ASHBURN — Ron Rivera remembers getting to sit with John Madden in the Hall of Fame coach’s California office eight years ago. At the time, Rivera was a struggling coach with the Carolina Panthers and then-owner Jerry Richardson suggested a meeting between the two.
When Rivera got there, Madden didn’t wait long to deliver his first piece of advice: “Don’t ever forget you’re the coach. Everything starts and stops with you,” Rivera said he was told.
“Having him put it to me in those terms — very direct and very blunt and very straightforward — really just kind of helped galvanize my attitude and feelings about being the head coach,” said Rivera, who’s been at the helm of the Washington Football Team for two seasons.
Rivera has shared his interactions with Madden often over the years, and on Wednesday, a day after the legendary football icon’s death, he took time again to remember Madden and the influence he had on Rivera‘s career.
“I was sad to hear (of Madden’s death), Rivera said. “It was truly unexpected from what I understand and surely unexpected by me. … He’s always been very supportive, always been there and he was a tremendous inspiration for me.”
The thing that stood about Madden, Rivera said, wasn’t just the substance of his advice. It was the way that the Hall of Famer — who became the sport’s most famous broadcaster — could connect his counsel to a listener’s life by sharing similar experiences from Madden‘s own journey.
Before going into broadcasting, Madden won 103 games and a Super Bowl in 10 seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
“He had a way of tying everything in,” Rivera said. “He related those things to you and then made them so you could understand them from practical experience, so you knew that he had already experienced this, you know what I’m saying? … To me, it’s always kind of cool when somebody else that’s been there is drawing you the map.”