John Madden Dies: NFL Coach, Longtime Broadcaster & Video Game Namesake Was 85

John Madden, the exuberant, successful NFL coach who became a broadcast-booth legend and pitchman and later lent his name to the wildly successful Madden NFL video game franchise, died today. He was 85.

The National Football League said he died unexpectedly Tuesday morning.

A Super Bowl winner and the second-winningest coach in NFL history during a decade leading the Oakland Raiders, Madden retired from coaching when he was only 42 years old, citing burnout and health concerns. After a stint teaching at UC Berkeley, he moved into the broadcast booth, where he would make his most enduring mark.

Madden became of the youngest coaches in NFL history when he took over the Oakland Raiders in 1969 at age 32, after two seasons as the team’s linebackers coach. He became the NFL Coach of the Year that season and led the Raiders to a Super Bowl title after the 1976 season. He would post a .759 career winning percentage over 10 seasons — among the best ever for coaches with at least 100 victories. His team also won 17 consecutive games during the 1976 and ’77 seasons, one short of the league record. He ended his career with a 103-32-7 record.

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He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Born on April 10, 1936, in Austin, MN, Madden began his coaching career as at Hancock Junior College in Northern California and was the defensive coordinator for San Diego State from 1964-66. As a player, Madden was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, but a knee injury during his rookie season ended his career.

In 1979, not long after leaving the NFL sidelines, Madden joined CBS Sports as a color commentator. By 1981 he would join Pat Summerall on the network’s No. 1 NFL announcing team, and they be the CBS A-team until 1993, when Fox landed TV rights to the NFL. Madden and Summerall then joined the nascent network and team there until 2001.

Madden joined ABC’s Monday Night Football booth in 2002, doing color commentary alongside Al Michaels. Then in 2005, Dick Ebersol lured the ex-coach to do color for NBC’s Sunday Night Football — making Madden the first sportscaster to work for all of the “Big Four” TV networks. He ultimately would call nine Super Bowl games, and his final assignment was Super Bowl XLIII for NBC in 2009.

During his time in the broadcast booth, Madden would develop another following as a spirited pitched for Miller Lite, who beer commercials of the 1970s and ’80s drew some of the sporting world’s biggest — or at least most colorful — names. Among the most popular, and, frankly, hilarious of these was the 1982 “all-star” ad that featured the “Tastes Great” and “Less Filling” sides in a hotly contested bowling match. The minute-long ad ended with Rodney Dangerfield getting no respect from the pins and then Madden “busting through” the screen to complain, loudly, “Hey! I didn’t get my turn!”

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