John Madden, prominent NFL coach whose namesake spawned a robust series of Electronic Arts video games, passed away yesterday at age 85. The Associated Press confirmed Madden’s death Tuesday morning.
Madden had been an NFL coach for the Oakland Raiders from 1969 until 1978 and led the team to their 1977 Super Bowl XI victory. He went on to win 16 Sports Emmy Awards for his color commentary on network television, casting on CBS, Fox, ABC and NBC during his illustrious sports career.
Though many gamers and sports fans know of his attachment to the EA NFL game franchise, Madden wasn’t actually into video games himself when he helped make the first Madden football game, John Madden Football, which was released back in 1988 for the Apple II computer.
The beloved NFL coach actually almost stepped away from the project when it was first suggested that the video game would feature teams of 7 players each. Madden saw the video games as a way to better coach players and help people learn about football. He was adamant about its accuracy, insisting that if the video game wasn’t 11-on-11, “it’s not real football.”
In 2005, Madden signed a $150 million deal with Electronic Arts, allowing the game publisher to continue to use his name and likeness forever. Madden later admitted that he regretted not buying EA stock in the company’s early days.
Today, the Madden video games are a massive global franchise, having earned more than $4 billion since its inception. Madden’s long-term involvement in the games prove his genuine passion for the game of football, regardless of whether it’s being enjoyed as a sport or as an esport.