Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving in the National Football League without Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHN MADDEN.
After the iconic coach, broadcaster and entertainment pioneer passed away late last year, the league determined that Thanksgiving was the best way to truly honor one of its most impactful individuals and preserve his legacy in perpetuity.
The inaugural “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration” this week will feature special broadcast tributes during respective Thanksgiving games on CBS, FOX and NBC. Additionally, each network will select a “Madden Player of the Game,” who will receive a $10,000 donation in their name from the NFL Foundation to the youth or high school football program of their choice.
And to honor Madden in this week’s Starting 11, the league remembers the pro football legend through 11 of his most memorable quotes…
1. ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE: “Since 1981, I’ve spent every Thanksgiving Day broadcasting a game, and it is one of my favorite days. You can say, ‘Woe is me, I never get to be part of the tradition,’ or you can say, ‘Heck, we’ve got our own tradition, and it’s pretty good.’”
- Traditions were important to Madden. Whether honoring the game, family, the turducken dish he discovered in New Orleans and shared with his bus drivers, colleagues and friends, or the NFL’s long history of playing on Thanksgiving, time-honored celebrations were held in high regard by the Pro Football Hall of Famer.
- And another tradition that surely would’ve made Madden proud is the NFL’s long trend of teams overcoming down years and rebounding to make the playoffs. Two teams in that category will meet on Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium (4:30 PM ET, FOX), when the NEW YORK GIANTS (7-3) visit the DALLAS COWBOYS (7-3). In each of the last 32 seasons (1990-2021), at least four teams annually have reached the playoffs after failing to make the postseason the previous year. In 2021, Dallas was one of seven teams that earned playoff berths after missing the postseason the year before. This season, the Giants have put themselves in prime position to join that group.
- Madden and longtime broadcast partner Pat Summerall were in the Texas Stadium booth for CBS the last time the Giants met the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, 1992.
2. NUMBER OF THE WEEK – 99: “Sometimes we think video games are just games for kids, and then once they get out of grammar school or high school, they never play again. But that’s when they really start playing.”
- Madden helped create one of the most exclusive groups in sports: The 99 Club, made up of those players with a 99 rating in the Madden NFL video game.
- One current member of that club, defensive end MYLES GARRETT, will meet a recent 99 overall member, quarterback TOM BRADY, when TAMPA BAY (5-5) travels to CLEVELAND (3-7). Sunday’s game at FirstEnergy Stadium (1:00 PM ET, FOX) also features Browns running back NICK CHUBB, who currently carries a 98 Madden rating. In real life, Chubb has the second-highest career rushing average (5.3 yards per carry) in NFL history (minimum 1,000 attempts).
- Other current members of the 99 Club are Raiders wide receiver DAVANTE ADAMS, Rams defensive lineman AARON DONALD and 49ers tackle TRENT WILLIAMS.
3. CONVICTION AND HUMILITY: “Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble.”
- Three players that epitomize those qualities and certainly would’ve impressed Madden in 2022 will meet on Sunday when BALTIMORE (7-3) squares off with JACKSONVILLE (3-7) at TIAA Bank Field (1:00 PM ET, CBS). Quarterback LAMAR JACKSON has first-place Baltimore in position to reach the playoffs for the third time in his four seasons as the Ravens’ starter. Meanwhile, the Jaguars’ TREVOR LAWRENCE has shown remarkable improvement, having already passed for more touchdowns than his rookie season. Additionally, in four of his past five games, Lawrence has not thrown an interception. Jacksonville running back TRAVIS ETIENNE has averaged 120.0 scrimmage yards per game since Week 7. Only TONY POLLARD and DERRICK HENRY have higher averages over the past five weeks in the NFL.
4. MADDEN SPOTLIGHT – INDIVIDUAL MATCHUP: “Football isn’t nuclear physics, but it’s not so simple that you can make it simple. It takes some explaining to get it across.”
- Remembered as one of the best teachers in football history, Madden became the first American sports broadcaster to use a telestrator during the Super Bowl XVI broadcast on CBS, as the 49ers defeated the Bengals, 26-21. He certainly would’ve used that telestrator this week to explain the chess match at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX) when SAN FRANCISCO (6-4) hosts NEW ORLEANS (4-7).
- Saints wide receiver CHRIS OLAVE has 51 receptions for 760 yards, both first among NFL rookies.
- San Francisco safety TALANOA HUFANGA, a big reason the 49ers have shut out opponents in the second half of each of their past three games, has emerged as a leader in the San Francisco secondary.
5. MADDEN SPOTLIGHT – TEAM MATCHUP: “Discipline is knowing what you’re supposed to do and doing it as best you can.”
- Don’t expect a lot of laundry on the field when the LOS ANGELES RAMS (3-7) visit the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (8-2) on Sunday (4:25 PM ET, FOX). The Rams rank second in the league with just 4.3 penalties per game while the Chiefs (5.1) are tied for the fourth fewest.
