Madden NFL - title

I don't think I've ever played a football game that feels like it truly nails special teams play. Madden has been especially bad at this phase of football for a very long time, and has largely neglected it year-in and year-out. Every now and then, a release comes out that focuses on special teams, but the upgrade is never as comprehensive as it should be. I was considering making a video about all of special teams, but that's too big a topic to tackle in a single video, so I decided that it would be best to make shorter videos that each focus on specific aspects of special teams play.

While drafting the script for my previous video about pass blocking and pass rushing, I had started thinking about issues with blocking and rushing in special teams, and thought I'd do a video about one specific specialist position that has been a personal crusade of mine for quite a few years now. I'll surely discuss more of Madden's special teams failings in future videos. But for today, I want to talk about how Madden completely fails to do justice to an oft-overlooked and under-appreciated specialist position: the longsnapper.

The full video on YouTube contains additional commentary and examples.

I'm looking at this specific position for two reasons:

  1. I played on special teams in high school and worked alongside our longsnapper. He spent extra time before and after practices honing that skill.
  2. And the 2nd reason I'm covering this topic is: unlike other highly specialized positions like holder and kickoff coverage gunners, Madden actually includes Longsnappers as a position in the depth chart, but has never included any mechanics or rules that actually make the longsnapper a meaningful position on your team, or which differentiate who is a good longsnapper versus who is not.

As for my high school teammates on special teams: there were several of us who never would have seen playing time if not for our special teams duties. Instead of resigning ourselves to a life on the bench, as some other reserves had done, we carved out niches for ourselves, so that we could see more playing time. We worked hard to earn our positions, and the coaches noticed the hard work (especially if it was extra-curricular in nature), and they rewarded us with extra rotational reps on both offense and defense in relief of tired starters. My experience has lead me to respect special teamers, probably much more than most football fans.

Some of us reserve players would have never seen playing time if not for our specialist roles.

A Knee-Jerk Reaction

I remember proposing a "Longsnapping" rating on a YouTube comment or Madden forum like 6 or 7 years ago, and received absolutely vitriolic responses that largely boiled down to "having the outcome of a game decided by a random fluke like a botched snap would be horrible game design." It's a sentiment that does makes a certain degree of sense. Determining the outcome of a match by a die roll does seem like it would be bad video game design -- at least, outside of digital craps.

But hold on a minute. Is it really bad game design...?

Running backs have a rating that determines their likeliness to fumble. Quarterbacks have several ratings that determine the accuracy of passes. Receivers have several ratings that determine their likelihood to catch a pass. Linemen have ratings that determine if they whif on a block. Defenders have ratings that determine the likelihood of missing tackles. DBs have ratings that determine whether they blow a coverage. Kickers have ratings that determine if they miss a kick. Every player has ratings that determine if they get injured on any given play. All of these ratings can affect the outcome of a play or an entire game based on a random die roll. Heck, even coaches have ratings that determine how much players develop in the offseason or how likely free agents are to sign a contract. Ratings semi-randomly deciding the outcomes of games or entire seasons is apparently OK for literally every other position both on and off the field, but somehow having a rating that determines if a snap or special teams hold is botched is a bridge too far?!

Nobody complains about other positions having ratings that can randomly decide a game.

To be fair to the critics: if you're playing a 5 or 6-minute quarter pick-up game online or in Ultimate Team, and each team is only getting between 3 and 5 possessions the entire game, it does make sense that you wouldn't want your one and only attempt at a punt or field goal to go awry because of a fluke like a botched snap. In such a shortened game, it would swing the game wildly in one direction or the other, with little-to-no time or opportunity for a team to overcome such an unfortunate outcome. (I keep saying, every installment in this series is probably going to refer back to that first essay about quarter length.)

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Jay Cutler is out, and former Buccaneer Mike Glennon is in.

The Chicago Bears have wasted no time in making major roster shake-ups in the 2017 off season. In a long-overdue move, Chicago finally released quarterback Jay Cutler. He was still under contract, so the Bears will suffer a salary cap hit, but it shouldn't hurt their ability to sign players at needed positions.

