A few months ago, I wrote a blog piece about suggestions to expand Madden 16's feature set to make the game a deeper, more realistic depiction of the management of an NFL team. This year's Madden game has proven to be a much better game than the previous few years, and I actually have found myself playing it well into the new year. As such, I've also been coming across new, nagging annoyances, and new ideas for features and enhancements. Most notably, I finally got to play through a complete off-season, and I have several ideas for how offseason can be improved in future years of Madden.
So I've decided to write a follow-up piece with more suggestions for future games. This article will focus on off-season activities. In order to keep things clean and concise, I've also made a few changes to the original post as well. I wanted to keep specific topics grouped together. There's also less to talk about in this new post, so I've moved the "Little Things" section from the original post into this article in order to shorten the original post and pad this one out to about the same length. I've also made some small revisions and clarifications in the original post, so I highly recommend re-visiting that post to see the changes.
Table of Contents
A player's experience within a given scheme
Madden 16 gives every player a pre-determined scheme that they are most suited to. This is a decent stop-gap way of simulating how a given player would perform in a specific playbook style. This works really well in terms of its impact on free agent signing: you look for veteran role players that fit into your scheme. But this system is also kind of limited. It doesn't allow for young players to learn new schemes and really restricts the user's options on draft day. I think that each player should instead be able to accumulate experience towards playing in multiple schemes (and maybe even for specific coaches). The more experience he has in any given scheme, the more successful he'll be. This would allow a coach to try to retrain a player to fit into a particular scheme. So if you hire a new offensive or defensive coordinator with a new scheme, your entire roster isn't immediately invalidated.
Instead of having a preference for a single scheme, players should gain experience in individual schemes.
Young players (and draft picks, in particular) should be very maleable when it comes to learning a specific scheme and should have an easier time learning a new scheme and becoming proficient in it, especially if their coach is a good teacher, or if they have knowledgeable veterans to mentor them. Veteran players should be a bit more set in their ways and have a harder time learning new schemes, especially ones that vary largely from the one(s) that they have the most experience with. Very smart veterans should be able to pick up new schemes relatively quickly, but probably not as quickly as younger players.
Mentorship and "coachability"
This sort of feature would also benefit from systems to allow players to be taught or mentored. Players could have a "Coachability" attribute that determines how easily they gain experience in a new scheme. This could be another stat that your scouts could potentially uncover about draft picks, which would allow you to draft someone outside of your preferred scheme (based on raw talent), but still expect that he would be able to learn the scheme and contribute to your team.
Veteran players could have a "Mentor" trait that provides exp boosts to younger players.
Coaches should, therefore, have "Teacher" and / or "Schemer" stats that give them benefits towards teaching new schemes to players. Coaches could even have "Adaptability" stats that could influence how easily a coach can transition to a new scheme, and then teach that scheme to players. But teaching young players shouldn't be limited to coaches. Veteran players should also have a "Mentor" trait that allows them to provide experience boosts to younger players in the same position. This trait can be an unlockable trait along the same lines as the "Predictability" or "Development" traits that already exist. As with other development-boosting traits, it should be very expensive.
The experience boost should probably also scale based on the skill level of the mentoring veteran. It could also be influenced by the developing player's coachability rating. This would potentially eliminate exploits such as buying the mentor trait on a low-skill reserve player, then editing his position every week or every season in order to "farm" exp for your entire team. Alternatively, when the mentor trait is applied to a player, it could be made to work only for the player's position at the time that the trait was given. This could also eliminate potential exploits. The cost to acquire the mentor trait could also potentially scale down for players with very high skill in a given position.
More and better off-season team management and progression
Since a recurring disconnect issue forced me to abandon my Online Franchise mid-season in favor of a fully offline Franchise, I wasn't able to actually finish a season prior to publishing my review and the original wishlist article. Instead, I had to just simulate a quick season and quickly play through the offseason in order to get a feel of how it works for the purpose of my review. So in my original wishlist, I focused almost exclusively on in-season features, since I only had a cursory understanding of how the offseason features worked. But now that I've finally finished my Franchise season and actually played the offseason, I have some ideas for improving the offseason as well.
