John Madden’s influence on EA’s Madden games went way beyond the cover (2023)


6 min




ORLANDO — Clint Oldenburg remembered his first trip to meet John Madden, the former NFL coach and namesake of the video game mega-franchise for which Oldenburg works. In 2012, Oldenburg, then just an intern, and a team of Electronic Arts developers traveled to Madden’s Oakland, Calif., offices to present a new feature they planned to incorporate into the upcoming edition of the game, an AI blocking behavior they called “ID the Mike.”

(Video) Thanks, Coach.

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One of Oldenburg’s colleagues introduced him to present the feature to the former coach, and no sooner had Oldenburg noted the feature’s name than Madden began waving his hands. The meeting came to a hard stop.

“Let’s not go any further,” Madden said. “I want to know, can you — or anyone in this room — tell me what it means to actually ID the Mike?”

Oldenburg, a former NFL offensive lineman before pivoting his career to game development, took the challenge in stride, explaining what Madden already knew: Identifying the Mike is simply when an offense identifies the middle player among the linebackers in a defensive formation to get on the same page.


Madden stared him down, then smiled.

“And from that moment on, for the next 10 years until he passed, Coach and I had a great relationship,” Oldenburg said. “We were on a first-name basis. He would call to talk to me and ask me how the game was doing, and it’s because I passed his football quiz. I will never forget that.”

When news of Madden’s death in December began to spread around the EA offices, developers flooded their Slack channels with tributes and discussion. “An immediate reaction was: ‘What are we going to do for Coach in our game?’ ” Oldenburg said.

During a presentation to media, Madden pro players and influencers in Orlando in late May, EA revealed the upcoming game would feature three covers — all of them depicting the Hall of Fame coach. One features the jubilant Madden being carried off the field by his players after they won Super Bowl XI. Another calls back to his days in the broadcast booth. The third, reserved for the game’s premium version, features Madden’s likeness from the original game’s cover, with the jubilant coach bursting through a black-white-and-gold background of play diagrams.

(Video) The Sad Decline of Madden - FULL DOCUMENTARY


All three versions of the cover feature a handwritten note scrawled on the front: “Thanks, Coach.”

“They’re great!” Mike Madden, the Hall of Famer’s eldest son, said in an email. “They highlight the three facets of John Madden — the Super Bowl victory, which was the biggest day of his life; a collared shirt and tie doing his broadcasting, which again he took that to new levels; and then the retro cover from the original game was nice. I actually played the game on an Apple II, so the throwback was great.”

For more than a decade, the cover reveal for the latest Madden game has been a cultural phenomenon in the United States, a marketing decision that carries with it an outsize measure of national relevance for the athlete selected. The news of the cover reveal is often accompanied by a “SportsCenter” segment on ESPN as well as a wave of online articles (and,as some believe, a curse).


Madden was featured on the cover of the early iterations of the game before EA began to highlight players in 2001. Recent covers have included quarterbacks Tom Brady (2018), Patrick Mahomes (2020) and Lamar Jackson (2021).

Madden, the former Super Bowl-winning coach of the Oakland Raiders, first lent his name to the video game series in 1988 with the stipulation that the game be realistic and representative of actual NFL football. That started with a requirement that the game feature 11 players on each side of the ball, a massive computational challenge for the hardware of the early 1990s. Once solved — thanks in part to the help ofdevelopers at Bethesda Softworksand their game “Gridiron!” — EA launched the best-selling sports franchise in video game history, with more than 30 installments produced since then.

(Video) John Madden tells EA SPORTS to FIGURE IT OUT to create Madden NFL football. (Madden 23)

Madden did more than merely lend his name to the series, though. Each year, developers from EA would meet multiple times with Madden to discuss new features going into the games and make sure they passed muster with the man the developers affectionately called “Coach” — both out of respect and to differentiate the man from the franchise.

