John Madden, legendary football coach and video game namesake, dies at 85

Coach, broadcaster, video game legend, rider of the Madden Cruiser, fan of the turducken. John Madden will be missed.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
2 min read

John Madden, the Super Bowl-winning football coach and legendary broadcaster who became known to a new generation thanks to the Madden NFL video game series, died Tuesday at age 85, the National Football League announced.

The league tweeted that it was saddened to share the news of Madden's death, calling him "legendary." No cause of death was given.

Madden was born in Minnesota and raised in California. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958 but was injured before his first season and never played professionally. Madden moved into coaching, and in 1969, at just 32 years old, joined the Oakland Raiders as head coach. He led the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings in 1977 and retired in 1979.

After coaching, Madden moved into broadcasting, bringing his colorful way of speech and distinctive voice to the TV booth ("BOOM!" was a favorite saying). Beginning in 1984, he annually chose the All-Madden Team, highlighting his favorite players. He was also known for refusing to fly, taking buses and trains when he needed to travel. He eventually traveled in a series of customized buses, each dubbed the Madden Cruiser. He popularized the turducken, a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken, by hyping it during Thanksgiving football games and once sawing through one with his bare hands.

His name is known to generations of gamers who may never have known him as a coach or even broadcaster. The football video game series now known as Madden NFL came out in 1988 with the former coach's endorsement, and it continues to appear in new editions each year.

"Arguably, John is known among certain circles more for his video game today than he is for anything else," Madden's agent told USA Today in 2008. "He's almost had three separate lives: a coach, a commentator and video game guy."

Fans of all the different aspects of Madden's life remembered him on social media.

"Few approached life with the joy of legendary football coach & broadcaster John Madden," wrote journalist Dan Rather. "A colleague at CBS, he was a gentleman with a boisterous sense of humor. On the sidelines & in the booth, this voluble mountain of energy was a trailblazer. A golden era ends with his passing."

"Big part of why everyone my age thinks every football color commentator is wack is because we grew up with John Madden," wrote ESPN's Bomani Jones on Twitter. "Man set an unreachable standard."