HOLLYWOOD — John Madden has called an audible on his broadcasting career.
The burly NFL legend, whose plainspoken, straightforward style set the standard for gridiron analysts, confirmed Thursday that he has decided to retire after 30 years in the broadcast booth, most recently for NBC Sports’ “Sunday Night Football.” His last game was the Feb. 1 Super Bowl.
“It’s time. I’m 73 years old,” Madden said in a statement. “I have two great sons and their families, and my five grandchildren are at an age now when they know when I’m home and, more importantly, when I’m not.”
Madden surprised NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol when he informed him of his decision earlier this week. Ebersol said he flew to Madden’s home in the Bay Area on Wednesday in an effort to persuade Madden to continue at least part time, but the coach with the best winning percentage in NFL history had made up his mind.
“In true John Madden fashion, he was sure,” Ebersol said. “We will never see or hear another man like John Madden.”
NBC Sports said Cris Collingsworth will move from the pre-game “Football Night in America” show to join play-by-play commentator Al Michaels in the “Sunday Night Football” booth.
Madden is the only sports broadcaster to serve as the lead football analyst for each of the Big Four broadcast nets. He’s earned 16 Sports Emmy trophies as sports analyst/personality, and he earned his 18th nom in the category earlier this month.
Madden is well known for his reluctance to fly, even in a job that requires frequent travel. He was famous for traveling to game sites in a custom-built RV; the strain of all of that travel may have contributed to his decision to retire.
Madden segued into the booth for CBS in 1979 after ending a storied coaching career with the Oakland Raiders. He started with the team in 1967 and was named head coach two years later at the age of 33.
When the Eye lost its football rights package to Fox in 1994, Madden followed, serving as Fox’s lead analyst from 1994-2002. He spent the next four years with ABC’s “Monday Night Football” and then moved to NBC after the Peacock returned to the NFL biz in 2006. Madden was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame the same year.
Madden is beloved by fans for his energetic delivery and palpable love of the game. He remains an icon to younger generations as the star of Electronics Arts’ “Madden NFL” bestselling vidgames.
“No one has made the sport more interesting, more relevant and more enjoyable to watch and listen to than John,” said Michaels, who also worked with Madden on “Monday Night Football.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hailed Madden for his wide-ranging contributions to the game.
“John’s respect and passion for the game always stood out. He was the ultimate football fan who also happened to be an extraordinarily talented coach and broadcaster,” Goodell said. “He had an incredible talent for explaining the game in an unpretentious way that made it more understandable and fun.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)