“Every year, up until the start of the pandemic, he would have a Sunday work session with about 12 to 15 Madden developers where they’d sit down in the morning and go over the latest Madden game, discussing whatever questions or topics they had, and then they’d watch football together,” Mike Madden said. “Dad would sit and explain to them things that were happening on the field, pointing out nuances to plays that should be in the game, and they would [be] scratching notes and recording things. I think it was really helpful for them to have that insight.”

He was passionate about fundamentals and saw the video game as an opportunity to delve into the intricacies of the sport.


“He would always ask questions like, ‘We don’t have any illegal tackles going on, right?’ ” Oldenburg recalled. “Or, ‘This specific play I saw watching football that I thought was a dirty play — we don’t have that in Madden, right?’ Or, ‘How are we teaching this concept?’ He was always very aware of his game as a teaching tool of the sport but teaching it the right way.”

Another time the coach halted a PowerPoint presentation when a marketing slide featured clip art of a football play diagram. “Is that play in 'Madden’?” he asked.

“There were only six players on the field and some had arrows and X’s, and it just wasn’t a real football play,” Oldenburg recalled. “And he was like: ‘That play can’t be in my game. If that’s from the playbook, take it out. That’s not a real play.’ We stopped our creative review for the year with Coach Madden to discuss a diagram in a PowerPoint deck. That’s how much into the details he was around authenticity. And we never made that mistake again.”


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Those conversations between the EA developers and Madden continued until 2021, when he died Dec. 28. Oldenburg recalled the last time he talked with the coach. With thecoronavirusstill prohibiting travel and in-person meetings, the conversation took place over a matter-of-fact phone call in August to discuss how the team would integrate the NFL’s Next Gen Stats for the upcoming game.

“I think I was watching a bowl game or something, and it popped up on the bottom line. And it definitely hit me — like we had lost somebody really important,” Oldenburg said. “Everyone has so much respect for what he has meant to us.”

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Why is John Madden on the cover of Madden? ›

The iconic video cover pays tribute to Madden's career as a Super Bowl winning head coach as well as his broadcasting career. Madden will appear on three different covers, including one featuring artwork from Chuck Styles, who's responsible for the Madden 23 All Madden Edition.

Has John Madden ever been on the cover of Madden? ›

This article lists the Madden NFL cover athletes depicted on the Madden NFL video game box cover, along with the year of depiction. Prior to 1999, every annual installment of the Madden NFL video game series primarily featured John Madden on its cover.

Will EA lose the rights to Madden? ›

EA will remain in possession of the “Madden” license and development rights through at least 2026. The deal will allow EA to develop new games both in the “Madden NFL” franchise and outside it.

How did John Madden change the game? ›

Madden saw it as a way to educate fans. He insisted the game be realistic, demanding that it include 11 players per team, not the six or seven originally planned because of technical limitations. He advised on rules changes and play design; in fact, he gave the game designers the 1980 Raiders playbook.

Why does Madden 23 have John Madden on the cover? ›

“As someone who grew up loving football, playing in the suburbs of West Philly, it's a full circle moment to now be able to contribute to the culture of the sport by honoring an icon like John Madden, who has influenced generations of football fans through his passion for football and unmistakable energy, through my ...

Why did EA choose Madden? ›

D.C. True, Ltd. Electronic Arts (EA) founder Trip Hawkins conceived the series and approached Madden in 1984 for his endorsement and expertise. Because of Madden's insistence that the game be as realistic as possible, the first version of John Madden Football did not appear until 1988.

Who was the first guy in Madden cover? ›

1999: Garrison Hearst

EA Sports decided to put a player on the cover, and the San Francisco 49ers' running back, Garrison Hearst, was chosen.

Has anyone made the Madden cover twice? ›

Brady and Mahomes are the only athletes outside of Barry Sanders and John Madden to grace the cover twice.

How many times has John Madden been on the Madden cover? ›

It will be the first time that Madden has been on the cover since 2000. In fact, the former broadcaster will be on three covers that will “pay tribute to a different chapter in Coach Madden's unforgettable life,” according to EA.

