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Greetings From The Booth and Happy New Year!
With all quiet on the Shenandoah University front, I wanted to weigh in on a couple of NFL greats who passed away recently, the great John Madden and the stoic but successful Dan Reeves. Reeves’ passing was almost lost in all the remembrances of the larger-than-life Madden, but Reeves, who participated in nine Super Bowls either as a player or coach, certainly needs to be eulogized, as well.
There’s not much I can add to all of the tributes to Madden. I first remember John Madden as the coach on the other side of the field when the Pittsburgh Steelers pulled off the so-called “Immaculate Reception” in December of 1972, a miracle play that’s been examined more times than the Zapruder film, and was the springboard to the Steeler dynasty of the 70’s. Madden, the young head coach of the Raiders, was about to advance into the next round of the playoffs with a 7-6 win in the Steel City, when Franco Harris had other ideas. The Raiders and Steelers would play some memorable games after that, and Madden finally got his Super Bowl ring in the 1976 season. He would finish as the all-time wins leader in Raiders history.
But Madden was not done. He would eventually move into the broadcast booth and pair up with Pat Summerall to become the CBS’ “A” team. When Madden and Summerall were doing a game, you knew it was huge. With his inimitable style, Madden transcended football and entertained both the most knowledgeable fans, as well as people who didn’t know an X from an O. That was his talent. Madden would later add instant credibility to the fledgling Fox network as part of their NFL broadcasts. And, of course, lent his name to the iconic Madden NFL video games. He introduced us to turducken on Thanksgiving Day, the Madden Cruiser, and The All-Madden Team. Simply, you cannot weave an NFL tapestry without John Madden in the fabric.
With Madden’s death at 85, you may have missed the passing of Dan Reeves. As a player, Reeves was a member of the Dallas Cowboys from 1965-1972. There were flashier Cowboys, like Bob Hayes and Don Meredith, but Reeves was solid, scoring 42 total touchdowns in his time with Dallas, even throwing a halfback option pass for a TD in the famous “Ice Bowl” against Green Bay. And, as a player, Reeves won a Super Bowl ring, something that eluded him as a head coach.
Having played for the robotic Tom Landry in Dallas, Reeves took on a similar style as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Although a little more fiery than Landry, Reeves , as a classy tribute to his mentor, always wore a jacket and tie on the sideline (though he stopped just short of sporting the Tom Landry fedora). Reeves’ persona hid the fact that he was a family man who always made sure to balance his home life and his job, a rarity in a profession where NFL head coaches often spend time in their team facilities until the wee hours of the morning.
As for coaching success, Dan Reeves took the Broncos to 3 Super Bowls, including the “Doug Williams” Super Bowl, won by Washington 42-10. In addition, he took the Atlanta Falcons to their first Big Game, where, in a twist of irony, they were beaten by Denver, Reeves’ former team. He is one of a select few head coaches to win 200 NFL games, but somehow is not in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. Although a little too late, it’s time to right that wrong.
Until our next visit from The Booth…here’s to a great 2022, and RIP John Madden and Dan Reeves.