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Did the Packers ever offer John Madden their head coaching job?

He was contacted in 1983, but coaching was in his past

Raiders Head Coach John Madden
Raiders Head Coach John Madden

Tim from Ottawa, Ontario

I've never seen a definitive answer about this. In 1980, after yet another losing season with Bart Starr, there were a lot of rumors that John Madden was asked to take over as head coach. If so, he obviously declined. I'm wondering if an actual offer was extended and if Madden considered it.

I'll address the 1980 rumors later. Instead, I'll start with 1983. That was the one time the Packers made contact with Madden when there was a job to offer him. Madden resigned as coach of the Oakland Raiders in early January 1979, less than three weeks after his 10th and final season as their coach. That year, the Raiders finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs. But he had won a Super Bowl just two years earlier and his .739 regular-season winning percentage was second in NFL history to Vince Lombardi's .750 mark, among coaches with 100 career victories.

Madden said at the time that he was burned out and suffering from burning ulcers. However, he was only 42 years old at the time and, if I recall correctly, just about anytime an NFL job opened up over the next several years Madden was mentioned as a possible candidate, although he was also adamant about not wanting to get back in the business.

Turning back to 1983. After team president Robert Parins fired Starr on Dec. 19, he instructed director of player personnel Dick Corrick to call Madden to see if he'd have any interest in the Packers' job.

When I talked to Madden within the same 24-hour period, he told me he wasn't interested in coaching again but didn't rule out having some interest if offered the position of general manager. "I don't know if I would or would not (be interested)," Madden told me on Dec. 19, 1983, only hours after Parins' announcement about Starr's firing. "I couldn't say."

If not him, Madden told me that he still expected the Packers to land a prominent coach with an impressive resume, although the Packers had reached the playoffs only twice in the previous 16 seasons.

"I think that probably the Green Bay Packer job may be the best in pro football," Madden told me in what was a telephone interview from his New York residence. "I think that's going to be a job filled by a successful coach. I really do. I don't think they are going to have any problems whatsoever."

I'm not sure if I called Madden before or after Corrick but when those two talked, Madden told him he was happy with his position as a CBS television analyst and not interested in getting back into coaching.

"John was very flattered," Corrick told me in reference to their conversation during a 2006 interview. "It was his lifelong dream to be able to coach in Green Bay. But he made up his mind he was into his TV stuff."

I knew, and I think most other reporters covering the Packers back then were aware of Madden's fondness for Lombardi. At the same time, he also sounded like someone who wasn't interested in ever coaching again. Many of us were in attendance at the Wisconsin Pro Football Writers Dinner at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee in February 1979, when Madden was given the Vince Lombardi Award, which was the highlight of the banquet.

"I read everything there was about Vince Lombardi," Madden said that night. "I carried one of his books with me when I was coaching and read it every night." It had been only six weeks since Madden had resigned as coach of the Raiders, but he also declared at the dinner, "This (retirement from coaching) is for good."

As for your reference to 1980, yes, that was the first time Madden's name was mentioned in connection to the Packers' job. But as far as I know, nobody with the team made contact with him.

Here's what happened.

Three weeks into what was Starr's sixth season as coach, the Packers had lost two of their first three games – to Detroit, 29-7, and to the Los Angeles Rams, 51-21 – following an 0-4-1 preseason, where they had been outscored 86-17. Fans were clamoring for a coaching change and at least some of the team's board members favored one – and the sooner the better.

There were even reports circulating nationally that George Allen would be hired to replace Starr if the Packers didn't beat Dallas that following Sunday. As it turned out, they suffered another listless loss, 28-7, and fell to 1-3.

But four days before that game, I reported that the Packers' executive committee was avoiding a decision on Starr's future because it wasn't confident it could hire a preferred candidate during the season, thereby refuting the Allen rumors.

My source for the story was one of the seven executive committee members. I also was told their No. 1 choice would be Madden, except that he wasn't interested at that point. I also was given the impression that Allen or Hank Stram would probably be willing to take the job immediately, but the executive committee wasn't as high on them as Madden.

As part of that story, I called all three that week.

I reached Madden at his home in Dublin, Calif., and he told me he would not be interested in taking over as Packers' coach during the season. When I asked him if he might change his mind after the season, he said, "You never know what you'd do, but I would think not."

At the same time, he told me his health was good. "I haven't had any problems with that (the ulcers) since I retired," he said. And he also told me the idea of moving to Green Bay after spending most of his life in California wouldn't be a deterrent.

"I remember years ago," he said. "It was 1960 or '61, Vince Lombardi was my idol, and I went to hear him speak at Reno, Nev. I remember he said it doesn't make any difference where you live, just whether you win or lose. If you win, you're happy wherever you are; and if you lose, you're miserable wherever you are."

Allen wouldn't answer when I specifically asked if he would take the job during the season. "I don't want to talk about it because Bart is the coach," said Allen. At the time, Allen was still being paid by the Rams, the team that fired him before the 1978 season, but he said that contract would not prohibit him from taking a coaching job at any time.

