John Madden, the legendary sportscaster and hall of fame football coach, died “unexpectedly” Tuesday morning, the NFL said. He was 85.
Whether it was as a coach, an NFL broadcaster or the face of a successful video game franchise, Madden has been a household name for football fans since the late 1970s.
After getting hurt as a rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles, Madden turned to coaching. He started out as an assistant coach at Allan Hancock College in 1960 before rising to head coach of the program in 1962. He then served as the defensive coordinator for San Diego State University from 1964 to 1966 until he returned to the NFL as a linebackers coach in 1967 for the Raiders, who played in Oakland at the time.
He took over head coaching duties in 1969 and lead the Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI in 1977, defeating the Minnesota Vikings 32-14. Citing poor health, Madden announced his retirement from coaching in 1979. He never had a losing season during his tenure with the Raiders and remains the winningest coach in franchise history. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Madden then made the leap to broadcasting, getting his start at CBS as a color commentator in 1979. He would go on to work with the other three major broadcast TV networks throughout his career, and served at various times as a color commentator for both “Monday Night Football” and “Sunday Night Football.” He became known for his signature in-depth commentary and colorful personality, and he retired from the booth after the 2008 season.
Beginning in 1988, his voice, personality and name were the cornerstone of the “Madden NFL” series of football video games, helping him become one of the most recognizable names in the sport for newer generations of football fans.
Madden further cemented his status as a cultural icon beyond the NFL by appearing in ads and lending his voice for several products, retailers, movies and more.
Tributes honoring Madden poured in following the announcement of his death.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell extended condolences to Madden’s family.
“We all know him as the Hall of Fame coach of the Oakland Raiders and broadcaster who worked for every major network, but more than anything, he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather,” Goodell said in a statement Tuesday.
“Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football. He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others,” he added. “There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today.”
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called Madden’s death “a loss that is as big as the legacy John Madden created.”
“I am not aware of anyone who has made a more meaningful impact on the National Football League than John Madden, and I know of no one who loved the game more,” Jones said in a statement.
Former New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman had high praise for Madden as well.
“When you think NFL football, you think John Madden. RIP to a Legend,” he tweeted.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant, who formerly played for the Cowboys, attributed his love of the game to Madden. “Rest In Peace John Madden… one of the main reasons why I love football so much… wow!” he wrote on Twitter.