Phase I-II: Contract negotiations
There should be a multi-phase negotiation period for re-signing players at the end of the season. This way, you aren't stuck with failing to re-sign a player if you fail to guess correctly on his salary desires. Granted, you are supposed to be doing this negotiation during the season, but the off-season negotiation should be at least a 2-step process, so that you have one last round of negotiation, rather than just a "take it or leave it" final offer.
Why do contract re-negotiations [LEFT] and free agent offers [RIGHT] use completely different interfaces?
These interfaces should be consistent and should not look like two different programming teams designed them.
Why are there two completely different interfaces for offering a contract to a re-signing player and for offering a contract to a free agent in the following phase? These two processes do exactly the same thing, present exactly the same info, yet their interfaces are completely different, as if they'd been designed and implemented by two completely separate teams of people who didn't even know that the other team existed. Both of these processes should use the same interface. This is why we can't have nice things in Madden: because EA assigns two whole teams to create two different versions of the exact same screen.
On top of that, the interface should show a graphical breakdown of the player's salary and bonuses compared to the salary cap (and maybe league average at that position?) over the course of the contract, and maybe even allow the user to adjust the salary in future years. This would allow owners to offer an aging veteran a large sum now, but then level off his salary increases as he gets in the final years of his contract. Of course, players should be able to refuse such terms if they don't consider them favorable, or if the player is still playing well and shows no signs of slowing down. It would be difficult to implement, and I don't expect EA to pull that one off (at least not right away). But this is a "wishlist" right? So I'm wishing!
Phase III: A mock draft and interface enhancements
The draft is one of the few areas that Madden executes fairly competently. I rarely ever get excited about the draft though, because most of the players that you'll pick end up having sub-70 ratings and are likely to get dropped once the season starts anyway. Having a scout team in which to further develop some of those players would certainly go a long way towards making the draft feel more worthwhile and meaningful. But aside from the general disinterest that I have for the draft beyond the second or third round, my only real complaints and suggestions involve the interface and presentation of information. I'm mostly satisfied with the functional elements of the process.
Your draft board is an unreliable way of determining when a player will be drafted.
The only major functional change that I would like would be for there to be a mock draft or something prior to starting the draft that would give the user an idea of which teams are going to pick which players. Without that, the ability to negotiate to trade for a specific team's pick feels kind of moot. You have no idea who they are going to pick, and so you have little-to-no idea if you should try to trade to get a specific player. Even your draft board doesn't seem to list the players in the order that they are likely to be drafted, since it seems to be based entirely off of the draftees' talent rather than on the drafting teams' needs. I had a situation in which I wanted a cornerback who was ranked #17 overall on my board (behind a bunch of QBs and HBs), and I had the 15th pick. I thought it was a pretty safe assumption that he would be available when my pick came along. But instead, the corner I wanted was drafted #6 overall, while the majority of the quarterbacks and halfbacks who were ranked higher than him sunk to 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th rounds because none of the teams needed that many QBs or HBs! I had to reload from a save point prior to the draft in order to trade up. Sadly, I didn't record this, so the screen shots shown above are taken from a different draft, but show a similar situation.
The drafting team's positional needs
should be moved out to main draft screen.
But even with a mock draft to give you an idea of what players each team will likely pick, the game could still present information in a way that makes drafting and trading for picks easier and more dynamic. For one thing, maybe your team's own scouts could provide you with an idea of which other team(s) are looking at your own scouted players. The accuracy of this information could depend on the quality of your scouting staff.
