THE NFL mourned the loss of one of its most prominent personalities last month when former coach and broadcaster John Madden died at the age of 85.
Madden’s fame stretched beyond the game as he became the face of many American TV commercials and his name became synonymous with EA Sports’ best-selling computer game Madden NFL, which he helped develop in 1988.
In many ways, he was the ideal fit as his broadcasting style helped dissect complicated plays into the language that the ordinary Joe sat on his couch could understand.
He became the first to use on-screen technology to aid his explanations, something that is now commonplace in the analysis of a variety of sports and is regarded as an essential element of any coverage worth its salt.
However, Madden always professed that he was a coach first and his achievements as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders between 1968 and 1978 would have been enough to have him elected to the Hall of Fame on their own, and he joined that elite group in 2006.
It’s fair to say his team were not the most liked in the NFL and were styled upon their coach in that the unkempt Madden assembled a team of misfits, but that worked well with the master of siege mentality, legendary Raiders owner Al Davis.
Success with Oakland
They were a nasty bunch who would bend the rules for any advantage they could glean, but it did the trick as Oakland won their division in seven of Madden’s first eight years at the helm.
But often it wasn’t quite enough as despite guiding the team to seven AFC Championship games, the Raiders lost six of them, finding the Baltimore Colts (before their move to Indianapolis), Miami, arch-rivals Pittsbrgh and Denver too strong on the day.
However, their crowning glory came in the 1976 season when they went 13-1 in the regular campaign before beating the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 in Super Bowl XI.
Then, in 1978, Madden surprisingly retired with the greatest winning percentage of any NFL head coach who has supervised more than 100 games and it did not take long before he was snapped up for television work.
Move into Punditry
Much was made of his claustrophobia, which meant he would not fly and travelled between matches in his own bus, but he was involved in his first Super Bowl broadcast the following year and he went on to feature in ten others, the final one being Pittsburgh’s 27-23 victory over Arizona in 2009.
Madden earned a record 16 Emmy awards for his work with four different broadcasters and the fact he worked for CBS alongside Pat Summerall and also Fox, ABC and NBC demonstrates that he was the biggest ticket in town and the person fans wanted to talk them through the game.
He was an everyday man like many of them with a great talent for explaining the seemingly unexplainable and was hailed for his observational skills.
His legacy will live on in the computer game and he was the face of the National Football League for many fans, which is why, he will be so greatly missed.