Truth be told, I am actually too young to remember John Madden as a head coach. Madden's tenure as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders spanned from 1969-1978 (nearly eight years before I was born), but his brutal honesty during an NFL Total Access round table discussion on the Heads Up Football program with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, moderator Mellissa Stark, Michael Irvin and Chris Golic (the wife of Mike and a member of Heads Up football) makes me wish I was born decades earlier.
You can watch the full round table discussion here, but to sum things up, after Godell, Irvin, Stark, and Golic all praise the efforts of the Heads Up program (an organization aimed at making football safer) being adopted by youth football leagues and high schools around the country (750 are currently signed up) Madden drops the hammer.
"How long does it take to get certified?" Madden asks the panel, to which Roger Goodell reluctantly answers, "An hour and a half."
Then Madden makes his point in defense of all the quality coaches out there.
"With all due respect to the program, I don't believe in it." Madden explained. "I respect coaches, I respect what good coaches do. I know that you don’t learn to be a coach in an hour and a half.”
Then he takes it further, noting that (in his opinion) there's no reason six and seven year old kids should be tackling anyways.
“I’m a firm believer that there’s no way that a six-year-old should have a helmet on and learn a tackling drill. There’s no way. Or a seven-year-old or an eight-year-old. They’re not ready for it. Take the helmets off kids."
"They can play flag football. And with flag football you can get all the techniques. Why do we have to start with a six-year-old who was just potty trained a year ago and put a helmet on him and tackle...we’ll eventually get to tackling.”
As someone that grew up with a football helmet on (nearly permanently) at age six and seven, I can't say that I fully buy what John Madden is selling, but he does bring up some interesting points that should perk some ears of a lot of guys in our profession.