Madden Goes Out With a 'Boom!'

John Madden, shown in 1982 practicing one of his signatures, diagraming a play on a telestrator. He retired yesterday after 30 years as an NFL TV analyst.
John Madden, shown in 1982 practicing one of his signatures, diagraming a play on a telestrator. He retired yesterday after 30 years as an NFL TV analyst. (Associated Press)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 17, 2009

John Madden, one of the architects of pro football's enormous popularity, announced his retirement from broadcasting yesterday after three lively decades as an NFL television analyst.

"I strongly believe that this is the right time," Madden said in a radio interview. "This is the right thing, and you just do it. Now, is it easy? No, I love it too much for it to be easy."

Madden, who turned 73 last week, became a staple of football on TV after a 10-year coaching career that landed him in the Hall of Fame. A wildly successful football video game also bears his name. Longtime NFL player, broadcaster and executive Matt Millen said yesterday that Madden, who won a Super Bowl as coach of the Oakland Raiders, was a central figure in developing the NFL game into the nation's most prosperous sport.

"He changed football," Millen said in a telephone interview. "He made it bigger than probably even he ever thought it could be. John went into the Hall of Fame as a coach. He could have gone in carrying any of about four different banners, too -- broadcaster, contributor, you name it. The guy is amazing."

Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Sports, traveled to the Bay Area to meet with Madden on Wednesday after Madden told him of his plan to retire on the phone.

Ebersol said he and Sandy Montag, Madden's longtime agent, spent about 11 hours with Madden on Wednesday, and Ebersol tried to persuade Madden to reconsider and accept a reduced workload next season in which Madden would work NBC's Sunday night NFL broadcasts in September and November and take off October and December. Madden declined.

Madden's final game for NBC was its broadcast of the Pittsburgh Steelers' triumph over the Arizona Cardinals in last season's Super Bowl. He said yesterday that he gave himself two months following that game, as he had done annually in recent years, to decide whether to retire or work another season.

He "vacillated" over the decision this time, he said, and then made up his mind and phoned Ebersol last week. He wanted to be certain, he said, so that he wouldn't announce his retirement and then end up wanting to return.

"It was a great ride," Madden said during his regular appearance on Bay Area radio station KCBS. "I enjoyed every part of it. But, you know, that part of my life has come to an end now. . . . It will be the first year that I haven't had a football season since my freshman year in high school. I've had a season every year because I went from player to coach, and from coach to broadcaster, and in my life I've never had a season off."

Ebersol named Cris Collinsworth, a member of the network's NFL studio show, to succeed Madden as the analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Al Michaels in the NBC booth.

"It's a sad day," Montag said during a conference call with reporters. "But it's a happy day because . . . he's going out his way. He's perfectly healthy."

Ebersol called Madden "the absolute best sports broadcaster who ever lived," and also said during a conference call, "He was the only broadcaster who, I believe, could change ratings."

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