Madden, 32, inherited a team in 1969 that had a combined 25-3 the previous two seasons, and he has maintained the Raiders’ standard of excellence. Perhaps his greatest achievement was working until the age of 12 for Al Davis, the irascible and Machiavellian owner of the Raiders – and remaining close friends with him until Davis died in 2011.
But when Madden retired, after being pummeled with ulcers and panic attacks and what is now considered burnout, he could boast of a resume that included a demolition of the Minnesota Vikings at the Super Bowl. XI in 1977; a 0.759 regular season winning percentage (103-32-7), the best among coaches who have worked at least 100 games; and a field view of some of the most controversial and memorable moments in football history: the famous “Heidi” game (1968), the Immaculate Reception (1972) and the infamous Holy Roller game in 1978, his last season.
The thought of overseeing another minicamp, another round of draft preparation, tormented him. Lombardi coached for 10 years, as did Madden.
“You traveled but never saw anything,” Madden told the Washington Post in 1984. “It was all a plane, a bus, a hotel, a stadium, a bus, a plane and the ride home. I once said, ‘There must be more to life than that.’ “
And there was.
The beginnings of the working class
John Earl Madden was born in Austin, Minnesota on April 10, 1936, the oldest of three children and the only son of Earl and Mary (Flaherty) Madden. His father was a mechanic.
When John was 6, his family moved to Daly City, Calif., A working-class San Francisco suburb whose proximity to the city offered adventurous getaways for sports-mad boys. With close friend John Robinson, who would go on to become the head coach of the Southern California and Los Angeles Rams, Madden took streetcar rides into town, then snuck into Kezar and Seals stadiums. to watch football and baseball games.
Her family was small, but Madden was resourceful. He searched trash cans for materials and fashioned his baseball bats by gluing together pieces found in semi-pro games. Opportunities for minor league baseball presented themselves – the Red Sox and Yankees expressed interest – but Madden, from his time as a caddy for the well-heeled at the San Francisco Golf Club, had come to equate success with a university education.