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NFL football is as synonymous with Thanksgiving Day these days as turkey. And no one is more associated with the NFL on Turkey Day than John Madden. The Super Bowl-winning Raiders coach and legendary announcer was one of the driving forces behind making pro football a celebrated holiday tradition with his Turkey Leg Award and turducken.

Madden retired from the commentary booth on February 1, 2009, and died at the age of 85 on December 28, 2021. His legacy lives on in so many ways, though, from his voice on old highlights to his name on the most popular American football video game in the world. Now, his legacy will grow even larger, as the NFL has created a yearly event on the fourth Thursday of November called the “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration.”

The NFL will honor the legendary John Madden on Thanksgiving 

In early November, the NFL announced it would formally turn Thanksgiving week into a tribute to the late, great John Madden.

“Beginning this year, the National Football League honors Madden with the ‘John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration,’ a yearly, multi-faceted celebration of the late great icon’s indelible legacy,” the NFL announced in a press release.

The features of the Madden Thanksgiving celebration include:

  • CBS, NBC, and FOX are all producing their own tribute segments during their broadcasts.
  • Madden’s voice “discussing Thanksgiving and the holiday’s special relationship to football” to kick off each game.
  • A “Madden Player of the Game” selected in each contest who will “receive a $10,000 donation in their name from the NFL Foundation to the youth or high school football program of their choice.”
  • A “John Madden Thanksgiving” logo at each 25-yard lines of each field and a Madden helmet sticker on every helmet.
  • Madden and Thanksgiving programming throughout the week on all NFL media platforms.
  • Two players from the opposing teams will play a Madden NFL video game match in the “Game Before The Game.”
  • Madden-themed filters on @NFL Instagram and Snapchat.
  • Gabe Gault, a “renowned Metaverse artist and son of former NFL wide receiver Willie Gault — will paint a John Madden tribute mural in the Metaverse.”

All this adds up to the fact that NFL fans won’t be able to watch any of the coverage on Thanksgiving Day without hearing about or seeing John Madden, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

The best Turkey Day slate in almost a decade 

The John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration officially starts in 2022.
John Madden remembered at the Pro Football Hall of Fame | Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

5 Greatest John Madden Turkey Leg Award-Winning Performances in NFL Thanksgiving Day History

As the face and voice of the NFL on Thanksgiving, maybe John Madden is looking down and helping the league he loved on this first Thanksgiving without him.

That seems like the case because, miraculously, five of the six teams playing on Turkey Day are over .500 for the first time in eight years.

The league went to three Thanksgiving Day games in 2006, and since then, the best combined winning percentage was 68.2% in 2011. That holiday featured:

  • Lions (7-3) vs. Packers (10-0) — Packers win 27-15
  • Cowboys (6-4) vs. Dolphins (3-7) — Cowboys win 20-19
  • Ravens (7-3) vs. 49ers (9-1) — Ravens win 16-6

In 2022, the winning percentage is almost as good, at 65.0%. However, none of the teams playing on Thursday have the high-end record of the 2011 Packers or 49ers. The games on Thanksgiving 2022, aka the John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration, are:

  • Lions (4-6) vs. Bills (7-3) — CBS
  • Cowboys (7-3) vs. Giants (7-3) — FOX
  • Vikings (8-2) vs. Patriots (6-4) — NBC

It’s a good slate with games that should be exciting contests, at the very least. It’s a schedule that John Madden would be proud of, which is fitting for the inaugural John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration. BOOM!