No one person had a greater impact on the game of football than the late John Madden. He made his mark as a coach, a broadcaster and as the face and name of a video game franchise that would introduce an entire generation to the game.
Chiefs HC Andy Reid is one of the few people who understand the true gravity of what Madden meant to the sport. The two shared a unique friendship over the years, one bonded in football, coaching and food. Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Reid tried to put into words the impact that his late friend had on the game.
“I’m going to just say a couple of words about Coach Madden. Literally, a couple of words because he was the absolute greatest. I think that’s all. Everybody’s had their say on it, and I think you realize how much he touched the football world and all of us. He made our job what it is today as a coach, made it an honorable position to be in, and heck, it’s hard to be a Hall of Famer, period, but let alone be a Hall of Famer in two different areas. That’s phenomenal, and he was that.”
Madden first found his way into Reid’s life back when he was an assistant coach in Green Bay. Reid was introduced by his mentor Mike Holmgren and from there, the friendship between Reid and Madden took a life of its own.
“Yeah, it might be because both of us like to eat,” Reid said of how the two first met. “And so, we had that passion, obviously by our body types. You know, he invited me on the bus one time in Green Bay. I got to ride through the parking lot on the bus, it was the thrill of my life. Mike Holmgren was real close to him, so, I automatically got kind of put in, literally, put in the bus. (Madden was a) California guy. I’m from California. We had a couple of things that were a little bit the same there.”
They grew closer over the years, and when Reid was ousted as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012, Madden helped encourage Reid’s next step to become the head coach of the Chiefs.
It was funny too, coming from Madden. After coaching the Oakland Raiders for a decade, Madden wasn’t exactly fond of Kansas City.
“Well, he loved to hate the Chiefs, but he loved the Hunt family,” Reid said. “He’d tell you that they had some knockdown drag-outs. And he could remember about every single play. But he said, ‘It’s a great organization. The Hunt family is phenomenal.’ He would always remind me to tell Norma Hunt, ‘Hello.’ He liked them, but he didn’t like them.”
When Madden got out of the broadcasting business in 2009, the two served together on various NFL committees. Even when Madden wasn’t coaching or broadcasting, he was still making an impact on the way the game was played.
“Yeah, so after he got out of the TV business — the broadcasting business — then Roger Goodell invited him back to the league,” Reid said. “We always had a small sub-committee and there were a couple of coaches on it. But we ended up having the ‘Madden Committee.’ So we had like six to eight coaches on there and he added that up and he was great. He was really into the rules, the regulations of the game, what made the game better. He just, that’s how he wanted to touch the game at the end (of his career) and it was the commissioner’s insight to bring him in and to let him do that. We all just rallied around him, we were just like kids following him around. But what great insight, (Madden) was just a football junkie.”
Madden’s coaching style even rubbed off on Reid a little bit.
“Yeah, well, he was a player’s (coach),” Reid explained. “He would talk to them, communicate. And he did the same with us — with fans on TV — that’s why we all loved him. He kind of taught us the game in a simple way, where people felt like they could go play and that was great.”
When asked about his favorite Madden story, it wasn’t anything about football. Instead, it was about a meal the two shared at the NFL Scouting Combine a few years back.
“We were at a restaurant one time,” Reid began. “I came late to it, and (John Madden) and Tom Coughlin, they had already eaten. The waitress comes over, who was actually the chef and the waitress, she said, ‘What would you like?’ I said, ‘Just give me one of your favorites.’ Coach (Madden) just goes, ‘Oh my gosh, for a forktarian, you just blew that. You’re in the forkman club and you can’t— what are you doing?’ So she brought out duck confit and I didn’t live it down. Until the day he passed, he mentioned duck confit. ‘I can’t believe you’re eating duck confit. What are you doing?’And he could tell the story a lot better than I just did. He would get right into my ribs on it.”
Reid, of course, is more of a cheeseburger kind of guy.
As Reid stepped away from the podium, he took a moment to thank media members for asking about Madden. The trip down memory lane seemed to be cathartic for Reid, easing the sadness of losing a friend, supporter and confidant that had been there for him for many years.
Even after his death, Madden remains a true pillar of football, one whose legacy will continue to live on through those he touched.