There are several ways one can get their name or likeness ingrained in the minds of NFL fans around the world, and John Madden developed nearly all of them over his illustrious career in the league. As a coach and commentator, his bigger than life persona and stature made him everything to everyone who ever watched a football game. For over five decades John Madden graced the living rooms of football lovers in one capacity or another representing the NFL with passion and integrity with each passing season.
John Earl Madden was a Minnesotan by birth, but raised a Californian, as his family moved there when he was still a boy. He played football in high school and was considered a natural talent by his coaches and fans. He went on to play for several colleges, bouncing from Oregon to the College of San Mateo before settling in at Cal Poly where he played on both offense and defense. In 1958 Madden was selected in the NFL Draft with the 244th overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, but suffered a career ending knee injury during training camp and never played a single snap in the NFL as a result.
Coaching was the next best angle, as John's love for the game was insatiable. He began his career as an assistant coach at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California before being promoted to the head coaching position in 1962. At the close of the 1963 season Madden became the Defensive Assistant at San Diego State where he would remain through the 1966. 1967 rang in his taste of the big time as he became the Linebackers Coach for the Oakland Raiders, who made it to the Super Bowl that season, but lost to the Green Bay Packers.
The following season John Madden became the Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders at the tender age of 32 -- the youngest person to hold the position at the time. Over the next seven seasons the Raiders would make it to the AFC title game five times, all in losing efforts. He began to suffer from what critics called the "inability to win the big game" syndrome. In 1976, however, Madden would silence his critics with a 13-1 record, and two playoff wins to get to Super Bowl XI where they would beat the Minnesota Vikings handily 32-14. The next two years weren't as glorious, as the Raiders lost the AFC Championship in 1977, and failing to make the playoffs in 1978, Madden retired from the sidelines completely.
Beginning in 1979 John Madden would find himself in the booth as a color commentator and analyst for NFL games, where he would remain through 2008. In 1981 he would team up with Pat Summerall to call games in a spirited tandem that was exciting to watch and even more fun to listen to. The duo called eight Super Bowl games together, and countless playoff and regular season games, much to the delight of everyone who witnessed their partnership. Madden's popularity soared, and the networks took notice, as he was the very first commentator to work for each of the big four: ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. With 30 years in the books outside of coaching, and from the comfort of the booth, Madden announced his retirement in 2009.
Football would remain a part of his friendly and easily excitable character, thanks to the wildly popular Madden NFL video game that bears his name, likeness and actual voice. The video game debuted in 1988 and has increased in popularity with the launch of each new season's edition. His 103-32-7 regular season, and 9-7 playoff records as a NFL coach places his winning percentage second all-time in the league making him an icon in the world of football. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Not bad for a guy who is afraid to fly on an airplane, and who relished in his Thanksgiving Day duty of awarding the winning team of the game he called with a "Turducken" -- turkey, chicken and duck, all in one. It will not soon be forgotten how he would unceremoniously rip the leg from the strange bird concoction and march it to the captain of the team as if it were the Lombardi Trophy. Madden was a character that entertained generations of NFL fans throughout the years, and for that we should be thankful.