Bryan Hoyer and Matt Barkley
Hoyer and Barkley will still
be teammates in San Fran.

To replace Cutler, the Bears signed two-year Tampa Bay backup quarterback Mike Glennon to a 3-year contract worth roughly $45 million. It's a high price to pay for an unproven player who's already been benched in his career. Glennon has been praised for his arm strength and intelligence, but he hasn't handled pressure very well and his accuracy is questionable. Pressure will be a problem too, as the Bears have been in the bottom half of the league in sacks allowed for quite a few years now. Though at least some of those sacks can probably be attributed to Jay Cutler holding onto the ball too long. But Glennon is young and has plenty of room to develop; whereas, Cutler has been a pretty known quantity for quite some time now

The Bears also lost backups Bryan Hoyer and Matt Barkley to the 49ers, leaving Connor Shaw (who was injured last preseason) as the only current backup going into the NFL Draft in April...

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The Chicago Bears' season has been over for a while now, but they had an opportunity today to play spoilers for the Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes. That didn't really happen, as the Bears settled for a game-tying field goal instead of attempting to convert a fourth and goal from the four yard line to win the game. The Bears had a first and goal at the three yard line with less than two minutes in the game and down by three (27-24). A penalty backed them up to the thirteen, and they weren't able to punch it into the end zone. Micah Hyde swatted a pass out of the hands of Cameron Meredith on third down, and John Fox decided to kick a tying field goal rather than going for the win.

Jordan Howard had rushed for over 90 yards, a touchdown, and a 5.3 yards per carry average over the course of the game, yet John Fox decided to throw the ball on third down and concede to the field goal. I would have put the ball in Jordan Howard's hands and given him both third and fourth downs to try to punch the ball four yards into the end zone. No way I would have settled for three.

Bears v Packers: swatted pass in end zone
Micah Hyde swatted a 3rd down pass that would have given the Bears a late lead.

Chicago had nothing to play for except beating Green Bay. Kicking a tying field goal had no strategic advantage. You have nothing to play for; there's no reason to play it safe. Let your bell-cow running back show what he can do.

Bad decision-making didn't end with the decision to play for the tie. The Packers got the ball back with about a minute left and no timeouts. An injury on third down stopped the clock, but the Bears refused to enforce the ten-second run-off. Aaron Rodgers followed that with a deep bomb, a clock-stopping spiked ball, and a game-winning field goal with three seconds left...

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I haven't had much reason to talk about the Chicago Bears this year. Since the preseason, the team has gone from bad to worse. Injuries has been the story of the season, but injuries are no excuse for the abysmally poor play from this team. The Bears have used all three of their quarterbacks and at least four of their running backs this season, as they've been going through a revolving door of injuries.

Rookie Jordan Howard has been the bright spot of the season. With injuries to Jeremy Langford and KaDeem Carey, Howard has been the bell-cow rusher for most of the season. And he has performed well. Not as well as the Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliot, but still pretty good. Howard carried the Bears to 3 touchdowns in a 26-6 victory over the 49ers earlier today. It looks like the Bears have found a replacement for Matt Forte, assuming that Howard can continue to perform this well in the years to come.

Jordan Howard
The Bears look like they've found a replacement for Matt Forte. Jordan Howard has been excellent.

The quarterback situation, however, hasn't been as fortuitous. Cutler was out for a while, and Brian Hoyer played well in his stead. It looked like Cutler's career as a starting quarterback for the Bears was over (finally). Then Hoyer got hurt, and the untested Matt Barkley finished the game without much fanfare. The Bears weren't confident in playing a third-string quarterback, so Cutler came back the following week and lead the team to its second win of the season (a 20-10 victory over the collapsing Vikings in week 8). So maybe Cutler was back to form? Maybe he was going to save his job with a late-season rally?

Not so. The Bears were embarrassed the following week by Tampa Bay, and Cutler got hurt once again the following week against the New York Giants. Cutler will have to have surgery to repair the damage, which means that his season (and possibly his career with the Bears) is over.

In comes young backup quarterback Matt Barkley...

[More]

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.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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