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As a tribute to his namesake, the front page of the Madden NFL 23 video game will feature one person: John Madden.
Madden, the Hall of Fame coach who died on December 28, will be on the cover of all three editions of this year’s game, due out in August. It’s the first time in more than two decades that Madden will be the focal point of the front page, which has tended to use current athletes.
“We were thinking about this year’s game and who was going to take part in it; it was almost an obvious answer,” Seann Graddy, executive producer for Madden NFL, told ESPN. “I say that because we really wanted to celebrate Coach in the product this year and what he has meant to us in the more than 30 years we’ve used his name in our game.”
Madden was most recently the primary cover person for the 2000 edition of the game, which was released in 1999. He appeared in a small box in the next four editions of the game with his signature and the All Madden logo out next to the main game. the cover athlete before disappearing from the cover of Madden NFL 06, which featured Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
EA then switched to using current athletes for each year’s coverage. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady shared last year.
Graddy told ESPN that it has only been discussed putting Madden on the cover for this year’s match, but said, “Anything is possible, to be honest,” about putting the former coach on the cover in the future.
The All Madden cover – one of the three covers this year – is reminiscent of the original John Madden Football, released on June 1, 1988. That cover had a young, sand-haired Madden holding a football and making a hole through a diagram of X ‘s and Os on a board with the name of the game across the top of the box.
The cover of the All Madden edition features a similar young Madden holding a football blasting through what appears to be a piece of paper filled with Xs and Os. On the side of the cover, in white letters, is “Thank you, Coach.”
Chuck Styles, a Philadelphia-based artist who has created exclusive collectible cards for Topps in his Project70 release as well as many works depicting NBA players, designed the cover for the All Madden edition.
The other two front pages, not created by Styles, look at Madden as a coach and a broadcaster. The broadcast cover has Madden in a blue shirt and tie who appears to be drawing on a telestrator that he was famous for in his career. The coaching cover has Madden, who coached the Oakland Raiders from 1969 to 1978, lifted up by his players after beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.
“What we wanted everyone to take away,” Graddy said, “is that we celebrate all three phases of Coach Madden’s kind of legacy.”
Madden was immersed in the game from the beginning, demanding it to be 11-on-11 and handing over his old game book to game developers to create more realism. As the game grew, its influence on the players grew. Many current NFL players say Madden was a part of their upbringing – Detroit Lions defender Jeff Okudah told ESPN in 2020 that he learned football by playing Madden – and that was always a proud point for the game’s namesake.
“It gives you the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile,” Madden told ESPN in 2021. “You and everyone involved put in the time, and it works and influences people to not only enjoy the game, but to be able to to play the game.
“It helps them become better players. And I think that’s true for high school, college and the professionals. There’s a real satisfaction you see when someone takes it up.”
While many of the gameplay features for this year’s edition have not been announced, Graddy said the opening experience will have two versions of the 1970s Madden training against each other – one leading an NFC All Madden team and one an AFC All Madden team – at the old Oakland Coliseum.
“It’s just a kind of fun fantasy experience where it’s Coach Madden vs. Coach Madden,” Graddy said. “With a recall from the All Madden teams that he used to create and that we used to have in our game, a mix of both legendary players and current players.
“Honestly, the idea of why we want Coach vs. Coach is that we want Coach to win.”
During that experience, Graddy said, there will be lines uttered by Madden scattered throughout the commentary about some of the players on the All Madden list.
As part of the front page announcement, EA announced that its $ 5 million donation to the John Madden Legacy Commitment to Education will be split, with $ 2.5 million going to non-profit organizations College Track, Girls Who Code, StreetCode Academy and Mission Bit to support five years programming in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. The other $ 2.5 million will help create the EA Madden Scholarship, which will work with the United Negro College Fund to provide scholarships to students at 12 Historically Black Colleges and Universities.