A sad day for football, and a sad day in general. Local boy John Madden passed away yesterday at the age of 85. A life well-spent is a life well lived, and Madden embodied that to a T. His family moved to Daly City when he was a youngster, and he played alongside John Robinson at the JC College of San Mateo. He then went to Cal Poly SLO where he starred as an offensive tackle.
Drafted by the Eagles, he suffered a knee injury in camp that ended his career before it started. While trying to rehab, he spent a lot of time watching film with Eagles QB Norm Van Brocklin as he explained what was going on. His knee never recovered, so he took an assistant coaching gig in Santa Maria, CA. From there he went to SD State as their defensive coordinator and coached under offensive guru Don (Air) Coryell, who put that program on the map as a top small college school.
Al Davis hird him as his LBB coach in 1967, and by 1969 ws named head coach when John Rauch bailed on Dirty Al and went to Buffalo. Amazingly, Manned never had a losing season as a head coach for his 10 year tenure. He missed the playoffs only twice in that span, and won the 1976 Super Bowl over the Minnesota Vikings (“Old man Willie!”) 32-14.
Growing up a 49er fans, it was pretty much carved in stone that you didn’t like the Raiders. That’s just how it was. And while I hated the organization, I did dig a lot of the players. Ted Hendricks, Dave Casper, Daryle Lamonica, Lyle Alzado, Kenny Stabler, Phil Villapiano, Fred Biletnikoff, and especially the mad scientist keeping all the mayhem under some semblance of control, John Madden.
Even before the Miller Lite ads made him much more famous than his coaching career ever did, and he became the voice of the NFL for 38 seasons, he was a larger-than-life personality that wore his heart on his sleeve, and was fiercely loyal to those who played and bled for him and those he was close to.
Madden was portrayed in ads as the guy next door who it would be great to watch a game and drink a beer with, and he WAS the everyman coach, the blue-collar guy who was connected to his players, treated them like men, and imposed little rules other than ‘show up and come to play your ass off.’ This came to the forefront in the way Bud Grant had so tightly wound up his players for their Super Bowl games, that they invariably failed. Much like Bill Walsh after him, the drive to be a great coach, and the effort it took to produce a championship football team took a huge toll on him physically and mentally. The day-to-day stress was too much, so after 10 years he hung it up.
The rest, as they say, was history. So, come Sunday morning, as we watch the kickoff for whatever game happens to be on, raise a toast to the man, the coach, the announcer, and the legend, John Madden.
Rest in Peace.