Before becoming one of the best TV football analysts in the business, starring in Miller Lite commercials and putting his name on the popular Madden video games, John Madden coached the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI.
Madden became the youngest head coach in the National Football League at the age of 32 when Managing General Partner Al Davis named him to the position on Feb. 4, 1969.
And Madden didn’t disappoint, leading the Silver and Black to a 103-32-7 record in 10 seasons, plus 9-7 in the post-season—including a 3-0 mark in that epic 1976 season which culminated with the Raiders beating the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, in the Super Bowl on Jan. 9, 1967, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
“John Madden, a brilliant coach, a loyal and trusted friend, a Raider,” Davis said when he presented Madden for induction for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 5, 2006. “His record is self-explanatory—103 victories in 10 years is unparalleled in National Football League history.
“ … Some 40 years ago, I hired a 32-year-old coach to carry the torch for the Raiders. In the 10 seasons of his coaching career, he led the Raiders to the playoffs eight of those years, including seven division championships, bringing the Raiders their first World Championship. John’s .759 regular-season percentage ranks as the highest-ever with coaches in the National Football League.
“ … John Madden, the chill goes through my body as I hear that roar and think of all those special people, but seeing you, John, down on the sidelines prowling those sidelines, yelling at officials, that flaming red hair, those arms moving left and right, screaming at Raider players, and most of all, winning football games.”
Davis pointed out that Madden coached the Raiders in a golden era of NFL coaches, including Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins, Hank Stram of the Kansas City Chiefs, Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys, Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Weeb Ewbank of the New York Jets, Bud Grant of the Minnesota Vikings and Sid Gillman of the San Diego Chargers.
Madden had a 36-16-2 record against those coaches, Hall of Famers all.
In addition, the Raiders won seven AFC West titles under Madden, never finished worse than second in the division, and when Monday Night Football became one of the biggest hits on TV, Madden’s teams posted an 11-1-1 record in that spotlight.
But something was missing.
“We had a reputation of not being able to win the big one, and since we hadn’t won a Super Bowl yet, I guess we couldn’t,” quarterback Kenny “Snake,” Stabler said. “That’s why it meant so much when we finally won it.
“I was so happy for all of us, but mostly for John because we got that monkey off his back.”
Added safety George Atkinson: "John was always a players' coach. he demanded excellence from us. Our practices were basically harder than the games we played. He demanded perfection. He demanded that you be in shape. He demanded that you knew exactly what you were doing. He prepared us, and that's what coaches do. He prepared us by putting us in a position to make plays. We had some characters. For him to manage us and keep us engrossed in playing football and winning, that was in and of itself a hell of a job.
"The best memory of John was when we won the Super Bowl to finally see him being hoisted on the players' shoulders and being carried off the field. We'd been there so many times before and hadn't succeeded in the championship games. To win the Super Bowl and see the smile on his face and players taking him off the field was special. He was very happy."
Madden coached such greats as Stabler, cornerback Willie Brown, center Jim Otto, guard Gene Upshaw, tackle Art Shell, wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, linebacker Ted Hendricks, quarterback-kicker George Blanda, and punter Ray Guy--who are all in the Hall of Fame.
After a long wait, he finally joined them.
“Who the heck names a guy 32-years-old as a head coach?” Madden said in his induction speech. “Al Davis did. But he not only named me head coach, but he also stood behind me and he helped me and he provided me with players, with great players. As he was saying, nine of the players are in the Hall of Fame. I mean, those are the types of players that he provided me with.
“I go into the Hall of Fame as a coach. I know that I go into the Hall of Fame because of my players and what they did. I’m so proud. I just want to say in closing that it’s been a great ride. I want to thank everyone who has been along for any part of it.
“Speaking of great rides, I was lucky enough to be carried off the field after we won Super Bowl XI. I was told it took like five or six guys to lift me up, then they dropped me. But that's OK because that was me and that was them. They aren’t going to carry me off. You carry him off for a while, boom, you dump him on the ground.
“But it was the happiest moment of my life.”
That day in Canton had to rank right up there, too.
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