Once the draft starts, the game should show the projected picks of the next few teams (based on the mock draft and/or your scouts' intel), as well as the "on the clock" team's needs. That would at least give the user an indication that you should trade for that team's pick if their need matches yours and they'll likely draft the player you want. Ideally, the draft screen would show multiple team's needs so that you will know ahead of time that someone ahead of you might pick your guy, and you can trade up to get ahead of them. It's possible to find out this information by entering a negotiation and offering a trade to that current team, as this will show the team's positional needs breakdown. But you can't look ahead to trade with teams that aren't on the clock; thus, you can't see their needs without completely leaving the draft screen. But even if you could trade with teams other than the one that's on-the-clock, jumping through these hoops shouldn't be necessary, let alone for every friggin pick! Presenting this information on the main draft screen would give the user a better idea of who's going to be drafted when, and allow you to make more informed decisions of if - and when - you need to trade up to make a pick.
It would also be nice to have some better control over the flow of the draft in general. I like the tension that having a real-time draft creates, but I still find myself simming a lot of picks that don't affect me at all. This is especially true since I have so little information about what any given team might do. Having the information presented as I proposed above would mean the user would be constantly evaluating the ebb and flow of the draft and re-evaluating your draft board based on developing information, which would make the whole process more interesting and active. But even so, you'll probably still want to simulate picks.
There should be a "Simulate until stopped" option that allows you speed up the draft until any arbitrary point.
To help with simulating multiple picks, the end of a draft round needs to be clearly delineated in the draft order. I had one situation in which I thought my next pick wasn't till the next round, so I simmed to the next round, only to have the CPU automatically make a late-round pick for me. And of course, the player the CPU drafted for me (in the fifth round) ended up being the worst-rated pick in that draft. The sixth-round player and both seventh-round players that I had manually drafted both had a better overall than the automated fifth-rounder. Sure, some of the blame is on me (OK, maybe most of the blame is on me...) But this shouldn't happen, and it wouldn't happen if the game did a better job of clearly labeling the end of a round.
There should also be a button or command that allows the player to simulate the draft indefinitely and then be able to stop and return to live draft mode at any arbitrary point. Maybe if we hold down a button, the draft is simulated until we release the button? That way, if you want to see a specific team's pick, or want to stop in time to make a particular trade, you have the ability to easily do that without having to manually sim the picks one at a time.
Phase IV: Off-season shake-ups summary
After the free agent signing and draft periods are over, the game should provide some kind of "off-season recap". This would provide a breakdown of personnel changes: retirements, key free agent acquisitions, trades, and top draft picks for teams around the NFL. And it should also include any coach or scheme changes that teams are making. It should put special focus on the other teams in your division. This is a relatively small change, but it would give you an idea of which teams in the league (and your division in particular) might be more (or less) threatening, and if you need to make any special preparations for a particular opponent.
Did your division rival have a weak secondary that you exploited last season? Did they fill those holes with any elite free agent acquisitions that will shut down your receivers this coming season? This would be a place where you'd find that out.
Phase V: Training Camp
In Madden 16, the draft is basically the last offseason event before starting the preseason. The game completely ignores training camp. This gives the user no way of evaluating your new free agent acquisitions or draft picks other than their given overall ratings. It also means that you have no way - prior to the first preseason game (if you bother to play it) - of developing or improving those players to work better in your system.
I'm not sure exactly what I'd like to see in terms of how training camp should play out. Madden has tried training camp modes before, and none of them have really worked all that well. Ideally, I'd like to see something that is actually playable, so that you can see your new players in action (as opposed to staring at a spreadsheet). I think that the Skills Trainer could serve as a viable template for how to implement a training camp, and I've already proposed the use of the Skills Trainer to emulate film study and practice drills between games of the season. I cannot overstate how awesome of a feature the Skills Trainer turned out to be this year, and I want to take any opportunity possible to integrate it into the rest of the game! I see no reason why we can't have a few rounds of Skills Trainer practices during the offseason as well. In the simplest case, we can simply be given a few weeks of "Game Prep" hours to apply to the drills that are already in the game.
