Many are learning new things about John Madden in the days following his passing. One of the most significant lessons flows from his staunch advocacy for player safety, especially in the years after his retirement from broadcasting.
We explained it on Wednesday, looking at the various efforts he advanced and beliefs he held. Later in the day, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll addressed the situation, based on his own experiences with Coach Madden.
“My only real story with coach, I only talked to him a few times, but he called me,” Carroll said. “Remember when we sent out the ‘Hawk tackling’ video? He called me out of nowhere . . . . Taking care of the game, he said that it was one of the coolest things he has seen in a long time. He said that getting the head out of football is where the game should go, and he made a big deal about it. I was all charged up by the fact that he called out of nowhere. That’s the only time I had an interaction with him.”
John Madden pushed aggressively to ensure that players who possibly suffered a concussion be promptly removed from action, erring on the side of being wrong about keeping out a healthy player over being wrong about letting a concussed player keep playing. The broader football structure has resisted that approach at times, most notably when key players possibly suffer concussions in key moments of key games. Keeping a player out of action to confirm that he isn’t concussed directly affects the competitive integrity of the game, if he truly isn’t concussed and could keep playing. The other side of that coin, however, is that a player who should have been removed won’t be removed, and that he’ll suffer a devastating outcome when one brain injury is immediately chased by another.
John Madden also envisioned a time when the three-point stance exits the game, eliminating the subconcussive hits that happen on every play, when offensive linemen and defensive lineman launch at each other, heads necessarily banging together. It would make the game look much different at and before the snap. But if it’s in the best interests of the players, it’s in the best interests of the game. Hopefully, his commitment to safety won’t be forgotten or abandoned in the name of avoiding the kind of changes to the game that possibly would alienate some fans.
Over the past few decades, the game has become far less brutal and violent. And it’s still as popular as ever. If more changes aimed at protecting those who play the game are made, the fans will continue to adjust and to enjoy the game as it is, in whatever form it takes.