The NFL said he died unexpectedly and did not provide details about the cause.
Madden rose to prominence over a decade as the coach of the renegade Oakland Raiders, reaching seven AFC title games and winning the Super Bowl after the 1976 season. He amassed a record of 103–32–7 in the regular season and his 0.759 win rate is the best among NFL coaches with over 100 games.
But it was his job, after prematurely retiring as a coach at the age of 42, that made Madden a real household name. He educated a football nation with his use of the telestrator in broadcasting; entertained millions with his exclamations of “Boom!” and “Doink!” during games; was a ubiquitous pitchman selling restaurants, hardware stores, and beer; became the face of “Madden NFL Football”, one of the most successful sports video games of all time; and was a bestselling author.
Most importantly, he was the premiere television sports analyst for most of his three decades calling games, winning an unprecedented 16 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Sports Analyst/Personality, and covering 11 Super Bowls for four networks from 1979-2009.
“People always ask, are you a coach or a broadcaster or a video game guy?” he said when was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “I’m a coach, always been a coach.”
He began his broadcast career at CBS after leaving coaching largely due to his fear of flying. He and Pat Summerall became the network’s top announcement duo. Madden went on to help give Fox credibility as a major network when he moved there in 1994, and went on to play prime-time games at ABC and NBC before retiring after Pittsburgh’s thrilling 27-23 win over Arizona in the 2009 Super Bowl.
“I don’t know anyone who has had a greater impact on the National Football League than John Madden, and I don’t know anyone who loved the game more,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement.
Sturdy and a little unkempt, Madden earned a place in the heart of America with a likeable, unpretentious style that was refreshing in a sports world of rising salaries and prima donna stars. He drove from race to race in his own bus because he suffered from claustrophobia and was unable to fly. For a time, Madden handed out a “turducken”—a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey—to the outstanding player in the Thanksgiving game he mentioned.
“No one loved football more than Coach. He was football,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “He was an incredible sounding board for me and so many others. There will never be another John Madden and we will forever be indebted to him for all he has done to make football and the NFL what it is today.”
When he finally retired from the broadcast booth and left NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” colleagues universally praised Madden’s passion for the sport, his preparation, and his ability to explain an often complicated game in sober terms.
Al Michaels, Madden’s broadcast partner for seven years on ABC and NBC, said working with him “was like winning the lottery.”
“He was so much more than just football – a keen observer of everything around him and a man who could carry on a smart conversation on hundreds and hundreds of subjects. The term ‘Renaissance Man’ is used a little too loosely these days, but John was like that. close as you can get,” Michaels said.
For anyone who has heard Madden “Boom!” heard exclaim. while breaking down a play, his love for the play was apparent.
“For me, TV is really an extension of coaching,” Madden wrote in “Hey, wait a Minute! (I Wrote a Book!).”
“My knowledge of football comes from coaching. And on TV I just try to pass on some of that knowledge to the viewers.”
Madden grew up in Daly City, California. He played on both the offensive and defensive lines for Cal Poly in 1957-58 and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school.
Madden was named to the all-conference team and drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, but a knee injury put an end to his hopes for a professional career. Instead, Madden went on to coach, first at Hancock Junior College and then as a defensive coordinator at San Diego State.
Al Davis brought him to the Raiders as a linebackers coach in 1967, and Oakland went to the Super Bowl in his first year with the pros. He replaced John Rauch as head coach after the 1968 season at age 32, beginning a remarkable 10-year stint.
With his demonstrative stance on the sidelines and disheveled look, Madden was the ideal coach for collecting the discarded and misfits that made up those Raiders teams.
“Sometimes guys were disciplinary in things that didn’t make any difference. I was disciplinary in jumping offside; I hated that,” Madden once said. “In a bad position and missing tackles, those things. I wasn’t, ‘Your hair needs to be combed.'”
The Raiders responded.
“I always thought his coaching style was his forte,” quarterback Ken Stabler once said. “John just had an amazing gift of letting us be what we wanted to be, on the field and off the field. … How do you reward him for being like that? You win for him.”
And boy, have they ever. For years, the only problem was the playoffs.
Madden went 12-1-1 in his first season, losing the AFL title game 17-7 to Kansas City. That pattern was repeated during his tenure; the Raiders won the division title in seven of its first eight seasons, but went 1-6 in conference title games during that period.
Still, Madden’s Raiders played in some of the most memorable games of the 1970s, games that helped change the rules in the NFL. There was the “Holy Roller” in 1978, when Stabler purposely fidgeted before being fired on the last stretch. The ball rolled and was knocked into the end zone before Dave Casper got it back for the winning touchdown against San Diego.
The most famous of those games was against the Raiders in the 1972 playoffs in Pittsburgh. With the Raiders leading 7-6 and 22 seconds to go, the Steelers had a fourth and ten of their 40. Terry Bradshaw’s desperation passion was diverted from Oakland’s Jack Tatum or Pittsburgh’s Frenchy Fuqua to Franco Harris, who put it on his shoe tops. caught and walked in for a TD.
In those days, a pass bounced from an attacking player directly to a teammate was illegal, and the debate continues to this day as to which player it hit. The capture was, of course, dubbed the “Immaculate Conception.”
Oakland finally broke through in 1976 with a full team that had Stabler as quarterback; Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch at receiver; tight ending Dave Casper; Hall of Fame Offensive Linemen Gene Upshaw and Art Shell; and a defense that included Willie Brown, Ted Hendricks, Tatum, John Matuszak, Otis Sistrunk, and George Atkinson.
The Raiders went 13-1, losing only a blowout in New England in Week 4. They repaid the Patriots with a 24-21 win in their first playoff game and overcame the AFC title game bump with a 24-7 win on the hated Steelers, who were crippled with injuries.
Oakland won it all with a 32-14 Super Bowl romp against Minnesota.
“Players loved playing for him,” Shell said. “He made it fun for us in camp and fun for us in the regular season. All he asked was that we be on time and play like hell when it came time to play.”
Madden suffered a stomach ulcer the following season, when the Raiders lost again in the AFC title match. He retired from coaching at age 42 after a 9-7 season in 1978.
Madden had long lived in Pleasanton, California, a suburb of the Bay Area. A 90-minute documentary about his coaching and broadcasting career, “All Madden,” debuted on Fox on Christmas Day. The film featured extensive interviews that Madden presided over this year. His wife, Virginia, and sons Joseph and Michael were also interviewed for the documentary.
John and Virginia Madden’s 62nd wedding anniversary was two days before his death.
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