John Madden: A coach synonymous with football, thanks to a video game

John Madden, the Super Bowl champ football coach and Hall of Popularity broadcaster, and name of EA Sports’ foundation computer game franchise for more than thirty years, passed away on Tuesday. He was 85.

Madden, whose .759 winning portion is the greatest amongst coaches in expert football’s modern-day period, is extensively kept in mind as the leader of among the NFL’s a lot of glamorized franchises — the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s — and as the voice of Sunday afternoons in CBS and Fox Sports’ cubicles. Stints as a lively television pitchman for hardware, beer, and antifungal foot powder likewise upheld his public image as an avuncular, warm-hearted figure.

However in a 34-year collaboration with Electronic Arts, Madden reached a popularity far beyond all of those awards: His name is associated with the sport of Football itself. EA Sports’ Madden NFL series, started in 1988, presented football method, principles, and methods to countless kids and young people — in both the United States and overseas.

In Madden’s computer game, returning to IBM PCs and the Sega Genesis, principles like trap stopping and zone blitzing; passing paths like the post and the drag; and defenses like the nickel and the 46, shed the telestrator lingo added to them over the preceding twenty years, and came to life in the basements and dorm rooms of America. And because a minimum of 1990, when Electronic Arts initially released John Madden Football for consoles, “Let’s play some Madden” has actually been rec-room vernacular for “let’s play football.”

“Today, we lost a hero,” EA Sports stated in a declaration Tuesday night. “John Madden was synonymous with the sport of football for more than 50 years. His knowledge of the game was second only to his love for it, and his appreciation for everyone that ever stepped on the gridiron.”

John Earl Madden was born April 10, 1936 in Austin, Minnesota, relocating to Daly City, California, in the San Francisco Bay Location, early in his youth. He was a two-way starter for Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in 1957 and 1958, making all-conference honors at offending tackle his senior season. Prepared 244th total by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958, a knee injury avoided him from ever playing a down in the National Football League.

A respected winner with a renowned group

Madden traced his techniques of evaluating football movie to his time invested fixing up in Eagles training school, sitting with Standard Van Brocklin as the Hall of Popularity quarterback studied opposing defenses. In the 1960s, he took numerous assistant training tasks at colleges in California prior to signing up with Al Davis’ Oakland Raiders, then of the upstart Football League, as a linebackers coach in 1967. The Raiders made Super Bowl II that season, losing to Green Bay. In 1969, Davis called Madden head coach, then the youngest in expert football history.

In Madden’s 10 seasons at the helm, the Raiders turned into one of the National Football League’s a lot of telegenic groups, in football’s most telegenic time, caught on the 16 millimeter reels of NFL Movies and provided with glissando narrative by John Facenda. Under Madden, the Raiders published a 103-32-7 record, won Super Bowl XI in 1977, and played in many routine and postseason video games that are venerated with nearly Scriptural epithets: The Holy Roller. The Ghost to the Post. The Spotless Reception. And the best of them all, The Sea of Hands.

The gamers on these groups established an arrogant credibility that couple of other franchises have actually ever matched, much less continual, over the previous 50 years. They are immortals on very first recommendation: Ted Hendricks. Cliff Branch. Lester Hayes. Willie Brown. Jack Tatum. Fred Biletnikoff. Jim Otto. Ken “The Snake” Stabler. Dave Casper, the Ghost. And the Mummy, Gene Upshaw. Understood for an electrifying, deep passing offense and a ruthless attack on the opposing quarterback, even the Raiders’ unique groups were bigger than life, led by Ray Man, the only punter chosen to the Pro Football Hall of Popularity.

And Madden motivated incredible commitment in his guys. Phil Villapiano, whose interception closed The Sea of Hands 28-26 for the Raiders in the 1974 playoffs, right away raced to his sideline to present Madden with the ball. “He actually said, ‘That should be your ball, you made that interception,’” stated Villapiano, chosen 45th in 1971 by method of Bowling Green University. “I said, ‘Nope, coach, nobody wanted that more than you, and that’s your ball.’”

John Madden, Oakland Raiders coach, during an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on October 6, 1974. The Raiders defeated the Browns 40-24.

From left: Fred Biletnikoff (25), John Madden, Jim Otto (00), Larry Lawrence (13). Biletnikoff, Madden, and Otto are members of the Pro Football Hall of Popularity in Canton, Ohio.
Picture by Ross Lewis/Getty Images

In a tie and short-sleeved t-shirt, slipping a cigarette on the sidelines, Madden was so recognizably the face of the atrocious Raiders that, when AFL brother or sister Denver lastly conquered their blood opponents in the 1978 AFC champion, linebacker Tom Jackson (himself a broadcaster for ESPN later on) pointed at Madden and memorably stated “It’s over, fat man!” as the Mile High Arena crowd roared its approval. Madden retired the next year.

Pitchman, instructor, and the voice of Sunday afternoons

Upon leaving training, Madden signed up with CBS Sports as an expert for its Sunday NFL video games. In 2 years, he was promoted to the network’s leading revealing job, along with Pat Summerall, their voices marking completion of a weekend, and the start of research for a generation of schoolchildren. The collaboration would cover the next 21 years and 2 networks, in addition to the virtual broadcast cubicle for the very first 11 years of the Madden NFL franchise on consoles.

