He may have read my SN column this morning, channeling superlatives and instant history:
Why is Madden irreplaceable? Because he was the most important and influential sports media figure ever.In addition to being the most important/influential person in sports media history, Madden qualifies as being on the short-list in the debate over the most important person in NFL history. (Logistically, you could say Pete Rozelle was most important, but -- screw it -- Rozelle never had a video game.)
With his accessible and enthusiastic commentary, he redefined the "analyst" position (at a time when the NFL was skyrocketing in popularity and exposure through TV, which lasted from the pre-cable, concentrated-audience days of the 80s to the cable explosion of the 90s and the online explosion of the 00s).
After redefining game analysis, he transcended it. First, as a near-ubiquitous TV pitchman for everything from beer to hardware stores. Then, in the greatest achievement of his career, as a video-game icon for multiple generations of fans -- none of whom ever knew him as an actual coach.
There are plenty of big personalities in sports media. Madden was the biggest -- and most successful.