15 minutes with John Madden

It seems like yesterday that John Madden was patrolling the sidelines. And since then we have been reminded on a weekly basis during the football season what he brought to the game with his work in the booth. He shares many of his experiences with us after his announcement of being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

John Madden: It's just so big, it's hard to imagine. You know, when I was voted in, it was the day before the Super Bowl. I had that, then the excitement of it. I thought I was going to get a call before. When I didn't get a call, I didn't think I made it. Then I'm watching the NFL Network, Rich Eisen is up there announcing it. He goes Troy Aikman, Harry Carson, then he said John Madden.

I don't remember anything for the next eight or 10 hours. Then the next day we had the Super Bowl. So you have all this time to think about what happened, your whole career, all the players and everyone. You have the election, then you have all the time to think about it. Now it's in a couple of weeks.

That's going to be one of the biggest weekends of my life.

What influence did Al Davis have on you and your career?

John Madden: Al Davis has been the biggest influence in my professional football life. I mean, he was a guy that gave me an opportunity, one, to get into professional football in 1967 as an assistant coach, and then at the age of 32, giving me the opportunity to be the head coach. That was something that was very special. I mean, there weren't a lot of people that thought John Madden, the linebacker coach, is going to be the head coach of the Raiders.

Al believed in me, then gave me the opportunity. During the time, the 10 years I was head coach, he gave me everything. I was never turned down for one thing that I ever wanted for football by Al Davis.

Since I've been out, we're still friends. We still see each other all the time. I just had dinner with him last week on his birthday. He's just, you know, one of my best friends, one of my best friends in life. You know, if it weren't for Al, you don't know where you would have gone.

How did he shape the league? If Al Davis weren't in this league, would it be a much different place?

John Madden: You know, you wonder. If Al Davis had his way, I don't know that there still wouldn't -- if he was commissioner of the league or had his way, I don't know that there still wouldn't be an American Football League. He was head coach of the Raiders, '63, '64, '65, then went to become commissioner of the AFL. He really wanted to establish the AFL forever, keep that as a league. The owners voted to have the merger and so on. That's where he started to shape it. He was so influential in everything they did because he was an owner who knew football, was a member of the Competition Committee, just very powerful.

Pete Rozelle, your feelings about Pete first when you were with the Raiders. It's no secret he and Al didn't get along then. Then Pete Rozelle after you joined the networks, how did you feel there?

John Madden: I thought Pete Rozelle was a great commissioner. I thought that when I was coaching and I thought that after I got out of coaching. He and Al had the thing back and forth. It went all the way back to when Pete was the commissioner of the NFL and Al was commissioner of the AFL. That was something that just continued on. In the history of all sports, I think one of the best commissioners ever was Pete Rozelle. I got along with him fine when I was coaching.

A lot of people don't know that after I retired, Pete Rozelle offered me a job. He offered me a job to work in the NFL, in the league office. They were looking for kind of a football guy at the time. I didn't want to move back to New York. That was the kind of relationship I had with him.

Can you remember the moment when you figured out you were not going to be a player, you were going to be a coach? Do you remember the first time you knew of a Pro Football Hall of Fame?

John Madden: Well, first of all, it wasn't a specific day. I got injured and I didn't know how bad the injury was. I knew it was surgical, then I got the cast, got an infection, I was in the hospital for a long time. It didn't look very good. I knew I wasn't going to play that year. But I stayed the whole year with the Eagles. As I look back on it now, that was really a transition time for me because I used -- I had to go in early for treatment, then after treatment the only other guy there was Norm Van Brocklin. He was in the locker room. In those days we didn't have meetings rooms. He was watching film in there. I would sit in the back and watch film. Then he invited me up to the front. So every day I would just go and kind of sit up in front and watch the game film with him. It was the first time in my life that I really looked at the overall part of football. Then the longer that season went, the more I knew that I better start getting serious on this coaching thing because it doesn't look like I'll ever be playing again.

Then the Hall of Fame, you know, just from the start. I'd always followed football. You would hear guys going in, their names. The history, the whole thing of pro football being so important to me, that the Hall of Fame was always important to me. Then I guess the first real recollection is when you would see it when they started having the Hall of Fame game. I remember that's when I was coaching the Raiders. It used to be on Saturday, the first Saturday before the preseason. The next week everyone started preseason. We would have family day on that day. We'd have a scrimmage in the morning, then family day, then I'd come back to training camp and watch the Hall of Fame game. You would see the induction, the whole thing. That was back in the 1970s. I think I've probably watched every induction, most of the Hall of Fame games since then.

Can you talk about that 1976 season, what that meant to you and the whole organization. You'd been so close so many times, then finally to get to the Super Bowl and win it the way you did.

John Madden: Well, the thing I remember after that game, the next week I was at a banquet. Roger Staubach was there. He came up and shook my hand and said, ‘One thing about it, they can never say you can't win the big one again for the rest of your life.' And that was pretty strong because Roger had gone through that same thing. I mean, everyone does. Bill Cowher was going through it. Everyone kind of goes through that, where you have a good team, you're getting close, but you haven't won it. Dan Marino went through it. That's your, ‘Yeah, but.'

They have a good record, yeah, they win a lot of games, win divisions, but they never won the Super Bowl. When you win the Super Bowl, that eliminates all your ‘Yeah, but's.' It was just a great year, a great time. It was in Pasadena. Everything just fell right for us. Not only that year, but that day. It's still something that is imprinted on my mind. I can see most of the plays of that game.


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