FRISCO, Texas – What a watch, All Madden, the 90-minute documentary on John Madden that Fox Sports produced and first aired appropriately on Christmas Day, three days before the 85-year-old NFL icon passed away on Tuesday.
A must watch. Spellbinding, and I didn't get a chance to watch until Tuesday night, after he had died. Not only a walk through Madden's immense history and storied life, but a walk through NFL history and some Cowboys history, too, since Madden and Pat Summerall were there for so many of those dang critical Cowboys moments in the 1990s.
In my mind, this guy was the pope of the NFL, his presence captivating, his personality magnetic.
Made me remember a few personal brushes with the guy who had coached the Raiders, was a TV analyst for four networks, a commercial front man and producer of the ever-popular Madden video game.
Yes, had the privilege to be in Canton, Ohio, for his 2006 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction since was there covering Troy Aikman's induction that same year. Will never forget this part of his acceptance speech.
"You have to stay with me a moment on this one. This is a little goofy here. You're going to say, 'There is old Madden being goofy again.' But I started thinking about this after I got voted into the Hall of Fame. The more I think about it, the more I think it's true. Now I know it's true and I believe it.
Here is the deal: I think over in the Hall of Fame that during the day, the people go through, they look at everything. At night, there's a time when they all leave. All the fans and all the visitors leave the Hall of Fame. Then there's just the workers. Then the workers start to leave. It gets down to there's just one person. That person turns out the lights, locks the door.
I believe that the busts talk to each other. I can't wait for that conversation, I really can't. Vince Lombardi, Knute Rockne, Reggie, Walter Payton, all my ex-players. We'll be there forever and ever and ever talking about whatever. That's what I believe. That's what I think is going to happen, and no one's ever going to talk me out of that.
These guys are going, 'Oh, no, hope I don't have to put up with his BS for an eternity'"
And you know what? If you ever go through the rotunda where the busts reside, and you think about it, and how eerily quiet and solemn it is in there, nearly church like, John just might be on to something.
Then there was the time in the 2005 season when the Cowboys played back-to-back games on the West Coast at San Francisco and at Oakland. Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells wanted no part of having to make consecutive trips out there, so the Cowboys spent the week in California, and so did we. And one evening Madden had Cowboys senior vice president of public relations Rich Dalrymple put together a group of us for dinner at Hap's, his favorite steakhouse in Pleasanton, Calif., where he was living. Think about it, big group dinner with John Madden. Priceless.
And this one I'll never forget. Just understand after working in the media business for now 46 years, I'm not star-struck by much after all the people I've met. Think it's only happened a couple of times, like in 1983, at the MLB's 50th anniversary All-Star Game back home at Chicago's Comiskey Park when backed away from interviewing my childhood idle, White Sox longtime shortstop Luis Aparicio, and then at the Super Bowl in 2006 when became somewhat overwhelmed interviewing Bart Starr, who I idolized growing up a Packers fan.
Well, at some point with Madden and Summerall spending so much time at The Ranch prior to broadcasting Cowboys games, either at The Ranch or in some press box, I walked past Madden, and I'm figuring he doesn't know me from Adam. John Madden says, "Hi, Mickey." Hi, Mickey? Are you kidding me?
Like, the John Madden knew my name.
- The Wright TE: When Cowboys offensive lineman Terence Steele caught that 1-yard touchdown pass from Dak Prescott on Sunday, having reported in as an eligible receiver, it was noted Steele became just the second Cowboys offensive lineman to ever catch a touchdown pass, Rayfield Wright the first in 1968. Well, not so fast. While Wright went on to a Hall of Fame career at right tackle, in 1968, his second season in the NFL, he actually was the Cowboys' short-yardage tight end for blocking purposes, wearing No. 85 before being moved to tackle and No. 70 the next year. And that TD, it was no little toss. It was a 15-yard touchdown for Wright, the only reception and TD of his career. "It was a prefect call," Wright said after the Oct. 13, 1968, game against the Eagles. "Don [Meredith] made it. When we came out of the huddle, I knew it would work. I brushed someone at the line, but nobody touched me after that. It was the first time we've run it this year." And how about this: Wright at tight end carried the ball one time that season, but for minus-10 yards.
- High Flying Cards: While this Cowboys defense leads the NFL with 33 takeaways, 25 of those interceptions, they have been susceptible to big plays. Of the 5,253 yards opponents have gained in 15 games, a third of those have come on 55 plays of at least 20 yards passing. They had better beware of these Cards, since they have produced 56 pass plays of at least 20 yards, 24 of those at least 30 yards. Getting pressure on Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray, who by the way is 8-0 in games played at AT&T Stadium going back to his high school days at suburban Allen High, will be imperative. Murray loves to throw the long ball, even after scrambling around. Defense beware.
- Bubble Wrap: With COVID infections raging through the NFL, and teams losing starting quarterbacks, maybe the Cowboys should lock up Dak Prescott at the Omni Hotel over here in The Star District. Look, he's that important to this team's playoff ambitions. Can't afford to lose this week's NFC Offensive Player of the Week for even one game.
- High Five: If you can believe this, because of injury, COVID infections, suspensions and a benching after an abundance of penalties, the 11-4 Cowboys will be starting their presumptive starting offensive line from training camp for the first time this season: LT Tyron Smith, expected to return from injury, LG Connor Williams, C Tyler Biadasz, RG Zack Martin and RT La'el Collins.
- Last Shots Of The Year: No surprise defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is reportedly saying he wants no part of interviewing for the Jacksonville head coaching job until the season is over, and he sort of tipped his hand on Monday when asked if he'd be interested in a head coaching job, saying he wants "to be ready if the right scenario presented itself. I wasn't coming here to look at what my next job would be. I wanted to come here and have a blast and hopefully kick ass and make an impact." So far so good on those … Check yourself, see if you can name the 19 Cowboys players to have scored touchdowns so far, a franchise record-high. I tried and came up just short, forgetting TDs scored by Sean McKeon, Blake Jarwin and Nahshon Wright. No peeking.
Only fitting to finish with two last words this week, in my view, John Madden that special.
First from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, picking this meaningful graph from his statement on Madden after he passed on Tuesday, "When he walked into the room, it was a better day. When he talked, you listened, and you learned. When he laughed, everyone in the room laughed. And when he got back on the bus to leave, you always wanted more. You were always looking forward to his next visit."
And then this from Madden, his final words on All Madden after viewing the entire show solitarily sitting on a chair with a big screen in front of him after so many people recounted memories of John:
"Wow, that was something. When I hear that stuff, makes me realize that what I didn't realize probably."
Glad he was able to realize before life's clock expired.