John Madden, one of the most famous and influential analysts in sports broadcast history, is retiring after 30 years in the booth. Madden, who turned 73 a week ago today, announced his retirement from calling pro football games Thursday, saying, "It's time."
"I'm 73 years old," Madden said. "My 50th wedding anniversary is this fall. I have two great sons and their families, and my five grandchildren (between the ages of 4 and 8) are at an age now when they know when I'm home and, more importantly, when I'm not.''
NBC named a replacement for Madden in its Sunday Night Football booth. Cris Collinsworth will move from the network's studio show to join play-by-play announcer Al Michaels.
"It's been such a great ride,'' said Madden, who had three years left on a six-year contract with NBC that paid him $5 million a year.
He said his health his fine.
"The NFL has been my life for more than 40 years. It has been my passion. … It's still fun, and that's what makes it hard, and that's why it took me a few months to make a decision. I still love every part of it — the travel, the practices, the game film, the games, seeing old friends and meeting new people. But I know this is the right time.''
Madden served as lead NFL analyst for each of the four major networks, working first with Pat Summerall at CBS and Fox and then with Michaels at ABC and NBC. He won 16 Emmy Awards for outstanding sports analyst. NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol called Madden "absolutely the best sports broadcaster who ever lived."
Madden's final game was Pittsburgh's Super Bowl victory against Arizona on Feb. 1 at Raymond James Stadium.
"No one has made the sport more interesting, more relevant and more enjoyable to watch and listen to than John,'' Michaels said. "There's never been anyone like him, and he's been the gold standard for analysts for almost three decades.''
Just days before the Super Bowl, Madden sat down for an interview with the St. Petersburg Times and addressed questions about retirement. When asked if the Super Bowl would be his last game, Madden said, "No, absolutely not.''
However, he did admit the travel was difficult. Madden is claustrophobic and does not fly. He traveled from his home in Pleasanton, Calif., about 40 miles east of San Francisco, across the country to games in a custom-made bus. Madden missed his first week as a broadcaster last season when he took a day off instead of calling the Bucs-Seahawks game on Oct. 19 in Tampa.
"I spent all day in the (San Francisco) bay area (Wednesday) with John and tried every way I could to make sure he was sure about his decision,'' Ebersol said. "And in true John Madden fashion, he was sure. He said it best when he simply said 'it's time,' and I admire him for that.
"To put any speculation to rest, John has just decided to retire because it's time — nothing more, nothing less. We will never see or hear another man like John Madden. We will sorely miss him because he was the most fun guy ever to just hang out with.''
One of Madden's sons, Joe, joined the meeting Wednesday, and Ebersol quoted him as saying, "We can't believe Dad is doing this."
For a younger generation, Madden is best known for lending his name to EA Sports' Madden NFL football video game, the top-selling sports video game of all time with more than 65 million copies sold since its release 20 years ago, according to NBC. He also is one of advertising's busiest pitchmen, with endorsement deals with Ace Hardware, Outback Steakhouse, Schering Plough (tough actin' Tinactin), Verizon Wireless and Sirius Satellite Radio, among others.
Perhaps lost as a result of his successful broadcasting career is that Madden is one of the most successful coaches in NFL history. In 10 seasons as coach of the Oakland Raiders, from 1969-78, Madden went 103-32-7 and won seven AFC West titles and Super Bowl XI over the Minnesota Vikings in 1977. His .750 winning percentage remains the highest of any coach in NFL history. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
But for the past 30 years, Madden, with his everyman style and goofy made-up words such as "doink'' and "bam," became a fixture and national icon on NFL broadcasts.
"There is one thing football fans have agreed on for decades: They all love John Madden," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "He had an incredible talent for explaining the game in an unpretentious way that made it more understandable and fun.
"He was the ultimate football fan who also happened to be an extraordinarily talented coach and broadcaster."
Information from Times wires contributed to this report.