Monday, August 29, 2005

Boom! I'm Not a Hall of Fame Coach!

Most sports critics and football fans see the nomination of John Madden for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as an automatic selection, stemming from his broadcasting career and popular video game. Madden is worthy of enshrinement if there is a wing of the Hall dedicated to broadcasting or selling out his image. Even Krusty the Klown would be embarrassed by all of the products that the former Raiders coach has pitched over the years, from hardware to jock itch. But does Madden deserve to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on his coaching credentials? The answer may surprise you.

Madden inherited a strong club that had won 25 games during the last two seasons of the John Rauch era in 1969. Madden averaged 11 wins during his 10 seasons as coach of the Raiders, astounding in an era when the NFL played a 14-game schedule. The Raiders were always in the thick of the playoffs, but always fell short. Critics chastise coaches such as Marty Schottenheimer for performing well in the regular season, but failing in the playoffs. Madden made a career out of it. Maybe there will be a Schotty Cruiser in the future.

The Raiders reached seven AFC Championship Games during the Madden decade of limitation, losing six of those games to coaches such as Hank Stram, Chuck Noll, and Don Shula--coaches who deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Should Madden be enshrined next to the coaches that he could not beat in the playoffs? Probably not.

Madden also cannot hold a whistle to two other Hall of Fame coaches that roamed the sidelines for ten years, Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh. Lombardi won five titles, Walsh won three as each rebuilt morbid franchises from the ground up and made them into winners. The Raiders won the AFL title and reached the championship game in the two years before Madden became coach. The Packers were 1-10-1 in 1958 (a year before Lombardi) and the 49ers 2-14 in 1978 (a year before Walsh) and neither coach had the advantage of free agency to rebuild their respective programs. Lombardi and Walsh were architects and innovators. Madden was an automatic pilot.

Raiders fans (the half dozen of them that can think) will likely point to recent Hall of Fame inductee George Allen and his inability to win a Super Bowl, a point that cannot be disputed. However, Allen rejuvenated two separate franchises and coached longer. Yet, Allen probably did not deserve his enshrinement, either. You cannot put Madden into the Pro Football Hall of Fame because the voters made a mistake with Allen.

Madden was really an old-school version of George Seifert. Madden was a successful assistant coach that did a credible job of maintaining a franchise as a head coach. Madden never really elevated his team, save one Super Bowl year, and ended up getting out of coaching when the team built by Rauch and Al Davis started to crumble. Hopefully the voting committee will not be swayed by Madden's whoring out of his image as a commentator, celebrity figure, and product endorser to see that his teams underachieved under his leadership.

The final verdict, Madden does not belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Charger Ray said...

Come on, we all know who was running the team. It's always been Mr. Burns., umm.. I mean Al Davis. There was no free agency back then and he basically inherited a good team.

As far aa HOF credentials, I guess he gets in not based on his coaching but because of is marketablity representing the NFL and it's only video game.

Scott said...

I like your comparison to George Seifert. I think it's apt with regard to the team they each inherited and what they did with them. If Madden had simply faded into retirement, he would probably not be getting nominated. You could probably make a weak argument for Tom Flores based on the same criteria... and Flores has one extra SB win under his belt. So, I can see why you don't think he deserves to be in the HoF.

But Madden, for so many people, embodies a lot of what football is about. He still has a passion for the game, he makes the game accessible to people who don't know much about it, he's forgotten more about the game than I'll ever know, and he's an engaging personality. For a lot of people, Madden is football. But there's no place in the Hall for broadcasters (unless you count "contributors", but that seems to be mostly owners, commissioners and front-office guys.) His having won a Super Bowl and having such a high winning percentage as a coach, though, gives the Hall enough reason to put him in there.

If the Hall was just about winning, there wouldn't need to be a selection process. They'd just tally up the victory column and enshrine those at the top of the list. Hall of Famers had to mean something to the game... had to contribute to its prosperity and had to enbody its ideals. I think Madden has done that.

Anonymous said...

Bud Grant, Marv Levy, Bobby Cox, Peyton Manning, Andy Reid, Rick Adelman, Marty Schottenheimer, Dan Marino and countless other perennial big game underachievers would disagree with your thesis.

mrshife said...

I think if you take what he has accomplished as a coach then no he is not a Hall of Famer, but combined with his contributions behind the mic then he is most worthy.

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