The Skills Trainer could be a template for teaching your scheme to players via off-season Training Camp.
But I'd like something a little bit more substantial than that. I'm imagining a system in which you have scheme-specific Skill Trainer practices that give your players experience within your given scheme. Say you implement a zone running scheme, then you could run some of the zone running Skill Trainer mini-games with your new team and rookies in order to train them in your system. This has the double bonus of reinforcing the concepts inside the user's head, and providing development to your in-game players. They would get experience towards your specific scheme, as well as general experience to use towards improving their skills.
This would also be a good place to insert some playbook and strategy customization options. You have new players, and so your play-calling strategy - and maybe even what plays you can viably call - might change for the upcoming season. If you pick up a very speedy WR in the draft, you might want to throw some extra vertical passing plays into your playbook in order to exploit him. Maybe you signed a hard-hitting, run-stuffing free safety during free agent signing, and you want to add some more safety blitzes into your defensive playbook. In addition, you can adjust your schemes based on your scheduled opponents' off-season personnel changes. Did your division rival draft a talented, double-threat QB? Maybe you should add some extra QB spy and DE containment plays to your defense. If my earlier proposal for in-season opponent scouting is implemented, then this becomes mostly redundant.
In addition to specific scheme practices, Training Camp could maybe also include some options for strength training and conditioning to improve (or maintain) your players' more inherent attributes and to improve their injury resistance. Time spent in conditioning or strength training could be budgeted against time spent training rookies and practicing your scheme. This could allow for some trade-offs between different priorities. if you decide to spend extra time working on developing your draft picks because you want them to start in the regular season, then you risk having your returning players be in worse shape (or regressing in skills) than if you had dedicated more time to maintaining them.
The game could even impose restrictions on how many hours you can spend with veteran players. This would emulate some of the NFL Player's Union's rules regarding training camp for veterans. This could hopefully help prevent exploits involving users just pumping more experience and points into already-elite players, and would force you to spend some time with your draft picks and free agents.
Making a commitment to scouting
One of the things that was most appealing about the NCAA Football games' in-season recruiting was how you had to pursue individual players over the course of multiple weeks. It was like a courting process with that individual player, and a tug-of-war against the other schools competing for his commitment. The repeat investment in a single recruit created a degree of attachment that made getting a commitment that much more satisfying, and made a commitment to another school that much more heartbreaking (at least, as heartbreaking as a fictional name on a spreadsheet can be). Obviously, Madden can't have that kind of simulated tug-of-war with other schools, but there are still ways to foster a similar kind of long-term investment in individual draftees.
NCAA Football's in-season recruiting was a much more satisfying, season-long process.
Instead of being able to dump all your points into a single draftee in a given week, Madden should lock the user to only being able to unlock one scouting ability rating in any given week. That way, you'll have to invest multiple weeks into any given draftee. You should also be able to uncover deeper ratings for the player. Perhaps the game could unlock the top three abilities and the bottom three abilities, based on player's position. If each of the six ability scores were unlocked one at a time, then that could provide six weeks' worth of scouting for an individual draftee. We could also allow each week of scouting to reveal one high ability score and one low ability score, which would still give three weeks of scouting.
Once you've unlocked the player's physical abilities, there could be a couple more "intangible" metrics that can be unlocked by further scouting. The "coachability" rating that I proposed above could be one such intangible. This would give you an idea of how easily you'll be able to train that player within your scheme, and would allow you to draft outside of your preferred scheme if you find a talented and coachable draftee that you like. A further investment in scouting could potentially also unlock a subset of the draftee's traits. An even further investment could potentially reveal a player's injury history, or just unlock the player's injury rating. This last bit would be especially relevant if future Madden games implement nagging injuries and/or injury prevention and rehabilitation mechanics. This adds up to an extra two or three weeks' worth of scouting a player's "intangible".
having this multi-week (or season-long) process of scouting individual players creates a much greater investment into determining whether the player is right for your team. If you spent all the scouting points on the full six or nine weeks of scouting a player, and find him to be a good match for your team, you might be aggravated to see a Mock draft that shows him being selected just a few rounds before your scheduled pick. You might find yourself even more encouraged to trade up to beat that other team to your guy.
