John Madden, the legendary football coach and broadcaster who lent his name to the largest American football franchise in history, has died. He was 85.
The NFL made the announcement yesterday in a statement on its official social media channels. "Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football. He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others," wrote NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. "There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today."
Madden's love for football was incomparable. After being drafted for the NFL after a successful college career, a knee injury ended his playing career prematurely. After that, Madden decided to get into coaching, first at San Diego State, and then for the Oakland Raiders in 1967. Madden coached the Raiders for 10 seasons making eight playoff appearances and finally winning the Super Bowl in 1977.
After coaching players, Madden went on to coach everyone in America by becoming a sports network commentator. Madden worked for every major network and provided commentary for 30 seasons, winning 16 Emmys for Outstanding Sports Personality/Sport Event Analyst before retiring in 2006.
Madden also lent his name to the football game franchise that has dominated the genre for decades. First released as John Madden's Football in 1988, the game required three years of development to overcome the technical limitations of computers at the time. Madden insisted on an accurate simulation of football but computers of the era couldn't handle more than seven players on each side. It took years for computer technology to improve to the point where both sides could field a full 11 players without melting its processor.
Two years later, EA ported John Madden NFL to the Sega Genesis where it became a smash hit for the console, helping drive Genesis sales and recoup market share against Nintendo. John Madden NFL then became an annual release for EA starting in 1992, eventually dropping the name "John" starting with "Madden NFL '94." Madden graced the cover of every Madden game until 2001 when it started honoring star NFL players.
As with many of EA's sports franchises, Madden NFL has been criticized for receiving only minor updates from year to year but still charging players full price. But it seems that Madden fans are willing to overlook whatever flaws are in each annual release just to get an updated roster year to year.
Last year, it almost seemed like the NFL would break with its longstanding exclusive contract with EA to produce officially licensed NFL games by offering 2K a contract to create "non-simulation" football games. However, whatever conflict that existed was resolved when EA and the NFL announced an extension on their contract to produce "simulation" games until at least 2026.
"Today, we lost a hero," EA wrote in a statement following Madden's passing. "John Madden was synonymous with the sport of football for more than 50 years. His knowledge of the game was second only to his love for it, and his appreciation for everyone that ever stepped on the gridiron. A humble champion, a willing teacher, and forever a coach. Our hearts and sympathies go out to John's family, friends, and millions of fans. He will be greatly missed, always remembered, and never forgotten."
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