Whether he was a coach, broadcaster, or video game pioneer, John Madden left a legacy that others could only dream of. And as far as NFL history goes, Madden might very well be, and quite possibly is, the most influential person.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer died unexpectedly on Tuesday morning, the league announced. He was 85 years old.
“On behalf of the entire NFL family, we extend our condolences to Virginia, Mike, Joe and their families,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We all know him as the Hall of Fame coach of the Oakland Raiders and broadcaster who worked for every major network, but more than anything, he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.
“Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football. He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others. There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today.”
Madden’s .739 winning percentage is the highest all-time among coaches who have coached at least 100 games. In 10 seasons coaching the Raiders, the team had no losing seasons and he led Oakland to the playoffs eight times, seven of which to the AFC Championship Game. He finished with a 103-32-7 record.
However, for the longest time, a Super Bowl title eluded Madden and the Raiders. Finally, on January 1977, the team won Super Bowl XI, beating the Minnesota Vikings 32-14. The 1976 Raiders were voted as the “Greatest Team in NFL History” in a 2012 bracket tournament.
Following his career as a head coach, Madden went to the broadcast booth, and over the next 30 years (1979-2009), called games (including Super Bowls) on the four major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX), broadcasted alongside legends such as Vin Scully, Al Michaels, and Pat Summerall. Madden would go on to win 16 Emmy Awards in the process.
What made Madden endear himself to millions of fans was his style of color commentary. He used a telecaster to draw up plays live on the broadcast cameras for the audience at home to see, and used phrases such as “BOOM’ and “DOINK” to describe the action on the field.
He was also quite the TV pitchman. Whether it was Miller Lite, Ace Hardware, or “tough-actin’ Tinactin,” Madden endorsed a wide variety of products in an era where the NFL turned into the billion-dollar company it is today.
And starting in 1988, Madden’s video game series, John Madden Football, began and was a mixture of football intensity and education for new fans. Today, the game series has evolved to new heights under Madden’s guidance, with millions of players purchasing the game every year.
As we say goodbye to an icon, it’s also worth noting this: everyone may not know John Madden for the same reason. But everyone knows John Madden. And he’ll forever be a part of the game of football.