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Legendary coach John Madden undergoes successful open-heart surgery

Pro Football Hall of Fame coach John Madden is “fine and feisty” and already well along the road to a full recovery from open-heart surgery at the UCSF Medical Center on Nov. 30, family sources told The Sports Xchange on Thursday.

Madden moved to an in-patient Oakland rehabilitation facility Wednesday and will reside there the next couple of weeks, but is described as “already well along the road” to a full recovery.

Madden, who will be 80 years old in April, is a football icon who initially made a name as head coach of the fabled Oakland Raiders of the 1970s. He went on to mega stardom as an award winning broadcaster and the man behind the biggest franchise in video gaming, Madden Football.

He closely guarded release of information on the problem that first arose the day before Thanksgiving. He was at home when he first experienced breathing problems. He called a doctor and an ambulance was dispatched to take him to the nearby Pleasanton Valley Care center. After blood tests, and consultation with an “A Team” at UCSF, Madden was transported to the facility in San Francisco, where he underwent the surgery on November 30.

Doctors soon learned about Madden what those who knew him already knew, that he is always in coach mode. As surgery began, the surgeon asked Madden, “Are you ready?” Madden, getting to the heart of the matter, as it were, replied, “What’s important is are YOU ready?”

Madden’s family, and agent Sandy Montag, tell The Sports Xchange that “he is doing great and will come out of this even better than before.”

John and Virginia Madden (married Dec. 26, 1959) live in Pleasanton near their two sons, Joe and Mike, and five grandchildren that he mentions constantly on his weekday radio show on KCBS.

Madden first used his coaching instincts in 1960 at Allan Hancock Junior College in Santa Maria, Calif., then moved to San Diego State in 1963 where he was influenced by head coach Don Coryell. In 1967 Madden was hired as linebackers coach of the Raiders by Al Davis and in 1969 became head coach at the age of 32, beginning one of the greatest NFL coaching careers in history.

Madden took the Raiders to a conference championship game in seven of his ten years and made the playoffs eight of ten years. His Raiders were in the AFC Championship game five consecutive years (1973 through 1977) – a feat never accomplished by any team in either conference.

More impressive, this was during an era in which the AFC had some of the greatest teams in football history, including the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs, teams whose coaches are already in the Hall of Fame.

Madden’s winning percentage of .750 is better than all but one of the HOF Coaches (Guy Chamberlain had a .759 average in his six-year career from 1922-27). His overall record of .731 is behind only Chamberlain (.759) and the great Vince Lombardi (.740). Madden was the first coach to win 100 games in only ten years (103-32-7). There are four Hall of Fame coaches who coached ten years or fewer — Chamberlain (six years; 58-16-7), Vince Lombardi (96-34-6), Greasy Neale (63-43-5), and Bill Walsh (92-59-1).

His career was highlighted by historic postseason wars against Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins (three times), Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers (five times) and one each against the teams coached by Hall of Famers Paul Brown, Bud Grant and Hank Stram.

When Madden retired in 1979 at the age of 42 few believed he would not coach again. This probably delayed his entry into the Hall of Fame as many were waiting for his return to coaching.

“When I retired from the Raiders I never wanted to coach another team,” said Madden, who had numerous offers until more recently than some might believe.

Instead, he went into broadcasting and became one of the most honored television analysts in history, earning a roomful of Emmys as he worked first with CBS, then helped launch FOXSports in 1994, and was partnered with Pat Summerall at both networks. He went on to be the voice of NBC football and Monday Night Football with Al Michaels

But there are generations of football “Gamers” who know Madden as the franchise name of the hottest video game every produced.

— Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange, is a long-time friend of Madden as a former reporter covering the Raiders and then in working together on launching the Madden game and FOX Sports.

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