Stram answered much like Allen. "I would rather not get involved in talking about it while Bart is still coaching," he said. "He's got enough problems the way things are." Stram also was working as a CBS commentator, but he told me that he, too, was free to take a coaching job, even in-season.

All three insisted that nobody from the Packers had contacted them at that point.

At the end of the 1980 season, the Packers' directors in one of their most contentious meetings in history voted to strip Starr of his general manager duties but didn't discuss firing him as coach.

There was immediate speculation about possible successors, but Madden's name didn't come up, as I recall. And then within days, president Dominic Olejniczak with the approval of other executive committee members did a flip-flop. He basically decided before even starting a search that he wasn't going to hire a new general manager. Starr was opposed to the idea and threatened to resign as coach if one was hired.

Brian from Urbana, IL

Would you tell me if this Twitter thread regarding integration with respect to the AFL-NFL merger is accurate? It sounds right to me, but I'm no historian. The thread reads: "Today (Super Bowl Sunday), a lot of old Black men will be rooting for KC Chiefs. It has nothing to do with Taylor Swift, a Black QB or Travis Kelce's pioneering haircut. It's about HBCUs, Black history, a kidnapping and white affirmative action. How racism invented the Super Bowl."

For the most part, yes.

The historically Black colleges were a great source of untapped talent when the American Football League was formed in 1960, and the Chiefs were in the vanguard of mining talent at those schools.

The Southeastern Conference didn't have a Black player until 1967, and most of its schools didn't integrate until the 1970s. The first Black player in the Southwest Conference debuted in 1966. In the Atlantic Coast Conference, it wasn't until 1971 that all eight of its schools had at least one Black player. Even many of the Big Ten and other northern universities had a limited number of Black players until at least the mid-1960s.

Thus, there was talent galore at those HBCU schools and by wooing their players, the best teams in the AFL were able to catch up more quickly than anyone expected to the best of the NFL.

In Super Bowl I, eight of the Chiefs' 40 players were products of HBCU schools and a ninth had played during the regular season. The list included arguably the Chiefs' best offensive and defensive players, flanker Otis Taylor of Prairie View A&M and defensive tackle Buck Buchanan of Grambling. The others were split end Frank Pitts, Southern; fullback Gene Thomas, Florida A&M; defensive tackle Andy Rice, Texas Southern; and defensive backs Willie Mitchell and Fletcher Smith, both Tennessee State; and Emmitt Thomas, Bishop. Defensive back Solomon Brannan of Morris Brown had played in three regular-season games.

Three years later, the Chiefs had 12 players from HBCU schools, including eight starters, when they won Super Bowl IV.

Only five were holdovers from Super Bowl I: Buchanan, Taylor, Mitchell, Pitts and Emmitt Thomas, a rookie in 1966 who was now starting and building a Pro Football Hall of Fame career.

The newcomers included middle linebacker Willie Lanier of Morgan State, another future Pro Football Hall of Famer; and future Pro Bowl selections, running back Robert Holmes of Southern and cornerback Jim Marsalis of Tennessee State. The others were starting safety Jim Kearney, Prairie View A&M; wide receiver Gloster Richardson, Jackson State; and defensive backs Goldie Sellers, Grambling; and Ceasar Belser, Arkansas AM&N. Kick returner Noland Smith, Tennessee State, had played in six regular-season games.

That shows how reliant the Chiefs were on HBCU players.

As for the kidnapping, I assume that was a reference to Otis Taylor. At the time, the NFL and AFL were competing against each other to sign their draft picks and engaged in all kinds of subterfuge to do so.

On Nov. 28, 1964, when the Packers drafted Donny Anderson as a first-round future, they were hoping to select Taylor. The NFL had Taylor stashed away in a motel room in Richardson, Texas, so the NFL team that drafted him could then have him simultaneously signed to a contract. But a Kansas City scout, Lloyd Wells, visited Taylor in his motel room in the middle of the night and convinced the 6-foot-3, 215-pound receiver to sneak out with him, catch a flight out of town and sign with the Chiefs.

I'm stumped as to what the "affirmative action" and "racism" references mean. My guess is the writer was familiar with Chiefs history but not Packers history.

The Packers had eight Black starters in Super Bowl I, the same number as the Chiefs, and two of them were from HBCUs: defensive end Willie Davis of Grambling and halfback Elijah Pitts of Philander Smith. Backup defensive tackle Bob Brown was from Arkansas AM&N.

As I’ve written before, I believe, Super Bowl I "was the watershed moment in the African-American football player's long, difficult struggle for acceptance. It was the catalyst for a paradigm shift that has overtaken the sport." And it had as much to do with the Packers, as the Chiefs.

Cathy from Brookfield, WI

How about memories of Elm Grove, Wisconsin's Left Guard bar and steakhouse? After Milwaukee games, many Packer players frequented this establishment. It had live band, bars and good times. Saw players John Brockington, Jerry Tagge and Jim Carter. Had a big crush on Jim. Very handsome. Appleton also had a Left Guard steakhouse. Fuzzy Thurston, Bill Martine owned and operated. Love your column.

Thanks for the reminiscences. If only the walls could talk.