In Madden 16, you can dump points into unlocking all of a draftee's available ability scores,
and then never have to look at that draftee again until combine / draft day.
Now, I'll admit that this might not all work in practice. The NFL draft is kind of a crapshoot of a process, and you have relatively little control over what position you'll be able to draft in. I can definitely see users being frustrated by the amount of time and points they have to invest into scouting players that they will have absolutely no shot at drafting. And this only really works if a scout team is included in which to develop late-round picks. Otherwise, it would likely feel like a waste of time to invest this much into late-round picks that are just going to get cut in the pre-season anyway. So this is a very tentative, conditional proposal. But it's clear to me that Madden is missing a certain magic that NCAA Football's in-season recruiting had, and this proposal is one possible way to try to capture that magic. I hope it works! Of course, I'd rather just see EA go back to making college football games, but whatever...
Importing a draft class from obsoleted NCAA Football 14
... Which brings me to my last proposal. This next proposal is a long shot that I know will never happen, but I'm gonna throw it out anyway: Since EA isn't developing NCAA Football games anymore, it would be awesome if future Madden games had an ability to import draft classes from NCAA Football 14. This would actually get me to go back and play NCAA Football 14.
There would be some significant technical and legal hurdles to overcome with this one. For one thing, NCAA Football 14 was only released on the PS3 and XBox 360, so EA would have to find a way to import save files from the previous consoles to the new consoles, then read and import them into the game. Hypothetically, this could be accomplished via a USB thumb drive. But even if it were technically possible to transfer the draft class file from the old game, there might still be a lot of problems with importing the draft class, since Madden would be using player abilities and traits that didn't exist in that old version of NCAA Football. So part of the import process would require generating the relevant abilities and traits for the imported player. Lastly, there might even be legal limitations preventing EA from doing something like this. They don't have the licensing rights to college football anymore, so copyright law might prevent this from happening. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know.
If possible, this would be a great way to keep the old NCAA Football game alive while being legally unable to develop new games in the series. It would certainly get me to go pick up a copy of that game and give it a second chance.
ADDED: JUNE 5, 2016: Think you could've drafted better?
One of the things that always bothers me about starting a new Franchise in Madden is that I feel stuck during that first season with the decisions made by the previous administration. A lot of times, I actually like to simulate the first season and then only start seriously playing when I get into the offseason going into my second season. I get to draft my own players, sign my own free agents, and play my own schemes. In reality, new coaches or general managers rarely are hired going into the start of a new season. Instead, teams usually replace coaches or GMs at the end of a season. So if I'm taking over my chosen franchise team, it makes more sense for me to take over at the end of last year rather than the start of the current year.
This would be a welcome feature in Madden: the ability to go back and take a mulligan on the previous offseason. The game could offer a Franchise variant in which you start prior to the draft of last season. The game could reset every team's roster to what it was at the end of last year, all the current year's rookies back on the draft board, put the teams in their correct draft positions, and let the user take over from there. You can make your own draft picks, sign your own free agents, and install your own scheme prior to going into the current year's pre-season.
Would you rather that your team had drafted Ezekiel Elliot?
Maybe you should be able to go back to the draft and give it a try.
For example, if I don't think that Leonard Floyd is going to pay off, I could start my Madden 17 Bears Franchise, go back to the April 2016 draft, and try to trade up with the Cowboys in order to draft Ezekiel Elliot in order to replace Matt Forte. That isn't to say that I wouldn't want Leonard Floyd, nor do I think the Cowboys would be willing to make that trade, but this is just an example. Or maybe your team of choice is the Rams or Eagles, and maybe you like to play a run-heavy offense, so you'd rather take Ezekiel Elliot instead of the quarterbacks that those teams actually chose.
