John Madden’s unprecedented impact on the NFL influenced generations of football fans

There has never been a better marriage between coach, team and fan base. As colorful as Madden was – a fanatical, soft-haired, double-chinned mess wrapped in polyester and gesticulating wildly – he led a team that established themselves as NFL outlaws, far beyond limits of a sport which, to this day, revere discipline and the respect of the rules above all. The Raiders have adopted a rebellious, motley identity – with matching fluid locks – and, most importantly, hard-hitting. It was an extraordinary collection of talents and strong personalities: Ken Stabler, Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, Dave Casper, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, John Matuszak, Willie Brown, Lester Hayes, Jack Tatum and so on. In 10 years as a head coach, the Madden Raiders have appeared in seven AFC or AFL title games and won Super Bowl XI, beating the Minnesota Vikings. The Raiders have never had a losing season with Madden and he was the youngest coach in history to reach 100 wins.

He cared deeply – maybe too much deeply – about his team. His Raiders fell victim to one of the greatest games in NFL history, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Immaculate Reception”, and he remained as disbelieving years later as he was when he was. walked into the locker room to greet his players that day.

“He just said, ‘We have f —–.’ “former Raider Phil Villapiano once told me. “And something like, ‘We’ll never get to the bottom of this.’ “

They never did. And Madden continued to lament the play decades later. His obvious passion and enthusiasm for the game – there were times when he was so agitated on the sidelines that it was wondered if he was going to pass out – made him a folk hero to Oakland fans and an endearing and popular star for everyone.

It would also be a waste of his time spent on the sidelines. After the 1978 season, after only 10 years as a head coach and with a sparkling career record of 103-32-7, Madden resigned. He cited the toll the work took him – he had a deteriorating ulcer and was usually exhausted – and, with tears in his eyes, said he was going to do whatever his wife and children wanted and that he would never train. again. He didn’t and was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 2006. To this day, Madden’s .759 winning percentage remains the best in NFL history (min. 10 seasons). coach), just ahead of Vince Lombardi (.738) and George Allen (0.712).

“I gave him everything I had and I have nothing left,” he said on the day of his resignation.

Maybe not for training, but Madden had many gone for other football activities. He took what was already the traditional next step for NFL retirees and slipped into the broadcast booth.

After a few years of playing low-profile games, he teamed up with Pat Summerall in 1981 to form CBS’s largest broadcast – and football – duo. Madden was already very popular. An advertising executive working for Miller Lite told Madden that after filming a new beer commercial, more people would know him from this appearance than ever as a trainer. Madden insisted to the executive that he would be wrong. It was not wrong.

“I’m not the same crazy coach who used to storm the sideline yelling at officials,” Madden said in the ad, leaning over a bar. “I learned to relax.

Then, while extolling the virtues of beer, Madden takes to the skies – pacing, waving his arms, screaming. And finally, bursting through a paper facade, his rant continued. It was familiar and hilarious, and it made Madden what he became for another generation of fans: the guy who calls the game and talks like your friends at the bar. It was the magic of television, and he and Summerall became the soundtrack to the NFL, at a time when the game was exploding in popularity. Madden was, once again, an adorable mess, her hair indomitable, her words sometimes scrambled in excitement. He was the yin-yang of the well-groomed, immaculately dressed TV broadcasters who dominated the airwaves by then.

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