Does EA still own the NFL rights? ›

As the years went on, the series became the dominant football video game in the medium. In early 2005, EA made an exclusive licensing deal with the NFL which continues to this day.

Can you get banned in Madden 22? ›

It's easy! Check out our article on playing by the EA rules. There are a few specific rules that we want you to be aware of for Madden, so you and other players have the best experience possible. We have these rules to keep things fun and fair for everyone that plays Madden, and anyone that breaks them can get banned.

How much does EA pay for the NFL license? ›

NFL, EA Sports Announce $1.5B Multiyear Contract Renewal for Madden NFL Games. The NFL and its players union have agreed to a five-year extension with Electronic Arts to continue the Madden video game franchise, according to Darren Rovell of Action Network.

Why is Bill Belichick not in Madden 22? ›

EA Sports has a contract with the NFL Coaches Association that allows them to use the names and likenesses of guys like Andy Reid and Mike Tomlin in the game. Belichick, though, is the lone NFL head coach who is not a member of the Coaches Association -- and has refused to join the group for years.

How John Madden became the most influential person in NFL history? ›

As a coach, Madden—who led the Oakland Raiders from 1969 to 1978—never had a losing season, won a Super Bowl, and holds the highest winning percentage, 75.9%, for an NFL coach with a minimum of ten years on the sideline.

Why was Madden so important? ›

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Though his coaching success had brought him fame, it was in his next career—as a football analyst for television—that Madden became an icon inextricably linked to the NFL. His first position as a colour commentator came in 1979 at CBS.

Who has been on Madden cover the most? ›

So have any players appeared twice? If you look at the main console version of the game and not any mobile editions, Brady and Mahomes are the only players to ever be on the cover twice. Brady made his debut on Madden NFL 18 and Mahomes was on the cover of Madden NFL 20.

Who is on the Madden 25 cover? ›

Cover player selection

Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, who played for the Detroit Lions from 1989 until 1999, won the contest to be featured on the video game's cover over Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, with 58 percent of the vote.

How much Madden 23 cost? ›

Join Now for instant access to Madden NFL 23 and other best-loved titles from EA, plus a 10% member discount and member-only content. $4.99 at checkout, auto-renewed every 1 month(s) at $4.99. $29.99 at checkout, auto-renewed every 12 month(s) at $29.99.

What made Madden so popular? ›

Madden's use of the telestrator helped to popularize the technology, which has become a staple of television coverage of all sports. Madden was also known for working the annual Thanksgiving Day games for CBS and later Fox. He would award a turkey or turducken to the winning team.

Why can only EA make NFL games? ›

They have an exclusive contract with the NFL to make the Madden games. That's why you don't see the 2k franchise trying to make football games anymore. There are talks that the NFL may try to end this exclusive deal, but we will see.

Does John Madden get royalties? ›

John Madden Endorsements

The Madden NFL series of football video game is the largest football video game franchise which is also an ode to his legacy. As a result of the deal, the late John Madden still earns $2 million in royalties from EA Sports each year.

Who broke Madden's curse? ›

In the 2021/2022 season, Kansas City broke the curse with Mahomes leading the Chiefs to a 31-20 victory at the Super Bowl.

Why is Aaron Rodgers not on the cover of Madden? ›

Rodgers had a rough year last year with two concussions without being Madden's cover boy. While the greats that have gone before him have not been able to completely evade the curse, Rodgers could be the one to do it.

Who came up with the idea of Madden? ›

Madden NFL, video game sports-simulation series created by EA Sports, a division of the American company Electronic Arts, and based on the National Football League (NFL). Its name derives from John Madden, a famous football coach and television colour commentator.

What is the Brady curse? ›

The season's leader in yards per pass has never won the Super Bowl.

Has there ever been a 100 OVR in Madden? ›

'Madden' has given two NFL legends a 100 rating, and even gave another a 189. As it turns out, the makers of 'Madden' have doled out a 100 rating before, and have gone even higher than that. Much, much higher. For the release of 'Madden 1998', the game bestowed a 189 rating to WR legend Jerry Rice.