Alternatively, players could be given the option to simulate the current season with the existing rosters, coaches, and owners, and then drop-in to take over their team after the end of the season.
The little things
That about does it for the major improvements that I'd like to see for gameplay. But there's also still some smaller ideas that I think might improve the game in more nuanced ways.
The following section was initially located in the original suggestions article posted in November 2015. I chose to relocate it into this second article so that the first article could be more focused on the core topics that I wanted to suggest.
Play-calling screen suggestions
While I like the speed of pacing that the new play-calling screens provide, I don't like how a lot of the game's strategy is hidden behind a clunky interface. Different personnel packages and formation subs are only enabled if you don't use the "Coach's Suggestion" option. I get that this screen shows different formations, so it might not be possible to allow package subs in this mode.
One way to accomplish this would be to display the jersey numbers in the actual play art. This would serve to notify the user if a particular player has been subbed out due to fatigue, and as a reminder if your third down running back is in the game. This would also help with some of the exotic defensive personnel packages in which linebackers are positioned as defensive ends. You'd know exactly who is going to be on the field for every play. The personnel package could also be displayed in the text box next to the play-art.
It might not be practical to display such information though, since the numbers might be too small to read. But what it can do is show some kind of message or notification saying "Jeremy Langford has been substituted for Matt Forte (fatigue)". Such messages could be displayed somewhere next to the play-selection widget, so that you know who's being subbed in and out in any given play.
Defenses in local multiplayer should get some stats, overview of the last play, tendency information,
an instant replay, or something - anything - to look at besides the other player's play selections!
Local multiplayer also provides an opportunity for a subtle improvement. While the defense is waiting for the offense to pick a play, they are given nothing to look at except for the offense's play call screen. Why not add some relevant info to the "Waiting for offense" widget. Show the recap of the previous play that is displayed in single player. Or show some stats. Or minimize that widget so that the player can view an instant replay or something in the background. Give us something to look at besides the offense's play selections!
While this is something that could also be done during "Game Prep" of a Franchise game, the in-game menus should also have some matchup options. This should include being able to set which defender will cover which offensive receiver(s), being able to assign double team coverages to a specific receiver, and being able to assign a game-long "highlight" on a specific offensive receiver. Most of these are features that have been in the game before, and I don't know why they've been removed.
Defensive "give up" slide
After intercepting a pass or recovering a fumble, defenders should have the ability to slide (similar to a scrambling quarterback) in order to end the play and not risk turning the ball back over to the other team.
Better sack avoidance from lower-tier QBs
I don't know about you, but I like to run a very aggressive defense. I blitz on almost every play. As a result, I get a lot of sacks. I think I average probably five or six sacks per game. It would probably be higher if not for the occasional game against an elite QB that has a very quick release. A lot of these sacks, however, I feel are cheap because they come as a result of poor QB scrambling logic. Elite QBs (Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, etc) are pretty good about sensing pressure and getting rid of the ball quickly. Most other CPU-controlled QBs, however, have an annoying tendency to stand in the pocket too long, or to literally run right into my rushing defenders.
I hope next year's game allows more medium-tier (and even low-tier) quarterbacks to have better logic for detecting blitz, getting rid of the ball, or scrambling away from pressure. Perhaps there can be A.I. sliders for these things? One A.I. slider for "QB Scrambling" that improves the A.I.'s ability to find an opening in the rush, and another slider for "QB quick release" that influences how quickly the A.I. QB will get rid of the ball of he is being pressured. I'm not sure what effects such sliders would have on the human-controlled QB; I guess none.
Allow Franchise user to simulate CPU injuries
Without the ability to sim Romo's injury,
a Cowboys sim season doesn't make sense.
