Pro football great John Madden, who coached the Raiders to the 1976 Super Bowl championship and is the namesake of the Madden NFL video game series, passed away on Tuesday. He was arguably the most well-known color commentator of all time.
John Madden passed away, leaving the entire football world in mourning for the loss of one of the game’s greatest icons.
Before taking the job with the Oakland Raiders that catapulted him into stardom, Madden spent three years as the defensive coordinator at San Diego State University from 1964-1966 under Don Coryell. After his time in San Diego, Madden moved to the Raiders, becoming the linebackers coach in 1967. In 1969, he took over as head coach, and the rest is history.
In Madden’s first year at SDSU, the Aztecs went 8-2 and had a stellar defense. In their 10 games, they allowed just 71 points. San Jose State was the only opponent that reached double digits against the Aztecs. They finished the year as the 5th ranked “small college” and second in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA).
In Madden’s second season, the Aztecs also finished 8-2. They were ranked as high as third in the small college polls, but back-to-back losses to Long Beach State and Cal State Los Angeles dropped the Aztecs out of the rankings. The defense did pitch five shutouts in their 10 games, but they gave up 61 points in their two losses while surrendering just 26 in the remaining eight games.
The Aztecs flourished in 1966, Madden’s final season on the Mesa, going 11-0 and winning the CCAA for the fifth time in San Diego State’s history.
San Diego State finished the year ranked 1st in both the AP and UPI small college polls. The Aztecs also qualified for the Camellia Bowl, in which they defeated Montana State 28-7. This was just the third bowl game in San Diego State history, the second time the Aztecs had won a bowl game, and the first bowl game for the Aztecs in 15 years. The Carmellia Bowl also served as the Western Regional Final of the College Division, which was similar to what Division II is today. The Aztecs defense surrendered 105 points in their 11 games. SDSU gave up less than 10 points per game in all three of Madden’s seasons with the team.
At an event to celebrate the life of Don Coryell, Madden credited Coryell as the reason he was in the Hall of Fame while also expressing hope that Coryell would join him in the Hall someday.
After Madden’s time in San Diego, Madden immediately found himself on football’s biggest stage. The Raiders made Super Bowl II in Madden’s first year with the team. In his second season, the Silver and Black lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the New York Jets led by Joe Namath. While the Raiders lost both years, Madden became the head coach just a year later, at the young age of 32. He was the youngest head coach in professional football at the time. Even all these years later, he is still the eighth youngest head coach ever.
Madden made it to five AFC championships in seven years but was not able to make it to the Super Bowl until 1976. The Raiders went 13-1, beat the Patriots and Steelers in the playoffs before demolishing the Vikings to win Madden’s first Super Bowl. Madden retired just two years later. He is still the winningest head coach in Raider history. He never posted a losing record, finishing with a 76.3% winning percentage.
He touched millions of NFL fans as an announcer, including being on the call for nine Super Bowls. He continues to touch millions of fans via his video game series, which helps to introduce the sport to young fans.