John Madden Receives Moving Tribute in EA Sports’ ‘Thank You, Coach’

In the ’70s, we saw Coach Madden’s passions erupt on the court as he piloted the Oakland Raiders to eight playoff berths and victory in Super Bowl XI.

From 1979 to 2008, boom!, he provided exceptionally colorful commentary on all four major networks, and his voice has become synonymous with the game itself. Madden delivered penetrating insights with unbridled enthusiasm, punctuated by tireless trips to the whiteboard for tutorials on strategies and games.

In 1988, with John’s expert guidance, EA launched its Madden NFL franchise after four years of painstaking development. Establishing a model of realism and thrill that has never been surpassed, Madden NFL has sold some 130 million copies over the years, generating billions of dollars in revenue.

“Thank You, Coach” explores this trinity of accomplishments and Madden’s complex personality through interviews with luminaries and archival footage of the man himself. Totally obsessed with football and renowned for his big heart – though often unstable and quick to anger – Madden demanded perfection from everyone, including himself.

“The three rules I had were: be on time, be careful… [and] play like hell when I tell you to,” Madden said.

“They were going to be the aggressors,” adds Mahomes. “They were going to be the ones attacking, and I love that style of football.”

Of Madden’s work behind the mic, Brady recalls, “He made everyone fall in love with the game…He told great stories about the players, drew the Xs and O’s and created the sounds. which were so unique to him, the boom!”

EA founder Trip Hawkins tapped Madden for his NFL venture because of the coach’s commitment to making virtual action as authentic as possible. When John began dissecting the complexity of Raiders games, insisting that every option in the field – variation upon variation – had to be represented in-game, Hawkins knew the title would be a winner, he says.

Today, when prospects debut, “the first thing you look at is, hey, what’s my rating on Madden?” notes Mahomes. And Hall of Famer Kenny Houston thinks Madden NFL “keeps football connected. And I think it will be that way for a long, long time.”

Avoiding the bells and whistles associated with video games, the Malloys opt for a simple presentation, and we get a clear sense of Madden’s legacy and outsized influence.

“We were able to speak with people about a coach who meant so much to them, and so much to us. [as longtime fans], so the interviews were emotional on both sides of the camera,” Emmett Malloy told Muse. “Plus, we were able to shoot on 35mm black and white film, and that opportunity was a dream come true for us. Shooting interviews on film is something we never get to do.”

They started filming in 2020, “just when Covid was starting to rear its ugly head,” Malloy says. (The film wasn’t meant as a memorial, so most topics are about John in the present tense.) Tampa to shoot with Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, who were shooting the cover of Madden together last year. We did every interview in person.

From its first images, the presentation evokes a powerful mood of seriousness and nostalgia. There’s ample scope and context, well served by those old TVs and monochromatic footage. They remind us that John first made his mark in the pre-cable days. Clips from the Madden NFL animation underscore that his imprint looms large as we leap into the metaverse and beyond.

Bob Dylan’s 1975 track “Simple Twist of Fate” sets a wistful tone towards the film’s conclusion. Fittingly, Madden has the last laugh, his image filling a vintage analog screen as he shares this nugget of philosophy:

“I used to say something before a game. I had no idea what it meant. But I heard it somewhere, and it sounded like a really good idea. The last thing I I would say was: Don’t worry about the horse. Blind. Just load the cart.

Those words sum up John’s damn-the-torpedoes style. He rewrote three pop culture playbooks, entertaining, educating and captivating millions (maybe billions) along the way.

Thanks, coach.


Client: EA Sports
Senior Creative Director: Paul Marr
Creative Director: Josh Kline
Main Producer: Troy Smith
Senior Director, Marketing Strategy: David Jackson James
Athlete Relations: Ty Stover

Produced by: Super Prime Films
Director: Les Malloy
Managing Director / Executive Producer: Rebecca Skinner
Managing Director / Head of Sales: Michelle Ross
Producer: Betsy Blakemore

Editorial: Exile
Executive Producer: CL Weaver
Production Manager: Jennifer Locke
Producer: David Won
Publisher: Matt Murphy

About Anne Wurtsbach

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