John Madden died on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, at the age of 85 but made arguably the biggest impact of anybody on professional football.
There are other guys you could make a case for like Vince Lombardi, Paul Brown or George Halas. I don’t know if Madden’s impact was bigger than those other three, but it was probably more interesting. All four coached in the NFL, but Madden only coached for 10 seasons. Halas was a head coach for 40 years and Brown 25. Lombardi was a head coach for 10 seasons but died at the age of 57. We’ll never know for sure, but I’m guessing he would have coached for a lot longer if he could have.
Madden retired from coaching after a 9-7 season in 1978. He then spent the next 30 years as a broadcaster for NFL games. The combination of Madden and his telestrator made him even more famous than he was as a Super Bowl-winning coach. Madden’s big personality paired great with Pat Summerall for 22 seasons.
There aren’t a bunch of NFL coaches that turned into great broadcasters, but Madden isn’t alone in that category. What makes him unique is the third part of his triumvirate of professional football. Madden also had a highly-lucrative video game series with his name on it.
The original, “John Madden Football,” was released in 1988 on the Apple II. Since 1990, there has been a new "Madden" video game released every year. While the series has peaks and valleys, a case could be made than Madden is now most known for being the name on a popular NFL game franchise.
My first experience with the franchise was “Madden 64” released on the Nintendo 64 in 1997. It took many tries until I finally won a game. I had to use the All-Madden team to beat the lowly Chicago Bears. But, with lots of time and practice, I eventually got much better at it.
A lot of people got sick of Madden as a broadcaster after a while too. I get it. He’s a big personality and that can get old after 10 or 20 years. I always liked him though.
So grab your closest “Madden” game, "Tough Actin" Tinactin or gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse – all places he was a spokesperson for – and remember the big personality of Madden.
Or, if you're so inclined, you could e-mail our managing editor Justin Rust at firstname.lastname@example.org.