For John Madden to become the John Madden we now mourn — huggable, voice booming, larger than life yet a character seemingly meant for animation — he had to find a healthier way to live in football. He quit coaching the Oakland Raiders after the 1978 season despite being great at his job. He was 42 and concerned about ulcers, panic attacks and other, unintelligible ways competition was tearing at him. He also wanted to have a better relationship with his two sons. Forty-three years before America’s Great Resignation, Madden announced what turned out to be the greatest resignation.

He was always blessed with a knack for prescience, wasn’t he? During a marvelous 30-year broadcasting career, Madden turned all of his coaching instincts, preparation and quirks into the most colorful game commentary in sports history. He often declared what was about to happen. And after he was right, he emoted just how we would feel, too. His legend lives in three football dimensions that make him a fascinating pop culture icon: coach, broadcaster, namesake of a video game dynasty.

Madden diversified his football passion, and though it wasn’t his intention, he diversified his fame. The amazing thing is how many people knew him without fully knowing him. He died Tuesday at age 85, and the grief was noticeable from those in his generation all the way down to teenagers. Every chapter in Madden’s public life was extraordinary on its own. For those old enough to put it all together, he must have seemed like an immortal celebrity. He was constantly changing as a communicator, adapting interpersonal skills developed as a coach and having a great feel for when to take chances as media changed.

He called games for four major networks and won 16 Emmy Awards. He and Pat Summerall were born to complement each other in the booth, but Madden also thrived alongside Al Michaels. He didn’t just give his name and voice to the Madden NFL Football video game franchise. He also had insights, standards and demands that gave the game its credibility and soul.

But all that came after coaching. Raiders owner Al Davis promoted Madden, who had been Oakland’s linebackers coach, in 1969. Madden was 32 and didn’t pretend to be more than a young man still figuring out how to lead a team. He was a coach with few rules, but players competed hard for him because he managed relationships as well as he diagramed plays. The Raiders played a vicious, physical style that opponents considered dirty. They didn’t receive enough credit for their adjustments and ability to keep winning no matter the injuries and personnel challenges.

In his 10 seasons as the coach, Madden posted a 103-32-7 record. He never had a losing season, made the playoffs eight times and won Super Bowl XI on Jan. 9, 1977. His winning percentage of .759 remains the highest for an NFL coach with at least 100 victories.

I wish I were a little older so that I could have a more intimate appreciation of his time as a coach. I was 11 months old when Madden left the Raiders. Still, I always have thought of him as a coach. He never stopped coaching. He just used the talent to call games in which he didn’t have to worry about winning or losing.

In his funny, relatable way, Madden once said this about coaching: “When you win, you get to be a genius. But if you look at it, you’re a guy that was a P.E. major in college. Your best class was recess, and then you become a coach. When you win some games, you’re a genius. You go from being good at recess to genius.”

He said those words almost 35 years after he quit the obsession and leveraged what was left — his pure love of football — to become something greater. And he became greater while eliminating both the self-importance and self-judgment that comes with being a major professional coach, creating a pathway for joy and balance.

Madden was a genius who didn’t chase genius. He continued to work his tail off, but for viewers, it just sounded like he was being good at recess again.

He was the goofy uncle at Thanksgiving who got you into turducken. He made you a smarter football fan with laughs and silly stories rather than pompous speech. He made one-word expressions such as Boom! as meaningful as a monologue of analysis. He turned the telestrator into his own performance art and saved his best observations for the most random times, detailing what a bug on the television camera might be thinking or expressing at any given moment his love for offensive and defensive linemen.

His contributions to the game are so vast that his “Madden Cruiser” bus is now parked at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Claustrophobia exacerbated Madden’s dislike of flying, so after he left coaching, he eventually started taking a bus to games. You may not know how rare it is for a coach to win 100 games in only 10 seasons, but you know about the cruiser.

“He was so much more than just football — a keen observer of everything around him and a man who could carry on a smart conversation about hundreds and hundreds of topics,” Michaels said of his former broadcast partner. “The term ‘Renaissance man’ is tossed around a little too loosely these days, but John was as close as you can come.”

Football was Madden’s professional life. After college and a one-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1958, he became a coach. When Davis promoted him at age 32, Madden became the youngest coach in American Football League history. Most would have coached for 30 years. Most would have bounced to a few different franchises, survived a firing or two and struggled to juggle happiness and aspiration. Some would have become bitter. Others would have been irreversibly paranoid.

Madden knew himself. He was winning at a historic pace, but he was crumbling, physically and mentally. The cost of that genius was too high. So he made the smartest move he could for himself. He changed. And it enabled him to grow unexpectedly into a singular, unforgettable icon.