Legendary NFL Coach, Sportscaster John Madden Dead at 85

John Madden
John Madden carried off the field by the Raiders (Image credit: Fox Sports)

 John Madden, a Super Bowl winning coach, prolific broadcaster and namesake of one of the most popular video games died Tuesday. He was 85.

After retiring from coaching the Oakland Raiders, Madden became a sportscaster, enlivening NFL games with his enthusiasm and educating fans by being able to turn his knowledge of the game into simple statements, backed up with drawing on his telestrator.

John Madden

John Madden (Image credit: Fox Sports)

"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,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

"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,” Goodell said.

Madden started his TV career in 1979 as a color commentator with CBS. He was paired with Pat Summerall, forming a legendary broadcast booth.

CBS lost its rights to NFL games to the upstart Fox Network and Madden moved to Fox in 1994, giving Fox Sports the biggest name in sportscasting. 

Madden moved to ABC Sports and Monday Night Football in primetime in 2002.

He completed his tour of broadcast's Big Four, moving to NBC for Sunday Night Football in 2006. 

“John was arguably the most impressive man I’ve ever met , , , he was a hero, as well as a dear friend. Sunday Night Football is what it is today in part because he came over to NBC.  He set the tone for what has become primetime’s #1 show for the past decade," said former NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol.

“Personally, I loved John.  He was a friend, a mentor and one of the most intelligent human beings I’ve ever known. Our love goes out to his wife, Virginia and his sons and grandchildren.  He’ll be sorely missed by every American sports fan who ever invited John into their living rooms," Ebersol said.

“We worked together for seven years on Monday Night Football and Sunday Night Football, It was like hitting the lottery, " said Al Michaels, who did play by play alongside Madden on both primetime broadcasts.

"He was so much more than just football – a keen observer of everything around him and a man who could carry on a smart conversation about hundreds and hundreds of topics. The term ‘Renaissance Man’ is tossed around a little too loosely these days, but John was as close as you can come. A dear friend, a wonderful partner in the broadcast booth and a man who brought so much joy to so many people, I’ll miss him enormously," Michaels said.

Super Bowl XLIII was Madden's final game as a sportscaster and he retired on April 16, 2009.

Madden maintained a presence, particularly with younger football fans, as the voice and personality behind the best-selling Madden NFL video games published by EA Sports starting in 1988.

John Madden, head coach of the Oakland Raiders, celebrates after the Raiders beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI on January 9, 1977 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Madden after the Oakland Raiders beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI on January 9, 1977. (Image credit: Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Madden was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958, but hurt his knee, ending his professional playing career.

He started his coaching career as assistant at Allan Hancock College. He moved to the pros as a linebacker coach with the Raiders and became the team's head coach in 1969.

The 1976 Raiders won Super Bowl XI over the Minnesota Vikings, making Madden a champion.

As a head coach he won 103 games, lost 32 and had seven ties.

Fox aired a documentary, All Madden, on Christmas Day.

 “John Madden personifies the essence of what we at Fox Sports are all about — undying love for football, innovation and fun,” said Eric Shanks, CEO and executive producer, Fox Sports, promoting the documentary.  “Holiday broadcasts and Madden go hand-in-hand, so we’re thrilled to debut All Madden on Christmas." ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.