team.

“We would play for the Yankees in the summer and the 49ers in the winter,” Robinson said of his and Madden’s childhood dreams. “We started to realize that this fantastic career might not happen.”

Although they never became household names as athletes, Madden and Robinson were two of the best coaches of their time. Madden became the seventh coach in NFL history to win the Super Bowl in 1976. Robinson compiled an 8-1 bowl record as a college coach, including a 4-0 record in Rose Bowl games. He also led the Rams to NFC Championship Game appearances in 1985 and 1989. Robinson’s first Rose Bowl win came just a week before Madden won his first Super Bowl at the same stadium.

2. Terminating injury a blessing in disguise

Madden’s NFL career ended almost as quickly as it started, becoming the 244th overall pick in the 1958 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He sustained a knee injury during his rookie training camp. While in rehab, Madden decided to spend his free time watching movies with quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, who was on the back nine of a Hall of Fame career.

“He called me Red,” Madden recalled. “He said, ‘Hey Red, come up with me. I’m the only one there, so he’s talking out loud. … It was the best education I’ve ever had, Norm Van Brocklin.”

Two years after being drafted by the Eagles, Madden officially broke through in the coaching ranks. He spent four years at Allan Hancock College in California before spending another three seasons as San Diego State Defensive Coordinator. In 1967, Al Davis hired Madden as his defensive coordinator with the Raiders. At the end of the season, Madden matched his wits with his coaching idol, Vince Lombardi, who coached his last game for the Packers in Super Bowl II. Two years later, Davis surprised many by making the then 32-year-old Madden his new head coach. Davis chose Madden after Chuck Noll, who had just helped the Colts reach the Super Bowl as defensive coordinator, accepted the position of head coach at Pittsburgh.

3. Record-breaking head coach

Madden compiled a 0.759 win rate in Oakland, the highest percentage in league history among coaches who have won 100 games. During his 10 seasons as Raiders head coach, Madden led Oakland to the playoffs eight times. The Raiders played in seven AFC title games under Madden, including five straight from 1973-77. And after falling short in his first five AFC title games, Madden and the Raiders finally broke through in 1976. After a 13-1 regular season, the Raiders dethroned the Steelers — the team that defeated Oakland in the previous two AFC title games — to hit their first Super Bowl ticket. In Super Bowl XI, the Raiders dominated the Vikings behind a punishing, hasty attack and an equally devastating defense. Oakland received an MVP performance from Fred Biletnikoff, who set up three of the Raiders’ four offensive touchdowns. The Raiders won 32-14 and Madden and the Raiders were champions for the first time.

“They can never take it from you,” Madden said of his Super Bowl win. “Maybe the fact that we chased it for so long made it bigger for us. It was the best feeling in the world. There’s nothing that can beat it.”

While the Super Bowl took the cake, Madden was part of several legendary games during his time on the sidelines. Those games include the “Immaculate Reception,” “The Sea of ​​Hands,” the “Holly Roller,” and the “Ghost to the Post.”

4. The GOAT meets the GOAT

Fittingly, the final Super Bowl telecast for the iconic duo of Madden and Pat Summerall was Tom Brady’s first of seven Super Bowl wins. With Summerall and Madden as his backdrop, Brady led the Patriots to one of the biggest disruptions in Super Bowl history when New England upset the much-loved Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

In all, Madden and Summerall worked eight Super Bowls together (five on CBS), the most ever for a broadcast duo. And as their run ended with the “GOAT,” it began with the naming of Joe Montana’s (Brady’s childhood idol) first Super Bowl win: the 49ers’ 26-21 win over the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI.

“He was John Wayne and Walter Cronkite,” Madden said of his regular broadcast partner. “He could balance everything. I’d digress, and Pat could sum it up in three words. And I’d be like, ‘That’s what I was trying to say.'”

Madden worked three more Super Bowls with Al Michaels, including his last broadcast: the Steelers’ dramatic victory over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Madden’s colorful analysis earned him 16 Emmy Awards, the 1994 NSAA National Sportscaster of the Year and the 2002 Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.

5. Madden’s ‘Cruiser’ Earned Hall of Fame Honors

An aversion to flying led Madden to use a bus to travel to NFL games for most of his broadcasting career. A Greyhound bus was converted into the “Madden Cruiser” in 1987. In 2018, Madden donated the original “Madden Cruiser” to the Hall of Fame, where it was restored to its original condition. Included in the original “Madden Cruiser” are two color televisions, a telephone and intercommunication system, a civilian band radio, two laserdisc players, a built-in vacuum cleaner, a stereo system and a VCR. The bus also has a private bedroom with a queen bed, full bath, and kitchenette complete with a microwave.

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