The last time I talked to John Madden was at the Marriott in downtown Indianapolis during the 2015 NFL Combine.
It was early in the morning and Madden was headed to an NFL competition committee, which he was still an advisor for.
I asked Madden his thoughts on the Raiders’ recent hiring of Jack Del Rio and he excitedly explained why he thought it was a good pairing. He said the Raiders needed “an adult in the room.” Madden was completely invested in the Raiders until his death on Tuesday at age of 85. He was a sounding board for Raiders owner Mark Davis and I wouldn’t be shocked if they recently talked about Davis’ pending decision in hiring a permanent head coach.
He always had time to talk about the Raiders ... well, to talk about anything football-related, really. This was John Madden, arguably the most well-known name in football history. Pro Football Hall of Fame coach. Legendary broadcaster. Video game hero. He impacted so many different generations for different reasons.
I remember early this century, when I was covering the Minnesota Vikings, I wanted to spend a few precious minutes interviewing Madden, who was visiting practice prior to a broadcast he was hosting. I had to wait for the late, great Vikings’ trainer Fred Zamberletti (who worked for the team for its first 51 seasons) to get done chatting with Madden. These two went back to the Super Bowl XI in which Madden delivered the Raiders their first Super Bowl win on Jan. 9, 1977 over Zamberletti’s Purple People Eaters.
Freddie actually apologized to me for monopolizing Madden’s time. I didn’t mind at all. I was witnessing an NFL history lesson.
I can remember in 1999 when my wife, a lifelong Raiders fan born in Oakland, was beside herself mad when she realized that Madden didn’t have a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when we visited Canton, Ohio, that summer. She was so fired up she had me write a letter to the Hall on her beloved coach’s behalf. I don’t know what I wrote, but I did it.
My plea didn’t work.
Amazingly, Madden didn’t get inducted until 2006.
My favorite Hall of Fame thought was John Madden saying he envisioned the busts talking to each other each night in Canton. Just a priceless treasure he was.— Bill Williamson (@BWilliamsonNFL) December 29, 2021
If you’re into football, you loved Madden. That’s been evident in the hours since news of his death broke as heartfelt tributes have been pouring in from everywhere.
Loved this man. Loved him as a coach and as a broadcaster. We all did. Love to his family and thanks for all coach. pic.twitter.com/uDAMRvprNT— Adam Sandler (@AdamSandler) December 29, 2021
Transformational. Generational.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) December 29, 2021
These words are too often used inappropriately when talking sports personalities in general. It IS appropriate to use when talking about John Madden, and there is no need to explain why. It just is what it is. He changed the game. #RIP legend.
While I was frantically writing the news story about Madden’s death, my oldest nephew (part of the video game Madden mob) texted, expressing his grief for the loss.
This one is different. This one, it seems, affects everyone, just like Madden himself did.