When I think of John Madden, I remember him as being the Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders. I think back and see him standing on the sidelines with a coarse yet determined look upon his face before every play. He’s a man who commanded a team of misfits and cast-off’s whom he helped mold into champions. This is the Madden I came to know when I was a boy.
Younger friends of mine only recall John Madden as a sports broadcaster on CBS, FOX, ABC’s Monday Night Football (MNF), and NBC. My kids only know John Madden for the video game series Madden NFL. Yet, John Madden bridged the generational gap from the 1960’s through the 2000’s. He’s a man who gained the respect from his mentors, the players on the teams he coached, Al Davis, Raider Nation, sports writers, sports broadcasters, television professionals, and many more. A man whose personal drive took him from humble beginnings to football folklore.
Madden’s life began in Austin, Minnesota, on April 10, 1936, where his father was an auto mechanic. As a young boy, his family moved to Daly City, CA, which was a suburb of San Francisco. Madden attended middle school at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and then Jefferson High School. He graduated in 1954. Madden attended college and played football for the College of San Mateo and Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. In 1958, Madden was drafted in the 21st round (244th pick overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles. However, a knee injury in training camp ended his football playing career before it got started. Madden graduated from Cal Poly with a Bachelor’s degree in 1959, and he completed his Masters degree in 1961.
In 1960, Madden became an assistant coach at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. In 1962, he was promoted to the Head Coaching job. Following the 1963 season, Madden became the Defensive Coordinator for the San Diego State University Aztecs. There, he coached under Don Coryell, who Madden credits for being an influence on his coaching style.
In 1967, John Madden was hired by Al Davis as Linebackers Coach of the AFL’s Oakland Raiders. After Raiders Head Coach John Rauch resigned following the 1968 season, Madden was promoted to the Head Coaching position on February 4, 1969. At the time, Madden was the youngest Head Coach at age 32.
Prior to the 1976 season, the Raiders had played in and lost 7 AFC Title games. This left a bad taste in the Raiders mouths, as they were being hailed as the team that couldn’t win the big game. John Madden’s coaching style moved the team through the season and they finished with a 13-1 record. Then, the Raiders defeated the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs. Madden’s Raiders entered Super Bowl XI determined to be victorious.
Madden’s simplistic philosophy to coaching included two rules; “Be on time for meetings, and play your hearts out on Sundays.” Those two rules along with Madden’s ability to be diverse among his players, catapulted the Raiders into the Super Bowl. On January 9, 1977, the Oakland Raiders played their hearts out for Head Coach John Madden, and they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 32-14.
Madden’s many accolades include the fact that he was the winningest Head Coach in Oakland Raiders history with a combined record of 112-39-7 (Includes regular season and playoffs). He was the youngest Head Coach to reach 100 regular season victories, and he did it in a span of only 10 years. Madden’s overall winning percentage including playoff wins ranks second in league history, and he was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
During Madden’s time as the Oakland Raiders Head Coach, controversial plays made their mark on NFL history. Plays that included the Holy Roller, Ghost to the Post, The Sea of Hands, and the Immaculate Reception (Known to Raider Nation as the Immaculate Deception). Still, Madden maintained a winning record in every season as the Head Coach of the Raiders, and he retired at age 42 as a Super Bowl winning Head Coach.
Madden continued to make his mark on the National Football League through his sports broadcasting, television commercials, NFL Films documentaries, Madden NFL video games, and as a mentor to players and coaches throughout the league. He was a prominent business owner who gave back to the Bay Area community, and he gave back to his many fans as well.
Madden is greatness, and his greatness rewarded Raider Nation with the first of three Super Bowl victories. A feat that John Madden’s assistant coach,Tom Flores, continued into the 1980’s as Head Coach himself. For it was the foundation that John Madden laid within his coaching staff and players in the early 70’s that helped to mold a winning franchise.