The NFL lost one of its biggest legends Tuesday with the unexpected passing of John Madden, 85, the retired Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster. But Madden’s legacy will live on. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said it best, in remembrance, on Tuesday: John Madden was football — an icon of the sport, a mentor of the game, a voice for generations.
Here’s a timeline of Madden’s career as a titan of the industry:
Born in Minnesota and raised in California, Madden starred in high school football before playing offensive and defensive line at the College of San Mateo. He eventually got a scholarship from Oregon alongside friend and future USC and Rams coach John Robinson, bounced to Grays Harbor College after a knee injury resulted in a redshirt season, then finally landed with Cal Poly, where he earned all-conference honors as an offensive tackle.
Drafted to the NFL
The Eagles drafted Madden in the 21st round of the 1958 draft, two years before Philadelphia won the NFL championship, but a separate knee injury in training camp ended his career before it began. Madden later revealed that he developed an affinity for teaching football by studying film with then-Eagles quarterback Norm Van Brocklin while injured.
First coaching gigs
Madden’s first job came at Allan Hancock College, a community college in Santa Maria, California, in 1960. After two years as an assistant, he was promoted to head coach, leading the team from 1962-1963. With his name on the map, San Diego State came calling in 1964, naming him defensive coordinator — a post he held from 1964-1966 under future College Football Hall of Famer Don Coryell.
Stardom with the Raiders
Then based in Oakland as part of the yet-to-be-merged AFL, the Raiders hired Madden as their linebackers coach in 1967, and he helped the team advance to Super Bowl II in his first year. By 1969, after head coach John Rauch’s resignation, Madden was already atop Al Davis’ staff, becoming the NFL’s youngest head coach at age 32. Everything about him was big — his size, his personality, his success — over the ensuing decade (1969-1978) that he served as head coach.
Madden went 12-1-1 in his first year running the Raiders, making the first of seven career trips to the AFC Championship (AFL in 1969). He finally got over the hump in 1976, leading the 13-1 Raiders to Super Bowl XI, where his club routed Bud Grant’s Vikings for the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy. He retired after the 1978 season having never suffered a losing season, not to mention as the youngest coach to reach 100 total victories, logging a 103-32-7 career record. His .759 winning percentage is the greatest of all time among head coaches with at least 100 wins.
Move to broadcasting
Madden wasted no time transitioning from the sidelines to the booth, joining CBS as a color commentator in 1979. He became the network’s top color man alongside Pat Summerall in 1981, calling five Super Bowls. His excitable personality and trademark catchphrases — “Boom!” — helped him become a mainstay in the business, and he remained with CBS until 1994, when he transitioned to Fox on a lucrative deal that saw him call another three Super Bowls. After Fox (1994-2001), Madden teamed up with Al Michaels for “Sunday Night Football” on ABC (2002-2005) and NBC Sports (2006-2008) before retiring. He finished his TV career as a 16-time Emmy Award winner.
The face of ‘Madden’
During Madden’s foray into broadcasting, he lent his name, voice and likeness to the now-famous “Madden NFL” video game series from EA Sports. Featuring Madden’s color commentary and simulated playbooks, the game debuted in 1988 and has released annually since 1990. It remains the only officially licensed NFL video game series.
Hall of Fame
Madden’s all-time achievements were solidified with a gold jacket and induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.