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John Madden (1936–2021), legendary NFL coach and broadcaster

by Linnea Crowther

John Madden was the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders who went on to a long career as an NFL color commentator.

Coaching

Madden’s playing career was brief; he suffered a knee injury during training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958, and that put an end to his dream of playing professionally. But he quickly pivoted to coaching, beginning at Allan Hancock College and San Diego State. Madden made the jump to the NFL in 1967, hired as the Raiders’ linebackers coach. Less than two years later, Madden was named head coach, just 32 years old and the youngest head coach in pro football at the time. In his 10 seasons as Raiders head coach, Madden never had a losing season and took the team to the playoffs eight times, including victory at Super Bowl XI. He was the youngest coach to achieve 100 regular season wins and is lauded for doing so in just 10 seasons. Madden was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Color commentary

After retiring from coaching in 1979, Madden was hired as a color commentator for CBS, mixing football knowledge and humor to make the games more entertaining for viewers. His commentary was known for often including words like “boom” and “Pow.” In 1981, Madden was famously paired with Pat Summerall (1930–2013), building a popular team that stayed together for 21 years. The two moved to Fox Sports in 1994, remaining there until Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. Madden later worked for ABC Sports and NBC Sports, remaining one of the top sports broadcasters as he achieved a 476-weekend streak of calling games. He retired from broadcasting in 2009.

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Madden NFL

EA Sports launched the first Madden NFL video game – initially called John Madden Football – in 1988, using Madden’s voice and personality as he called the games being played on Xbox, PlayStation, Wii, and other platforms. New versions of the game have been released each year since, with tens of millions sold and billions of dollars in revenue gained.

Notable quote

“I collect coaches’ playbooks to figure out where things came from and no matter what is being done in football, it has usually been done before by someone. Younger people who don’t study history might think the league started with Joe Montana. Or even Peyton Manning. So when you ask me about the best thing about aging, the answer is knowing history and I’m proud of that. And that’s what I love about the Hall of Fame too.” –from a 2014 interview for Sports Illustrated

Tributes to John Madden

Full obituary: The New York Times

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