John Madden isn't in the broadcast booth anymore, but he still has a booming voice with the NFL.
Madden, 73, is an advisor to Commissioner Roger Goodell on football matters and chairs a coaches' subcommittee to the competition committee. He watches every game from his viewing complex in Pleasanton, Calif., reviews video during the week, and keeps close tabs on players and trends of the game.
This week, from his home in Carmel, he spoke to Times NFL writer Sam Farmer about overtime, the draft, technology, and a certain quarterback who's on the fence about returning to the Minnesota Vikings.
What are your thoughts on the changes to overtime?
What they really did is change sudden death. That's been with us forever. You think back to that 1958 Baltimore- Giants game, that was sudden death. The question now is, if this is really the right way to go and it's so important in the playoffs, shouldn't it be the same in the regular season?
Would you have voted for it?
Probably not. But once they change it, it's over. I'm one of those guys where once it's a rule, that's the way it is, you figure it out and go play.
Do you think Brett Favre should come back? Will he?
I think he should do what ever he wants to. It's funny, people have taken ownership of his life. "You should come back. You shouldn't come back. You ought to stay on a tractor." Hell, it's his decision and how he feels. I remember John Elway told me this years ago, he said, "It's not your head that tells you when to retire or that you can't play anymore. It's your body." I think that's kind of Brett's deal too. It's what his body tells him in June or July.
Philadelphia is open to trading Donovan McNabb. Can you see him having success with another team?
Oh, yeah. I can see him having success this year at this stage, whether it's in Philadelphia or some other town. This is a quarterback league. It's a passing league and all the rules and everything are put in for those guys. It's turning into a shotgun league. That's who he is, that's what he does, and he is going to do it well.
We're heading into another draft in which the top pick is going to make more than $30 million guaranteed before he's played a down. Is that out of whack?
Everyone feels that needs to be corrected. It just got kind of slanted the wrong way, and I think they've got to bring it back. This is the bigger question: If you take it away for the rookies, then who do you give it to? Do you give it to the owners where they make more money? Do you give it to the veteran players who are deep in their career? Do you give it to the retired players? Maybe you give it to the fans -- think they'll get any?
It's more comfortable to watch games at home than at a stadium. Is that problem for the NFL?
Yes. There was a time when we kind of forced young people out anyway because of the ticket prices. Going to events is getting to be an older-person-type thing. It's easier to stay home and watch it on TV. And now with all the other technology now, hell, you could watch it on a telephone. So I think the stadium -- and [ Dallas Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones has got this right -- the stadium really has to take the technology into account. People aren't going to leave their technology at home.
With all the player-safety rules being put in place, does it ever go too far where you're getting away from football?
We can never let that happen. In all these safety rules, you have to admit that this is a very physical game that's a tough game, and it's a violent game. But we're working to make it safer.
Part of it is rules, and a big part of it is equipment, and not only helmets. As the guys have gotten bigger, stronger and faster, the pads have gotten smaller and lighter. A lot of guys don't even wear hip pads or thigh pads. The only pad that they have that's really of substance is a helmet. I think everything is going in the right direction, I really do. But it has to keep going, it has to get better.
Does the league need to do more for retired players?
I think so. I don't think that we do in the NFL a great job with our history. I don't think we do a great job of our tradition and that includes the players before us who made the game what it is today. Some of it is about money, and healthcare and pension. But some of it is just honoring of our history, honoring the players that made our history.
In order to ensure teams play hard at the end of the season, the NFL has talked about making all Week 17 games division matchups. Is that the solution?
Anything we can do to get rid of having meaningless regular-season games. I hate that. I know that you can't tell guys that they have to play their players and stuff. It's just not healthy. I think that would be a step in the right direction. Also, if teams know they are not going to play a guy, they ought to report it like you do an injured player.
Would you ever come back to broadcasting, even for a game?
No, there is no way I would ever come back. I will never come back in any capacity. I hung up my shoes and walked away and that was it.
Do you think owners and players will get a labor deal done before the clock strikes midnight?
I sure hope so. Usually these things, they drag-race to the cliff. The game is so good right now, and any place where it's not real good we are working to make it better. I just hope they don't screw it up.