Bill Belichick on John Madden: “Any time he spoke, I listened”

USA TODAY Sports

Of all the many faces and voices that have influenced the NFL over the years, two stand out. Even though they are as different as they could be in their styles and personalities.

Bill Belichick and John Madden.

Belichick spent plenty of time during his Wednesday press conference reflecting on the Hall of Fame coach, the legendary broadcaster, and the video-game icon who died on Tuesday at 85.

“It’s a huge loss for the NFL and professional football,” Belichick said. “John is just a tremendous person to be around. I think we all, probably, set out to try to have a good professional career. John had about five of them. He set the standard for coaching in his era. They had the best record, best teams, championships, and all that. Raiders had a great style of play that was very, I’d say, captivating. He, certainly, did a lot for the league and the competitiveness of the league. He was a great champion for minorities and minority scouting. Some of the great players that they had with the Raiders from the smaller black colleges, he and [Al] Davis brought into the organization.

“Then he moved to broadcasting and, certainly, increased the popularity of the game, singlehandedly, by quite a bit. I don’t know how you’d ever measure that, but I think everybody that liked football enjoyed John’s commentary. A lot of people who probably didn’t even care about football found John entertaining and watched football because of him. He brought a lot of people to the game. He brought a perspective to the game that was very unique. Loved by all.

“I had a great opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with John. It seemed like he and Pat [Summerall] covered our games with the Giants every week. It was like a weekly broadcast crew. Going out to John’s bus and just spending time with him there and through the years, all the way up to Super Bowl XXXVI, all the other things that he’s done for the league. . . . I particularly enjoyed the Top 100 conversations with John. There were about five or six of us that watched some of the players from the 20s, 30s, and 40s and those eras, decades. We had a lot of great conversations about the games that we saw, the players that we saw, the way the game was played, comparisons, comments, and so forth.

“John did a lot for player safety. I know he was on several committees in the league, advisory and so forth, and studying the safety of the game, player safety. I know he’s instrumental in a lot of those changes, improvements to help player safety, specifically the defenseless receivers and protecting the quarterback, things like that. Just a very well-rounded person that had a great love of life, love of football, love of the history of football. He was always such an enjoyable person to be around and converse with unless you were standing across the field from him. That was a little different story. . . . He put it all together. Great person. Multiple great careers. Most importantly, just a great influence on the game of football and professional football. He was a good friend.”

Belichick recognizes that Madden’s influence spans decades.

“He affected multiple generations,” Belichick said. “Again, I just think it’s unique in the different ways that he was such a big part of the game, from coaching to the Madden game, to broadcasting, to being involved in rule changes for the safety of the players, increased diversity in hiring, things like that. He touched a lot of areas and all of them really, I think, start with the betterment of the game. Obviously, as a coach, you’re trying to help your team. You’re not trying to help all the other teams, but what he did with the Raiders and what he accomplished during his tenure there was remarkable. He was a Hall of Fame coach and then, all the other stuff that came on top of it . . . what a man. What a career.”

And that man was one of the very few who could captivate Belichick himself.

“I think any time he spoke, I listened,” Belichick said. “Whether that was in private conversation, group meeting, or a forum where other people spoke. For example, on a rule change or something like that or on a conference call with the Top 100, I always wanted to hear what he had to say. He always had a good perspective. . . . You could always see where he was coming from and it was always, I felt like, what was best for the game and a very unselfish view. He presented it that way and I think that’s why he was so respected, because his motivation was for the game, the fans, the entertainment, the safety, and all the things that are right about football. That’s what he stood for. . . .

“[H]e asked a lot of questions. He was always interested to hear what the point of view was. Sometimes, he agreed with it. Sometimes, he didn’t, but I know in our conversations, there was a lot of mutual respect there. I could see where he was coming from if it was maybe a little bit different from the way I was thinking and vice versa. I think that’s healthy. It’s very healthy, but he was a great listener. I would say I always enjoyed the production meetings with John because his insight into the game was very good. A lot of questions he would ask, sometimes, kind of had a lot of depth to them. Maybe it was something I hadn’t thought that much about. He noticed it and said, ‘Hey, what about this?’ or ‘What about that?’ You start thinking about it and say, ‘Well, that’s pretty observant. I might’ve even missed that.’ Maybe it was something that one of our opponents was doing, why they were doing it, or how we were doing something. Then, that stimulated another line of thought. He was great to work with and just loved football, just loved football. I think he loved every aspect of it. Coaching it, announcing it, improving it, making it a better game, making it more exciting, making it better for the fans, making it safer, making it more entertaining, and the presentation of it in an entertaining way as well. Just a wonderful man with a really great perspective that did a lot for the game.”

That’s a fitting tribute from Belichick, one of the most respected figures in the game. And Madden arguably is the most respected of all, for everything he did and the way he did it. His impact on the NFL extends from the past to the present to the future. That’s never happened with any other figure in the NFL, and it quite possibly may never happen again.

32 responses to “Bill Belichick on John Madden: “Any time he spoke, I listened”

  1. As Belichick approaches the twilight of his career, he seems to have mellowed a lot. Quickly becoming the wise old sage of the NFL. Talk about ‘When he talks, I listen.’

  2. I was a kid when I started watching football with Madden and Summerall. I really miss watching games with them. They really balance each other out.

  3. I love when Belichick gets on a tangent about something he’s passionate about, and he clearly is passionate about John Madden.

