Newsmen were inclined to take John Madden at his word when he said he was retiring as coach of the Oakland Raiders, and everywhere else, forever, because he has high credibility.
But out of respect for the convolutions that go on in Al Davis' brain pan, someone asked Madden, "What about when you become completely well again (from an ulcer)?"
"I will still be a 'former coach,'" Madden said.
Nevertheless, Managing General Partner Davis took a characteristic precaution while being generous about Madden's previous contributions to the success of the Raiders. Davis has arranged to keep paying Madden on the years remaining on his contract, presumably including an option year, with the understanding that he will not coach anywhere else.
Madden is a jolly fellow, but the pressures of coaching were getting to him, as they did to Vince Lombardi, who said after stepping down at Green Bay no man should be general manager and coach; to George Allen, who had an ulcer; to Ara Parseghian, who couldn't take it any more; to Chuck Fairbanks, who yearns for the peace of Colorado, and to Woody Hayes, of course.
Still, the expectation is that Madden will be back. Lombardi resumed coaching in Washington. George Halas came back again and again. Paul Brown returned to the sidelines at Cincinnati after retiring as a legend at Cleveland. Bud Wilkinson came back at age 62. And Lou Saban has the travel record of a gypsy, reinforced now by his jump from Miami to Army.
Madden had to leave a spring preliminary training camp in May to go to the hospital. Again he went to the hospital direct from one of Oakland's regular-season games.
After Oakland's loss at Denver in the 1978 season opener, Madden was so downcast that he was seen to come out of the Raiders' dressing room and sit by himself in a lonely spot in the deserted stadium, tugging at a towel for maybe 20 minutes before returning to his team.
Madden once could laugh at linebacker Tom Jackson and other Broncos calling him "fat man" on the field. Madden was moved to question Denver Coach Red Miller's class near the end of the season after Oakland lost and Miller called the Raiders "fat guys who get tired."
In a crushing loss at Miami, a fan threw beer at Madden as he was leaving the field. Those close by feared that Madden might collapse from his emotional state. The coach suggested to a nearby policeman that he bring the nasty man down within the coach's reach. That was not at all like the "good-humor man."