We already have the ability to force a specific team to win, why not also give us the ability to script injuries? For example, a Franchise player trying to emulate last year could simulate Tony Romo's season-ending injury that basically killed the Cowboy's season.
So when a user brings up the "Sim a win" dialogue on the season screen, there could be an additional option for "Set injuries". You can set it to "automatic" to allow the game to randomize injuries normally. Or you can bring up a sub menu that would allow you to pick players from each team's roster in order to assign an injury and severity to any player(s). It's a bit macabre, I know, but it would help to make user-scripted seasons feel more believable.
The game does come with an option to allow players to play through an injury at the risk of aggravating it further. However, the game doesn't model the sorts of nagging injuries and wear-and-tear that players accumulate over the course of a season. Players never get bruises or sprains that require they wear braces or other protection. They never get recurring injuries (like tendinitis) that they can play through, but which maybe lowers their performance. And suffering an injury doesn't make the player any more susceptible to the same or similar injuries in the future.
Injuries are treated mostly like a boolean attribute. The player is either hurt (and can't play at all), or he's not hurt (and is therefore completely 100% healthy). There should be more middle ground, in which the user has to decide whether to play the player or sit him, and players should be able to re-injure themselves after supposedly healing from an injury, thus encouraging that player to be used more conservatively following return from an injury. As a supplement to the player's "injury" rating, their player card should also include a history of injuries that they've had over the course of their career.
Add officials to the physics engine
Players do occasionally run into the officials.
Currently, the officials on the field are ethereal and don't interact with the play at all. Players can't run into them, and the ball can't collide with them. I wouldn't mind seeing officials be more interactive within the game. Making them part of the physics engine would allow players to use the refs as impromptu blockers or to pick a cover guy. The officials should have very good collision avoidance logic, so that they rarely impact the outcome of a play, but their presence on the field is part of the game, and that should be represented in Madden.
Change the coach cam controls
I don't like that the Coach cam control is overloaded to the same button as the "jump snap" button. There are many times in which I'm using R2 to zoom out the camera to see my defensive matchups, only to have the CPU perform a hard count that forces my selected player to attempt to jump the snap. It leads to some cheap offsides penalties.
I think that R2 makes sense as the "jump snap" button, because it's the same as the "sprint" button in-game. It's comfortable and intuitive. So I'd rather see the coach cam changed to a different button. Perhaps it could be mapped to the right stick, which would allow camera rotation as well. Or it could just be L2.
More time to read the defense
Last, but not least, is that CPU-controlled QBs should spend a little more time at the line of scrimmage "reading" the defense. Good quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning should also make a lot of audibles and minor adjustments at the line. All of this should give the user on defense a bit more time to navigate the somewhat cumbersome audible and hot route mechanisms for defense.
QBs (especially good ones) need to spend more time at the line reading the defense.
This is especially important as long as the game does not include the ability to set game-long matchups or double-team coverages. The player shouldn't have to perform these adjustments before every play! Having to highlight someone like Rob Gronkowski or assign a safety to double cover him on every play is needless busy-work that prevents me from making other necessary adjustments on defense. The limited time that I have to do that only makes the problem worse.
Allow Franchise user to change CPU team uniforms
Simple: give franchise players the same ability to set the CPU team's uniform that they have in Play Now. So if we want to the CPU to play with a throwback uniform or something, we can do it. At the very least, the league GM should be able to set it.
Don't show null stats in week 1 pre-game
This falls under the category of "I can't believe I need to tell them to do this" (see contract negotiation screen above), but future Madden games should hopefully be smarter than to show season stats during the pre-game of the first week of a season. The stats are all zeroes! This is just a simple check for zero before displaying the data. Either check if the current week is week 1, or check if the player hasn't played any games yet. If either of those conditions is true, display last season's stats, or some other piece of [hopefully] relevant info.
In week 1 of a new season (or preseason), show last year's stats instead of this year's null stats.