  4. All of the quotes are correct and show how well respected John was. Madden really loved the game and being around it. Tremendous influence throughout what can only be described as many careers. Always came off as genuine. Listening to the people that were close to him speak of him, confirm that he was indeed a kind genuine man. RIP John

  5. BB style to interviews: Ask dumb questions and get dumb answers. Ask good questions and get good answers.

  6. What really makes such a tribute meaningful is the contrast to how Belichick normally answers questions. When Bill cares about something, you’re going to get a lot.

  7. It is often an interesting spectacle to watch two of the top of their profession speak. Wether it’s about sports, astrophysics, cooking, whatever there is a level of minute understanding often that they have that is so obvious but at the same time is only fully understood by them. When one of those greats leaves us we often hear the true measure of the person from those colleagues. They impart what we didn’t fully understand but loved so much and let us know what we didn’t. They speak the obituary of that person to us, the general public. So, I’ve made fun of Belicheck, I’ve criticized him for his dour moods and treatment of the press. But the man when he leaves the current NFL battlefield in his mind is one eloquent SOB when he chooses to speak about what he cares(d) about. So we have lost John Madden. I can’t chuckle and do boom tuff actin Tanactin jokes, or laugh when I take an ACE coupon out of my mailbox. But Belicheck gave a wonderful speech about why John Madden is a cornerstone of the NFL when viewed from any angle. The message was wonderfully done, the praise for, well justified. A Great of Sports is gone. His standing imparted by another Giant of the field.
    RIP Mr Madden

  8. When BB gets talking about Football everyone should listen too. He’ll never be John Madden. Bill is a bit of a Savant. But he knows football more than anyone [alive], I think.

  9. In an age when legend or icon are terms which are thrown about all too easily, John Madden stands out as a true example of both.
    As Coach, broadcaster and the name on the computer game he stands out from the crowd but comments from a fellow legend like Bellichik make it clear how he is still so highly thought of in the game that he lived and which he helped so many of us love.
    Thanks, Coach Madden for all you did for my beloved Raiders and the great game. Rest in Peace and honour.
    (BTW:Anybody thinking of giving this post a thumbs down: What are you objecting to?)

  10. I’m not a Pats fan or Belichick fan. But I find it fascinating when Bill goes off on long tangents that he finds fascinating. Hes a good listen when he does. This is one of those times about Madden. I am a history lover, so I love hearing his stories. One of my all-time favorites is him talking about his experiences with Paul Brown and family. Books should be written.

  11. Like him or not, Belichik knows how to handle the media, and has a deep understanding of all things NFL. He knows and appreciates the history of the game and it’s people better than probably anyone

  12. zabam1 says:
    December 29, 2021 at 7:26 pm

    Belichick’s name doesn’t belong in the same sentence as Madden’s.

    ============

    Have to love the unintended irony in this sentence.

  13. Most likely be pulling up a few Madden broadcasts in the near future. Amazing man and an amazing life. Funny how much you can miss a TV personality.

  14. Madden entering the pearly gates:

    Lombardi; “so those eight hours you spent listening to me on the power sweep were worth it”!

    Shula: ‘You dethroned me! Well done you &*#$!”

    Noll: “You were right. The refs blew the Immaculate Reception”!

  15. Bill at his best whenever the topic involves football history and John Madden is football history.

  16. Belichick is the best coach so far in the history of NFL. But Madden is what made NFL the most popular sports in USA.

  17. Coach Madden only had three rules when he coached The Oakland Raiders. They were: show up on time, pay attention, and play like hell when I tell you to.

  18. I was a 9-year-old Falcons fan with not much to cheer about, so I adopted the terrifying Raiders as my 2nd favorite team. I even put a Raiders poster on my bedroom wall. I recall when they won the Super Bowl in Jan 1977 that the media really played up the narrative that this can’t-win-the-big-one coach had finally justified himself after so many close calls in the past decade. It seemed like a long haul. I had no clue that 42-years-old is actually still young, especially for a SB-winning coach. Had he moved on to some other field at that point, it would have been a HOF career, long-lauded.

    But then he found his perfect platform(s) and became the Mark Twain of football, really, an iconic original who did it without ever becoming annoying or narcissistic or political. Say what you want about Belichick, but he’s a scholar of the game and its most accomplished coach, and this dazzling tribute to Madden, seemingly off the cuff, says it all.

  19. Belichick has always been a fan of history and the history of the NFL, so he knows how important Maddens contributions were to the game. Good to hear him open up about something once and awhile

  20. I remember listening to Madden and Summerall, with Madden going on and on and on about something, then Summerall saying, basically, “What he just said means…” It cracked me up every time. RIP to both of them.

  21. …and yet BB seems to miss the contrast between how Madden treated people

    and how HE treats people.

  22. If you are old enough to have followed the NFL in the 70’s you know that Madden and Belichick had one thing in common – Both Madden, Belichick and their respective teams were despised by all opposing fan bases. Madden was not the everyman’s favorite when he coached the Raiders as he was when he was a broadcaster. That was a big part of the Raiders mystique.

  23. Any longtime Patriots fan knows the story of Coach Madden and Darryl Stingley. That was as classy as it gets.

  24. ashism says:
    December 29, 2021 at 11:13 pm
    Belichick is the best coach so far in the history of NFL. But Madden is what made NFL the most popular sports in USA.
    ——
    Agreed with the last sentence.

    Too hard to say for sure if Belichick is the greatest coach of all time over all the other greats like Lombardi, Gibbs, Brown, Shula and the rest of them all from different eras. BB has more rings but players are more responsible for those than coaches. IMO.

    I like to think of this in tiers- rather than talking about the GoAT coach, I’ll say BB is definitely in the very top tier of NFL coaches with less than a handful of others.

    Madden too. There weren’t many football teachers like Coach Madden was.

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