What teams have never been on the cover of Madden? ›

It is no shock that teams like the Jets, Commanders/Football Team, Texans, and Jaguars have never had a player chosen for a Madden cover. But teams like the Broncos, Colts, and Raiders seem odd. Peyton Manning played for the Colts and Broncos, won a Super Bowl with each, five MVP awards, and never made the cut.

How many times was Tom Brady on Madden cover? ›

He has featured in a Madden cover twice, a feat that is shared by only one other player, Patrick Mahomes. Although John Madden featured in the Madden NFL game cover for almost a decade, Brady is only one of two NFL players to feature on a Madden NFL game cover twice.

Who has the most 99 ratings in Madden history? ›

Peyton Manning is tied for the most 99 overall ratings in Madden history with Aaron Donald. He was the first player in NFL history to be rated 99 six times, doing so consecutively between the 06 and 11 versions of Madden.

How much is the first Madden game worth? ›

John Madden Football Sega Genesis
Sale Date ▲ ▼Title ▲ ▼▲ ▼ Price
2022-12-31Original John Madden Football (Sega Genesis, 1990) COMPLETE *FREE SHIPPING [eBay]$34.99
2022-12-29Original John Madden FOOTBALL 1990 Sega Genesis Complete Box Manual Cartridge [eBay]$29.75
28 more rows

Why did EA lose FIFA rights? ›

Key Background. Tensions had built for months as EA and FIFA worked to hash out a new contract, according to the New York Times. A major point of contention was FIFA's demand to double its licensing fee, which was already $150 million a year, the Times reported.

Will Amazon buy NFL rights? ›

Amazon is paying more than $1 billion a year for the rights to 15 Thursday games a season through 2032. The league and the company did not disclose terms for the Nov. 24, 2023, game, but there are reports Amazon will pay another $50 million for the rights.

Do NFL players get paid for Madden? ›

As mentioned in another answer of mine, players don't get paid directly for being in Madden. Instead, EA pays the NFLPA (the players' union), and the NFLPA uses that money to help retired players who are having medical problems, among other things.

Will I get banned if I buy Madden Coins? ›

You can also get banned if you buy Coins. Buying “mule” accounts or performing comfort trades is also not allowed. These things are against our gameplay rules because they have a negative impact on the game economy, and they damage gameplay for you and other players.

How long is a EA ban? ›

Account bans are typically permanent.

Can you get unbanned in Madden 23? ›

the only way to get unbanned is to try and dispute it but if it's an account locked ban then you have no chance.

How long does EA own the NFL license? ›

The current contract was set to expire after the 2021 season. The extension means that EA Sports will continue to be the league's exclusive publisher of football simulation games through 2026.

Who is the highest paid FS in the NFL? ›

The Los Angeles Chargers' Derwin James leads the list, at $19 million per year. The Pittsburgh Steelers' Minkah Fitzpatrick is second, at $18.2 million per season, followed by the Seattle Seahawks' Jamal Adams, at $17.5 million.

Do NFL teams pay for players? ›

NFL teams pay their players weekly during the 18-week season. Each of the league's 32 teams plays 17 games during 18 weeks with one "bye" week off. Salaries usually include conditions that can affect payments, such as whether they miss games due to injury.

Are any NFL players not in Madden? ›

EA Sports and the NFLCA agreed to a deal ahead of the release of 'Madden NFL 2002' and anyone not in the association is subbed out of the video game. The NFLCA is free for coaches to join, and while there does not seem to be any downside to joining, Belichick has opted out for most of his career.

Why does Bill Belichick refuse to be in Madden? ›

Belichick is the one coach who isn't part of the National Football League Coaches Association, and he hasn't been part of the game since 2005. Because he owns his own likeness, EA Sports has had to replace Belichick with randomly generated characters.

