Hall of Fame coach and beloved host John Madden dies at 85

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John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach turned host whose exuberant calls combined with straightforward 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 suddenly and did not specify a cause.

Madden rose to fame over a decade as coach of the renegade Oakland Raiders, reaching seven games for the AFC title and winning the Super Bowl after the 1976 season. He compiled a record 103- 32-7 in the regular season and his 0.759 winning percentage is the best among NFL coaches with over 100 games.

But it was his job after his untimely retirement as a coach at 42 that made Madden a real name. He educated a nation of football with his use of the telestrator on the broadcasts; entertained millions of people with his interjections of “Boom! And “Doink! »Throughout the games; was a ubiquitous pitchman selling restaurants, hardware stores, and beer; became the face of “Madden NFL Football,” one of the most successful sports video games of all time; and was a bestselling author.

Importantly, he was the leading sports analyst on television for most of his three decades of calling games, winning an unprecedented 16 Emmy Awards for Outstanding Sports Analyst / Personality and covering 11 Super Bowls for four networks from 1979 to 2009. .

“People always ask if you are a trainer, a broadcaster or a video game guy? “, He declared during his election to the Hall of Fame of professional football. “I am a coach, I have always been a coach. “

He began his career as a broadcaster at CBS after quitting training largely because of his fear of flying. He and Pat Summerall have become the network’s premier duo. Madden went on to help give Fox credibility as a major network when he moved there in 1994, and continued to call prime-time games on ABC and NBC before retiring after the Pittsburgh’s thrilling 27-23 win over Arizona in the 2009 Super Bowl.

Rugged and a bit sloppy, Madden has carved a place for himself in the heart of America with a friendly, unassuming style that was refreshing in a world of sports with skyrocketing salaries and prima donna stars. He went from match to match in his own bus because he suffered from claustrophobia and had stopped flying. For a while, Madden gifted a “turducken” _ a stuffed chicken inside a stuffed duck inside a turkey _ to the outstanding Thanksgiving game player he named.

“ No one loved football more than Coach. He was a footballer, ” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “ He was an incredible sounding board for me and for so many others. There will never be another John Madden, and we will be forever indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today. ”

When he finally retired from the broadcast booth, leaving NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”, his colleagues unanimously praised Madden’s passion for the sport, his preparation and his ability to explain an often complicated game in terms down to earth.

“No one has made the sport more interesting, more relevant and more fun to watch and listen to than John,” said play-by-play announcer Al Michaels at the time.

For anyone who’s heard Madden exclaim “Boom! As he broke down a room, his love of the game was evident.

“For me, television is really an extension of coaching,” Madden wrote in “Hey, wait a minute! (I wrote a book!). ”

“ My knowledge of football comes from training. And on TV all I’m trying to do is convey some of that knowledge to the viewers. ”

Madden grew up in Daly City, California. He played on Cal Poly’s offensive and defensive lines in 1957-58 and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from school.

Madden was drafted into the All-Conference squad and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, but a knee injury ended his hopes for a professional playing career. Instead, Madden became a coach, first at Hancock Junior College, then as a defensive coordinator at San Diego State.

Al Davis brought him to the Raiders as a linebacker coach in 1967, and Oakland went to the Super Bowl in his first year with the pros. He replaced John Rauch as head coach after the 1968 season at age 32, starting a remarkable 10-year streak.

With his demonstrative demeanor on the sidelines and disheveled looks, Madden was the perfect trainer for the collection of rejects and misfits that made up these Raider teams.

“ Sometimes guys were disciplinary in things that made no difference. I was disciplined in offside jumps; Hated it, ” Madden once said. “ Being in a bad position and missing tackles, those things. I wasn’t, ‘Your hair needs to be combed.’ ”

The Raiders responded.

“I always thought his strong suit was his coaching style,” quarterback Ken Stabler once said. “ John just had the knack of letting us be who we wanted to be, on and off the pitch. … How do you reward him for being like this? You win for him. ”

And boy, have they ever done it. For many years the only problem was the playoffs.

Madden went 12-1-1 in his debut season, losing the AFL title game 17-7 to Kansas City. This pattern repeated itself during his tenure; the Raiders have won the divisional title in seven of its first eight seasons, but have gone 1-6 in conference title games during that span.

Yet the Madden Raiders played in some of the sport’s most memorable games of the 1970s, games that helped change the rules of the NFL. There was the “Holy Roller” in 1978, when Stabler deliberately fumbled forward before being sacked in the last game. The ball rolled and was kicked into the end zone before Dave Casper did. recovers for the winning touchdown against San Diego.

The most famous of these games was against the Raiders in the 1972 playoffs in Pittsburgh. With the Raiders leading 7-6 and 22 seconds left, the Steelers had a fourth and 10 of their 40s. Terry Bradshaw’s desperate pass deflected Oakland’s Jack Tatum or Pittsburgh’s Frenchy Fuqua to Franco Harris, who the grabbed at the top of his shoes. and ran for a TD.

At that time, a pass that bounced off an attacking player directly onto a teammate was illegal, and debate continues to this day over which player was touched. The catch, of course, has been dubbed the “Immaculate Reception”.

Oakland finally broke through with a loaded team in 1976 that had Stabler as a quarterback; Fred Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch in 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 went 13-1, losing just one blowout to New England in Week 4. They repaid the Patriots with a 24-21 win in their first game of the playoffs and overcame the bump of the game. for the AFC title with a 24-7 victory over the hated Steelers, who were crippled by injuries.

Oakland won it all with a 32-14 Super Bowl loss to Minnesota.

“The players loved playing for him,” Shell said. “ He made it fun for us at camp and fun for us in the regular season. All he asked was for us to be on time and play like hell when it was time to play. ”

Madden struggled with an ulcer the following season, when the Raiders again lost in the AFC title game. He retired from coaching at age 42 after a 9-7 season in 1978.

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