UNITED STATES – John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach turned broadcaster whose exuberant calls combined with simple explanations provided a weekly soundtrack to NFL games for three decades, died Tuesday morning, the league said. He was 85 years old.
The NFL said he died unexpectedly and did not detail the cause.
Madden gained fame in a decade-long season as coach of the renegade Oakland Raiders, notching seven AFC title games and winning the SuperBowl after the 1976 season. He compiled a 103-32-7 record in the regular season, and his .759 winning percentage is the best among NFL coaches with more than 100 games.
But it was his job after prematurely retiring from coaching at age 42 that made Madden a household name. He educated a nation of soccer with the use of the telestractor in the transmissions; entertained millions with his interjections of “Boom!” and “Doink!” throughout the games; He was a ubiquitous publicist who sold restaurants, hardware stores, and beer; became the face of “Madden NFL Football,” one of the most successful sports video games of all time; and he was a best-selling author.
Above all, he was the preeminent television sports analyst for most of his three decades calling games, winning an unprecedented 16 Emmy Awards for a prominent sports analyst / personality and covering 11 SuperBowls for four networks from 1979 to 2009.
His life and trajectory
He began his broadcasting career at CBS after dropping out of training in large part due to his fear of flying. He and Pat Summerall became the network’s main advertising duo. Madden then helped give Fox credibility as a major network when he moved there in 1994, and went on to host primetime games on ABC and NBC before retiring following Pittsburgh’s thrilling 27-23 victory over Arizona in the SuperBowl. from 2009.
Stocky and a bit sloppy, Madden earned a place in the heart of America with a pleasant, unassuming style that was refreshing in a sports world of spiraling salaries and prima donna stars. He was going from game to game in his own bus because he was claustrophobic and had stopped flying. For a time, Madden gave a “turducken” – a stuffed chicken inside a stuffed duck inside a turkey – to the outstanding player in the Thanksgiving game he called.
When he finally retired from the broadcast booth, leaving NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” his colleagues universally praised Madden’s passion for the sport, his preparation, and his ability to explain an often complicated game in practical terms.
For anyone who has heard Madden exclaim “Boom!” As he analyzed a play, his love for the game was obvious.
Madden grew up in Daly City, California. He played both offensive and defensive lines for Cal Poly in 1957-58 and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from school.
Madden was selected to the all-conference team and was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles, but a knee injury dashed his hopes for a professional playing career. Instead, Madden devoted himself to coaching, first at Hancock Junior College and later 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 SuperBowl in his first year as a professional. He replaced John Rauch as head coach after the 1968 season at age 32, beginning a remarkable 10-year streak.
With his demonstrative demeanor on the bench and disheveled appearance, Madden was the ideal coach for the collection of scraps and misfits that made up those Raiders teams.
Madden was 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 their first eight seasons, but were 1-6 in conference title games during that span.
Still, Madden’s Raiders played in some of the most memorable games of the 1970s, games that helped change the rules of the NFL. There was the “Holy Roller” in 1978, when Stabler intentionally fumbled forward before being caught on the last play. The ball rolled and was hit into the end zone before Dave Casper recovered it 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 play, the Steelers had a quarter and 10 from their 40s. Terry Bradshaw’s desperate pass deflected from Oakland’s Jack Tatum or Pittsburgh’s Frenchy Fuqua to Franco Harris, who caught it at the top of your shoes. and ran for a TD.
In those days, a pass that bounced from an offensive player directly to a teammate was illegal, and the debate continues to this day as to which player it hit. The catch, of course, was dubbed the “Immaculate Reception.”
Oakland finally broke through with a loaded team in 1976 that had Stabler at quarterback; Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch at receiver; tight end 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 were 13-1, losing just one beating at New England in Week 4. They paid off the Patriots with a 24-21 win in their first playoff game and broke the hump of the AFC title game. with a 24-7 win over the Raiders. He hated the Steelers, who were paralyzed by injuries.
Oakland won it all with a 32-14 SuperBowl win against Minnesota.
Madden battled an ulcer the following season, when the Raiders lost again in the AFC title game. He retired from the coach at age 42 after a 9-7 season in 1978.
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The NFL mourns the death of the historic John Madden