Madden’s special personality, an everyman with a rowdy voice and a deeply experienced football mind, led Electronic Arts creator Journey Hawkins to approach him in 1984 about a football computer system simulation his two-year-old studio was establishing. In a story that, like a lot of things Madden, has a mythological aura about it, Hawkins pleaded his case over a three-day train trip from Denver to San Francisco. (Madden, who was claustrophobic, disliked flying, and normally taken a trip by recreational vehicle to his broadcast projects).

Madden firmly insisted that the computer game present 2 groups of 11 gamers — 22 sprites on a single screen, a harsh work for desktop computers of the day. Hawkins and the EA designers with him were more comfy providing a 7-on-7 video game.

“That’s not real football,” Madden stated. Hawkins stated it would take years to establish a video game that rendered all 22 gamers. “Then it will take years,” Madden stated.

“It was important to me that if it was going to be football, it was going to be real football, it was going to be NFL football,” Madden informed ESPN computer game reporter Jon Robinson in 2011. “And to Journey, while this was a video game, to me, this was a mentor tool. I desired it so when computer systems came out, a coach might utilize his computer system to reveal his gamers the plays and after that you might examine the possibility of success of the play.

“If that worked,” he included, “I thought might be a good high school tool or even a good college tool.”

john madden football hall of fame packaging

The cover of John Madden Football (1990) for Sega Genesis, the very first Madden computer game to release on consoles.
Picture: The Strong National Museum of Play and World Computer Game Hall of Popularity

John Madden Football released June 1, 1988 for the Apple II, and in 1989 for the Commodore 64 and 128 and MS-DOS PCs. Although positively examined at the time, it was not a mainstream success, as computer game gamers then had extremely little familiarity with the technical operations of Football, unless they played it themselves at an arranged level. Madden was paid $100,000 and 5% of sales.

John Madden Football ’92, the series’ second appearance on Sega Genesis, was a landmark work that sold 400,000 copies — five times the internal projection of 75,000 units. EA infamously reverse-engineered the Genesis in order to publish the game without paying a $10-per-unit licensing fee to Sega. Over the next five years, the series acquired full licensing from both the NFL and the NFL Players Association, sold more than 8 million copies, and became the keystone of EA Sports’ “It’s in the game” promise.

“I was with my 8-year-old grandson the other night while he was playing, and it’s amazing how much they know now at such a young age,” Madden told ESPN in 2011. “You don’t have to wait until high school to get to know the plays and the rules now. Kids can call out rules quicker than someone inside the game can, and it’s just amazing to me the knowledge of young players. And then for the high school kids, this is how they’re learning how to play.”

Madden NFL’s reach and popularity surged even more at the advent of CD-based console gaming and motion-captured animations. An appearance on the cover of the current game became an annual honor — or curse — for NFL gamers beginning with Tennessee’s Eddie George in 2000.

The influence of Madden’s video game further manifest in real-life NFL games as its earliest fans became players and head coaches themselves. Raheem Morris, promoted to head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009, told reporters he “majored in Madden,” at Hofstra in the late 1990s, a fact that delighted Madden himself. The same season, Denver’s Brandon Stokely caught a game-winning touchdown pass and ran parallel to the goal line to drain the clock, a tactic conceived on basement couches more than a decade earlier.

Millions of copies offered, billions of dollars made

Throughout it all, Madden NFL has been a sales behemoth for Electronic Arts, regardless of the review scores for what has become a relentlessly criticized video game under an exclusive NFL license going back to 2005. EA Sports boasted 180 million systems sold in the Madden franchise’s 30th anniversary year, and claimed record-setting first week sales for the video game in 2020. That does not include the explosive growth of the game’s Ultimate Team mode over the past 10 years, contributing to billion-dollar totals on EA’s bottom line each year.

John Madden’s original contract with EA paid him $100,000 in 1984, and 5% of the game’s sales. In 2005, retiring from broadcasting after calling the NFL for all four networks, rumors suggested Electronic Arts might drop him from their video game. Instead, it was reported that EA paid Madden $150 million for the rights to his name, in perpetuity, for their video games. In 2013, CNN Money reported Madden was being paid another $2 million per year for the use of his name.


John Madden, seated at center, watching the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals in a 2009 game from his studio and home in Pleasanton, California
Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo/MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images

He was, by all accounts, an active participant in the game’s development even in his retirement from public life. Developers from EA Tiburon, the Maitland, Florida studio behind the game since 1995, have often spoke of annual visits to Madden’s home in Pleasanton, California, usually in the winter, to show him the game. Madden was known for passing blunt judgment — consistent with his original dismissal of Hawkins in 1984 — if something was not up to standard.

“I don’t think about having a great time playing the game,” Madden informed Kotaku in 2011. “You know, they say if it’s in the game, it’s in the game, well, what I do is watch the game. I try to watch every [NFL] game and just watch the trends, see what they’re doing now, and whether that is in the video game, so we’re playing the same game that they’re playing in the NFL.”

Asked how he would play his video video game, with his old Raiders, had he been raised on the video game the way coaches today have actually, Madden unhesitatingly invoked his preferred gamer: Ted Hendricks, the Mad Stork.

“Now that I really see how much havoc [Hendricks] could cause, and how I can move him around out there, I think he would have been great for the game,” Madden stated.

“I’d just blitz them, every play,” he stated.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.