On Tuesday, the world learned of the passing of NFL legend John Madden, whose unexpected death at 85 years old has sent shockwaves throughout the NFL community. ESPN describes him as a “Hall of Fame coach-turned-broadcaster whose exuberant calls combined with simple explanations provided a weekly soundtrack to NFL games for three decades,” but to generations of rabid football fans, he was much more than that.
Throughout the course of his decade-long stint as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 1969 to 1978, he lead the team to seven AFC title games and won his first and only Super Bowl during the 1976 season. During his tenure with the Raiders, he finished with a 103-32-7 regular-season record and a winning percentage of .759—the highest among NFL coaches with more than 100 games under their belt.
In his later years, he would transition into television, becoming a superstar broadcaster and pitchman who hawked everything from hardware stores to beer. Eventually, he lent his namesake to the Madden NFL video game franchise, which went on to become a cultural phenomenon for decades. And for those who thought that the former Allan Hancock assistant coach forgot his roots, he set the record straight during his speech when he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
“People always ask, ‘Are you a coach or a broadcaster or a video game guy?’” Madden said. “I’m a coach. Always been a coach.”
As news of his passing began to circulate, EA Sports, the video game publisher behind the groundbreaking Madden NFL series, issued a statement praising the Daly City, Calif., native as a hero.
“Today, we lost a hero. John Madden was synonymous with the sport of football for more than 50 years,” the company said. “His knowledge of the game was second only to his love for it, and his appreciation for everyone that stepped on the gridiron. A humble champion, a willing teacher, and forever a coach. Our hearts and sympathies go out to John’s family, friends, and millions of fans. He will be greatly missed, always remembered, and never forgotten.”
His beloved Oakland Raiders issued a statement of their own as well.
“The Raiders Family is deeply saddened by the passing of the legendary John Madden,” the organization posted on its website. “Few individuals meant as much to the growth and popularity of professional football as Coach Madden, whose impact on the game both on and off the field was immeasurable.”
On social media, fans, players, and team personnel offered their condolences and expressed gratitude for the indelible mark that the NFL legend left on the game of football.
What makes Madden’s loss even more tragic is that he celebrated his 62nd wedding anniversary with his wife, Virginia, a mere two days before his death.
We at The Root offer our thoughts and prayers to his friends and family.
There will never be another John Madden.