John Madden died today at 85. He has the highest head coach winning percentage in NFL history: .759. (Guy Chamberlain had .784 but I guess his career was too short by someone choosing an arbitrary cut off above his total 81 games.)
I often cite his and the other top NFL winning percentages like Vince Lombardi (.738) as evidence that football is a more coachable sport than baseball.
The all-time highest win percentage there is .615 for Joe MaCarthy. Actually, I am not sure about that. MLB seems not to want us to know how low the highest win percentages are. Another very high one for baseball is Tony LaRussa at .537.
Tony is in my home owners association. I ran into him at the gas station once and talked to him a bit about my advice that all baseball hitters should bat left-handed. He agreed but said he also liked switch hitters. He is back managing again after getting into the Hall Of Fame.
Madden also lived here, in Blackhawk. His house is about 3.5 miles from my house. I drive by his house which is prominently on the golf course there several times a week. I also coached freshman high school football against his sons for several years. Madden was at the 2003 game in the press box with my son. We won 12-6. I lost the other two games I played against them.
I never talked to him, but we had a dispute. His Madden football game apparently used my football clock management rules for when you play against the game. Microsoft’s competing game did, too. They called and asked me permission.
I heard that Madden did not disagree with one of my rules—that you should almost always be is a slow-down or a hurry-up after the first quarter because which team will be leading at the end of the game is predictable based on the second quarter to a significantly greater than 50% accuracy. If you are likely to be in a slow down at the end of the game, you should be in one now, even if it is the second or third quarter. He did not disagree with it, but he hated it.
Some decry this as sitting on a lead. I do not say any such damned thing as sitting on a lead when you are in the second or third quarter. You should be trying to increase your lead. You just wait until the end of the play clock to call for the snap and you you stay the hell in-bounds when you get near the sideline. Nothing at all to do with sitting on a lead.
Madden did not disagree. I have actual case histories of that mistake. One is a Cotton Bowl where Texas A&M lost to UCLA when they failed to be in a slow-down in the second quarter and let UCLA score what turned out to be the margin of victory TD during time that was left on the clock due to their QB going out of bounds just one time when he should have stayed in bounds.
But Madden was offended in a this-is-not-what-we-coaches-have-been-doing sense. So he ordered the game guys, EA Sports, whom I visited in Redwood City, CA at their request, to violate that rule.
He did not disagree that my advice would be more likely to lead to a win, but he just did not want a game with his name on it having the play-against-the-game-team in a slow-down or hurry up in the second or third quarter. Too abnormal. My problem is I only write books where the abnormal is the best practice.
Madden is highly regarded, but I cannot name a contribution he made to the game like the West Coast Offense or the Tampa 2 defense or scouting or the special teams coordinator. He was one of the most successful head NFL coaches and a popular TV personality. He actually was discovered as a TV personality from doing Bud Light commercials, not football coaching knowledge.