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Davis recalls Madden's great days as Raiders coach

2/3/2006 - NFL

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- When Al Davis hired John Madden at age 32
to coach the Oakland Raiders, Davis trusted his hunch that he'd
found a winning combination.

The Raiders won, all right. Madden compiled a 103-32-7 record
and a 9-7 mark in the playoffs from 1969-78.

Now, the 76-year-old Oakland owner wants to do all he can to
help Madden finally join the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"John Madden takes his place in the sun we hope this week,"
Davis said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on
Thursday. "One of his great virtues, the fire that burned
brightest in him, was his love for football and his passion for it.
His passion for it is seldom ever equaled."

This will be an emotional week for Madden, who along with Al
Michaels will call the final NFL game by ABC in Sunday's Super Bowl
in Detroit pairing the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks.

On Saturday, Madden, who is moving to NBC for Sunday night games
next season, will be up for a spot in the Hall of Fame. The
longtime analyst has been eligible for the Hall for 27 years.

"We've all gone through it. This is part of our lives, what we
live for," Davis said. "He's shooting for it. This is what he
wants. ... I think someday the epitaph that shall be his will read:
He was a football coach, he was a brilliant football coach. It's
about time everyone raised their hand and saluted to John 'Great
job."'

Davis, who came aboard in 1963 to coach and eventually own the
Raiders, promoted Madden to head coach in 1969 after two seasons as
an assistant guiding the linebackers. In his first season, Madden
led the Raiders to a 12-1-1 finish and the AFL West title on the
way to AFL coach of the year honors.

During Madden's tenure, the Raiders never had a losing record,
won seven division titles and advanced to the playoffs eight times.
They beat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 to win the Super Bowl after
going 13-1 as AFC West champions in 1976, defeating New England and
Pittsburgh in the playoffs along the way.

"He not only competed against the greatest coaches, he played
in the greatest games -- Heidi Bowl, Immaculate Reception, Holy
Roller, Sea of Hands," Davis said. "He won the Super Bowl in '76,
was in great games in '75 and '74. The Raiders were the pinnacle of
pro football and portrayed a way of playing."

For Davis, the memories from Madden's years are still vivid, and
this is a special week for a franchise trying to get back to that
high level. The Raiders are in the middle of a search for a new
head coach after Norv Turner was fired Jan. 3 following two losing
seasons in which Oakland only earned one victory against the AFC
West.

"John's influence, even though it only carried over first
approximately 10 years, carries on and carries on to this day,"
Davis said. "It's time he took his rightful place in the Hall of
Fame and he certainly brings an excellence to it that no one can
deny. ...

"At the end, he got his break with the networks and he's done
great with that. He's done great with everything he's touched."

While Davis is a big supporter of Madden's bid, others connected
to the Silver and Black aren't so sure he's deserving.

"I spent a long time in Raiderland," former Raiders receiver
Tim Brown said on Fox Sports Net earlier this week. "And when you
talk to the old guys who played under Madden, they say, 'Look, if
not for this guy, maybe we win three or four Super Bowls.' They
actually think that he may have hindered them."