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John Madden, NFL Hall of Fame Coach and Broadcaster, Dies at 85

John Madden, sportscaster, September 1994. ph:
Courtesy Everett Collection

John Madden, the legendary football coach, broadcaster and namesake of the popular video game franchise, died on Tuesday morning. He was 85.

The National Football League announced his death on Tuesday afternoon in a press release, writing that Madden died unexpectedly. A cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

“On behalf of the entire NFL family, we extend our condolences to Virginia, Mike, Joe and their families,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “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. Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football. He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others. 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.”

Madden was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders for 10 seasons, winning Super Bowl XI in 1976, and a mainstay of football coverage on television. The burly, garrulous coach became the personification of football in the 1970s with his gridiron antics, and he shaped the game from the broadcast booth for another 30 years after retiring from the coaching in 1979.

Born in Austin, Minn. on April 10, 1936, Madden was a football star in high school and played one season at the College of San Mateo in California before receiving a scholarship from the University of Oregon. Madden returned to San Mateo in 1955, and went on to play at Grays Harbor College in Washington and Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo during his college career. He was drafted to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958, but due to a knee injury during training camp, he never got to play professionally.

Madden began his work in TV for CBS Sports the same year he retired. In 1981, he teamed with Pat Summerall for NFL coverage on CBS. In 1994, after Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Broadcasting Co. had snagged the league’s NFC rights package away from CBS, Madden and Summerall moved to Fox as well. Madden also served as analyst and color commentator for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” from 2006 to 2008. In 2006, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

His name also became synonymous with the Madden NFL football video game franchise, which began in 1988. His voice and personality are featured throughout the Electronic Arts video game, and he continued to provide creative input for the series after his retirement as a broadcaster in 2009.

In all, he covered 11 Super Bowls across four networks during his 1979-2009 run as a broadcaster and collected 16 Sports Emmy awards, as well as the lifetime achievement award in 2010. Madden was also a popular TV pitchman in his heyday, including a long association with Miller Lite with commercials that spoofed his reputation for having a hot temper. He played himself in several films, including “Christine,” “Little Giants” and “The Replacements,” and hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 1982.

Madden’s life and legacy in football and broadcasting were explored in the Fox Sports documentary “All Madden,” which debuted Dec. 25 as the lead-in to the network’s Christmas Day NFL telecast of the Green Bay Packers vs. Cleveland Browns.

Madden is survived by his wife, Virginia Fields, and sons Mike and Joe.