Grubb: Remembering John Madden

Broadcaster and former coach John Madden celebrates his selection to the NFL Hall of Fame during a press conference Feb. 4, 2006, at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/TNS)
Broadcaster and former coach John Madden celebrates his selection to the NFL Hall of Fame during a press conference Feb. 4, 2006, at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/TNS)

Nate Grubb is a freshman journalism major and writes for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

For most football fans, including myself, the name John Madden is synonymous with his yearly football video game. I can still remember Christmas of 2008, ripping open a present revealing Madden NFL 09 for the Nintendo Wii, with Brett Farve of the Green Bay Packers on the cover. Thanks to John Madden, I fell in love with the game of football. But Madden should be remembered not just for his contributions to virtual football, but to the entire game itself.

After getting cut from the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad before the 1958 season, John Madden started his coaching career two years later in 1960, becoming the assistant coach of Allan Hancock College, located in Santa Maria, California. After two seasons, Madden was promoted to head coach and led the Bulldogs to a 12-6 record in his two seasons at the helm. He was then hired to be the defensive coordinator under legendary head coach Don Coryell at San Diego State. He spent three seasons with the Aztecs, helping build them up to become one of the better mid-major football schools. This success caught the eye of Oakland Raiders’ General Manager Al Davis, who hired Madden to be the Raiders’ linebackers coach in 1967. After a season in which Oakland made it to Super Bowl II, Madden was given the head coaching gig on February 4th, 1969, after John Rauch left to become Buffalo’s head coach.

The Madden era in Oakland started with a bang, as the 1969 Raiders finished with a record of 12-1-1, and ended with a 17-7 loss in the AFL Championship game to the eventual Super Bowl IV champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders went 8-4-2 in their next two seasons. In the 1972 season, the 10-3-1 Raiders were knocked out of the playoffs thanks to Pittsburgh’s Franco Harris completing the “Immaculate Reception”, giving the Steelers the 13-7 win that Madden and Oakland still dispute to this day. Despite this loss, 1972 started a five-year run for the Raiders in which they won the AFC West. 1973 started another five-year run for Madden, one in which the Raiders made it to five straight AFC Championship games. The first three ended in losses, in ‘73 to the Miami Dolphins, and ‘74 and ‘75 to the Steelers. But, in 1976, Madden and the Raiders put it all together.

Oakland finished the season 13-1, with their only loss coming against New England in Week 4. They got their revenge against the Patriots with a 24-21 victory in the Divisional Round, then punched their ticket to Super Bowl XI with a 24-7 win over the same Steelers team that beat them in back-to-back years. Madden coached the Raiders to a 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings, giving Oakland their first Super Bowl. 

After another AFC Championship loss, this time to Denver in 1977, and a disappointing 9-7 season in 1978, John Madden announced his retirement from coaching, citing health conditions. Madden never had a losing season as an NFL head coach, finishing his career with a record of 103-32-7, six AFC West titles, and a Super Bowl victory. For his accomplishments, Madden was named a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2006. 

After his coaching time, Madden was hired by CBS as a color commentator. After two years of doing lower interest games, Madden was teamed up with Pat Summerall in 1981 to form one of the most iconic broadcast duos of all time. After CBS lost their rights to the NFL in 1993, Fox Network won the John Madden sweepstakes, where he spent seven seasons in the booth. He then spent three years for ABC doing their Monday Night Football broadcast, then did Sunday Night Football coverage for NBC for another three years, making Madden the first sports broadcaster to work for all of the “Big Four” U.S. broadcast companies, before retiring from broadcasting in 2009. 

Starting in 1988, Madden gave his voice, name, and likeness to a football video game created by Electronic Arts (EA). The game would be known as John Madden Football, later shortened in 1993 to Madden. He would appear on the cover from the first game in 1988 until Madden NFL 2000. Afterward, NFL players would be featured on the cover. After EA bought the rights to the NFL in 2005, Madden has lasted in history as the sole NFL video game.

Sadly, John Madden passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 28, 2021, at the age of 85. After his death, current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that “Madden was football. There will never be another John Madden.”

 Whether it’s his contributions to football as a coach, a commentator, or a video game creator, John Madden has and will forever leave a legacy. 

Older generations will remember him as the coach of the Raiders, who led Oakland to a victory in Super Bowl XI and was a part of legendary games like the “Sea of Hands” game, the “Ghost to the Post'' game, and the “Holy Roller” game. They may also remember him as the color commentator who normalized shouting onomatopoeias and eating turduckens after Thanksgiving games. 

Younger generations will remember him as the name of their favorite football games. I’ll remember John Madden for both his video games, that I poured thousands of hours into, and for commentating Super Bowl XLIII between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals, the game that first introduced me to live football, and gave me my enduring love for the Cards. However people know him, John Madden is a man that may be gone, but will definitely not be forgotten.

Contact Nate Grubb with comments at nathaniel.grubb@bsu.edu or on Twitter @GrubbNate43.

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