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Coaches for the Coach. A Tribute to John Madden

Published by National Bus Trader

We were saddened to hear of the passing of John Madden on December 28, 2021. Those who knew him and worked with him remember him fondly as being a good guy who often helped others. While most people connect John with football, he really had four careers. These included playing football, coaching football, announcing football and as an unofficial spokesman for the bus industry. It is this fourth vocation of his that interests us bus people. As a tribute to John, we can cover some of his football background and then relate his years involved with the bus industry.

College, Coaching and Commentator

John Madden was born in Austin, Minnesota, a community of about 20,000 population just a few miles east of Albert Lea and southwest of Rochester, not far from the Iowa state line. Later, his family moved to Daly City, California on the south edge of San Francisco. His parents were not involved with football or any other professional sports. John’s father, Earl, was an auto mechanic while his mother Mary was a homemaker. John’s education included both a B.S. and an M.S. from California Polytechnic College in San Luis Obispo, California. John was involved with football at Cal Poly where he played both offensive and defensive lines in 1957-58 while earning his degrees. He was chosen for the allconference team and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. His hopes of going on to a pro career in football were frustrated by a knee injury. Hence, he made the decision to turn to football coaching. He started coaching at Hancock Junior College at Santa Maria, California and then moved up to defensive coordinator at San Diego State and remained there for three years until 1967.

Behind the scenes, John was a family man. He married Virginia Fields on December 26, 1959 at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Santa Maria, California. They made their home in Pleasanton, California and raised two boys, Joseph and Michael. Virginia later became involved in helping to design the Madden coach interiors. She occasionally did ride on the buses, but she often traveled by plane. At the time of John’s death, they had been married for 62 years.

Following San Diego State, John’s coaching record was set with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders came into being when the American Football League’s Minneapolis franchise left to join the National Football League. This left the AFL scrambling for a replacement. There was pressure to have a second AFL team on the West Coast and Oakland was selected as the location with the new franchise created in January of 1960. This new team inherited the Minneapolis club’s draft picks.

In 1967 the owner of the Raiders, AI Davis, brought John Madden in as a linebacker’s coach. Oakland went to the Super Bowl that year. In 1969, John took over as head coach at the age of 32, one of the youngest head coaches in history, and began a outstanding 10-year run. Madden went a remarkable 12-1-1 in his first season but lost the title game to Kansas City. He was named AFL Coach of the Year in 1969.

There were numerous highlights in subsequent years. In 1976, the Raiders won the AFC Western Division following a 31-1 record. Post-season play included wins over New England in a divisional playoff game followed by taking the AFC championship following a 24-7 victory over Pittsburgh. John ended the season with a 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI. In the 1976 1977 season, the Raiders won 17 straight games, only one short of the all-time NFL record. He retired from the Raiders at age 42 after coaching a 9-7 season in 1978. His all-time record was 103-32-7 for the regular season and 9-7 in post-season play. Madden’s .759 winning percentage during the regular season ranks as highest ever among coaches with 100 career victories. Only two other football Hall of Fame coaches, George Halas and Curly Lambeau, managed to reach 100 wins at an earlier age. While John was head coach, the Raiders never had a losing season.

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