- In the last meeting between the clubs (Week 11, 2018), the Rams defeated the Chiefs, 54-51, the first game in NFL history in which each team reached 50 points. In the third-highest-scoring game (105 combined points) of all-time, the two clubs combined for 1,001 total yards of offense.
6. THAT’S A LOUD DEFENSE: “You got one guy going BOOM, one guy going WHACK, and one guy not getting in the end zone.”
- The WASHINGTON COMMANDERS (6-5) have won five of their last six games heading into Sunday’s matchup with the ATLANTA FALCONS (5-6) at FedExField (1:00 PM ET, FOX). Over that stretch, since Week 6, the Commanders rank second in the league in goal-to-go defense, allowing touchdowns on just 45.5 percent of opponents’ goal-to-go possessions. Washington linebacker JAMIN DAVIS is tied for second in the NFL with six goal-to-go tackles this season.
7. DRESSING FOR SUCCESS: “It’s a lot easier to get a suit than it is to get a coach.”
- When Pro Football Hall of Famer AL DAVIS hired Madden as Raiders head coach in 1969, Madden was just 32 years old. So, naturally, he would’ve been impressed with the effort of another rookie head coach, Minnesota’s KEVIN O’CONNELL.
- This week, O’Connell and the MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-2) host BILL BELICHICK and the NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (6-4) on Thanksgiving night (8:20 PM ET, NBC). Belichick earlier this season surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer GEORGE HALAS for the second-most wins in NFL history, including the postseason.
- O’Connell has an opportunity to join a significant group of rookie head coaches. In the NFL’s previous 102 seasons, only 22 individuals have won at least nine of their first 11 games as an NFL head coach, a list that includes Madden (nine in 1969) and Halas (nine in 1920).
8. GOODS & PROVISIONS READY TO GO: “Don’t worry about the horse being blind; just load the wagon.”
- The DETROIT LIONS (4-6) have won three straight and enter Thanksgiving against the BUFFALO BILLS (7-3) in second place in the NFC North. Running back JAMAAL WILLIAMS leads the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns, the most by a Lions player since Pro Football Hall of Famer BARRY SANDERS had 16 in 1991. Head coach DAN CAMPBELL and his club are bidding for the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2016.
9. MUSIC CITY, MEADOWLANDS PATIOS COULD BE CROWDED: “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.”
- Tennessee’s DERRICK HENRY leads the NFL in both carries (230) and rushing yards (1,010) this season. In last week’s win, he became the fifth running back all-time with at least 10 rushing touchdowns in five consecutive seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer LADAINIAN TOMLINSON (nine consecutive seasons) as well as ADRIAN PETERSON (seven), SHAUN ALEXANDER (five) and MICHAEL TURNER (five). TENNESSEE (7-3) hosts CINCINNATI (6-4) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS) in a rematch of a thrilling 2021 AFC Divisional playoff game.
- Meanwhile, CHICAGO (3-8) visits the NEW YORK JETS (6-4) on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, FOX). Since Madden led the Raiders to a Super Bowl title in 1976, only two teams have averaged more than 200 rushing yards per game: The 2019 BALTIMORE RAVENS (206.0) and the 1977 CHICAGO BEARS (200.8). The 2022 CHICAGO BEARS (197.9) have a chance to join that group, led by quarterback JUSTIN FIELDS, who last week became the second player in the Super Bowl era with at least one touchdown pass and one rushing touchdown in five consecutive games, joining KYLER MURRAY (five consecutive games in 2020).
10. THIS WEEK IN MADDEN HISTORY: Nov. 28, 1976 (46 years ago) – Future Pro Football Hall of Famers KEN STABLER and CLIFF BRANCH connect on a 35-yard touchdown as the Raiders dominate Tampa Bay in a 49-16 victory. The Raiders go on to win their next five games, including Super Bowl XI over Minnesota. From the start of that ’76 season through Oct. 9, 1977, Madden and Stabler would lead the Raiders to wins in 20 of 21 games, including the postseason … “I’ve often said, ‘If I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny.’ Snake was a lot cooler than I was. He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider. When you think about the Raiders, you think about Ken Stabler.”
11. HIGH-CALORIC AROMAS: “The only things that smell good are fat and sugar. Tofu being boiled doesn’t smell good. Anything that smells good is fattening.”
- The franchise that drafted Madden in 1958, the Philadelphia Eagles, certainly would’ve impressed him this season, especially with the team’s play on the offensive line. Philadelphia has started the same five offensive linemen – LANDON DICKERSON, LANE JOHNSON, JASON KELCE, JORDAN MAILATA and ISAAC SEUMALO – in nine of its 10 games, losing just one start due to injury.
- This week, PHILADELPHIA (9-1) hosts GREEN BAY (4-7) on Sunday Night Football (8:20 PM ET, NBC).