Who is the guy on Madden 23? ›

Madden NFL 23 was released in August for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. It marked the series debut on the Epic Games Store. Former head coach and broadcaster John Madden, whom the game was named after, is the cover star in honor of his death in December 2021.

Who is the most influential person in NFL history? ›

The 10 Most Important Players In NFL History
  • 8 John Mackey.
  • 7 Junior Seau.
  • 6 Pete Gogolak.
  • 5 Mel Blount.
  • 4 Joe Namath.
  • 3 Jim Brown.
  • 2 Johnny Unitas.
  • 1 Jim Thorpe.
Aug 2, 2022

Who revolutionized American football? ›

Walter Camp, a native of Connecticut, invented this hugely popular game. Baseball may be America's pastime, but football is its passion. One man, Walter Camp, did more than any other American to shape the nation's love affair with the sport today.

Why is John Madden so beloved? ›

He was the voice of football for us and so many like us. Along the way, he appeared in a variety of TV commercials and episodes. In 1988, he lent his voice, personality, and name to the best-selling Madden NFL series of football video games. He was enshrined in Pro Football's Hall of Fame in 2006.

Was Madden a nice guy? ›

Madden was a humble man who understood – every day – just how much he'd been blessed. And he wanted to share those blessings with anyone that encountered him. Maybe that's why he was so nice to people.

Why was Peyton Hillis on the cover of Madden? ›

However, there was a time when the profits weren't the only thing that was near all-time highs. There was a time when fans loved the game, and it was so popular, that the developers did a fan-vote competition to see who'd grace the cover. The man who won was former Cleveland Browns running back, Peyton Hillis.

How much did EA pay John Madden? ›

A majority of Madden's career earnings are attributed to the deals he signed with EA Sports to front the Madden NFL game. The biggest deal of this nature was the $150 million pact that Madden had signed in 2005 to allow EA Sports to use his name in perpetuity.

Who is the guy on Madden cover? ›

John Madden himself. The Hall of Fame coach, broadcaster, and namesake of EA Sports' longest-running series died Dec.

Is Madden 23 dedicated to John Madden? ›

Madden NFL 23 was released in August for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. It marked the series debut on the Epic Games Store. Former head coach and broadcaster John Madden, whom the game was named after, is the cover star in honor of his death in December 2021.

Do NFL players get paid for Madden cover? ›

Players who are members of the NFLPA (the players' union) appear in Madden through a deal EA has with the NFLPA; the NFLPA gets the money and generally uses it to provide services for retired players. So while EA pays to use those players, the players themselves don't directly see it. Was this worth your time?

How much is John Madden worth when he died? ›

John Madden was worth $200 million in 2021 when he died, according to Celebrity Net Worth. He was the first broadcaster to earn a $1 million salary, and was also one of the first entertainers to earn more than$1 million per year through celebrity endorsements, the website stated.

How much does EA make off of Madden Ultimate Team? ›

In an annual financial report, the publisher said it made $1.62 billion from Ultimate Team modes in EA Sports games during the 2021 financial year. That means EA made around $3,000 a minute from FUT packs (aka loot boxes).

Who has made the most money playing Madden? ›

Eric Wright - Problem

Eric “Problem” Wright, from West Covina, California, is the most accomplished competitive Madden player in the game's history. Wright has been a Madden fan since 1993 and has made over $390,000 since joining the competitive Madden scene in 2005. Throughout his career, he has won 16 tournaments.

What NFL player is on Madden 23 the cover? ›

The late John Madden is the cover of the Madden 2023 video game.

How much money has Madden 23 made? ›

$600 million. That's how much in estimated annual revenue Madden brings to EA, Jefferies analyst Alex Giaimo told Barron's in 2020.

Who is the voice on Madden? ›

Brandon Gaudin, voice of 'Madden' game, hired as Braves play-by-play broadcaster.

Is Madden 23 a thing? ›


Upgrade your Ultimate Team™ in Season 4 with the first-ever John Madden player item, Team of the Year winners, and more.


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