Saturday, July 8, 2006

EA Sports' "HEAD COACH" Game


I guess I am that guy that gets all the sports stuff.  I'm one of the few people I know that has DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket [I have no idea how I ever lived without it].  According to, I'm one of the few people that has an ESPNMobile Phone [and it's works great for me].  I also just bought EA Sports' newest football game - Head Coach.

Head Coach is a very interesting game.  But, there is a distinct split into who should buy this game.

If you love playing the Madden games....well, you have to be a Madden lifer to get into Head Coach.  Not just gotta know football.  Not just the teams...but strategy and personel as well.  And there is the split.

If you like playing the football in Madden only....well, this Head Coach game isn't for you.  It is what it is....the head coach.  You control nothing that goes on the field....except for what plays are run.  Once the ball is snapped, the guys on the field determine the outcomes.  It's a tough pill to swallow at first...especially for Madden nuts who are used to calling the same set of plays that go at certain times.  Personally, I love rolling out when I play Madden.  Ya can't do that here.  So, if you love Madden just for the gameplay....wait another month for Madden 07.

But, if you are the guy that loves the dynasty mode of Madden....this game is for you.  Essentially, that is what Head Coach is....just a tedious version of Madden's dynasty mode.  Pretty much the same stuff is going on....just at a slower pace.

CREATING A COACH:  First off, you create your coach.  I, like most people will, made himself as coach.  Then, you interview for a job.  As a Redskins fan, I interviewed for the Skins job [I guess they hook you up with your favorite team if you want]. is an interview.  The owner asks you questions and you must answer them.  And not just the baloney questions that are asked at most job interviews.  I was asked various strategies that I would employ if I got the job.  That's where a good history of Madden playing helps out....since you know what kind of player you are.  A few days passed...then I was offered about 5 different head coaching jobs, including the Skins.  Obviously I took that job. 

YOUR COACHING STAFF:  The big thing is meeting and assembling your coaching staff.  The Skins coaching staff was the same as in real life....even the "free agency" of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.  I sat in a room with all my assistants and discussed various needs they had [guys they wanted resigned, etc].  I've noticed that you gotta do some ego stroking and some tough love with these guys.  They'll ask for the world from you, and sometimes you must break their hearts.  Especially when Earnest Byner [my running backs coach] begged me to resign FB Mike Sellers.  I just didn't want to do it.  You gotta balance your the trust factor with your coaching staff can rise or fall depending on what you think of their suggestions.

AH...EMOTIONS:  That is the big key to this game.  You must yell at your players and coaches as well as pick them up when they are down.  Their confidence can rise and fall depending on how you decide to coach them.  During practice and can really dishearten the team if you yell at them at the wrong time.  But I did a good job in my first preseason game of running out the clock because I was sorta nice to the offensive line who then opened holes so I could kill the clock.  Oh, and you gotta be nice to the agents.  If you are cool with certain agents, they'll give you more slack when working with their clients.  Screw one over and they will bleed you to death. 

BUILDING YOUR ROSTER:  This is the tedious part.  If you actually do everything on your will take you forever to get thru the game.  You have so many meetings and office time that it's hard to concentrate on the player aspect of the game.  You can scout free agents, draft picks and your opponent by discussing it with your scouts.  You can call up other team's GMs to discuss deals or dial up agents to talk to their clients.  This takes forever.  When starting the game, you inherit the team as it was when the Super Bowl ended.  You can tender offers to your restricted free with holdouts....resign your guys and scout free agents.  The reason this all takes forever is because you have a schedule to keep...and it sometimes cramps your style.  If you are looking to sign a free agent, you can only do three things before you have to move onto something else on your schedule.  But the contract negotiations feel as slimy as they must feel in reality. 

CLOTHES:  Sorry, EA Sports....I don't need to look at my wardrobe every week. 

THE DRAFT:  This was cool.  You got a chance to scout players before the draft.  Then the draft is held in real time.  Meaning, every team has about 45 seconds to make their pick [you get 5 minutes].  You can sift thru all your notes as the draft is going on.  When a pick is made, it is discussed like real draftniks would.  Pretty cool.

REAL PEOPLE:  I have only gotten to my first preseason game [a 13-7 win over the Bengals] but I have already seen three real people in this game.  First, Trey Wingo of "NFL Live" on ESPN talks about you as you begin your career [with a neat re-inactment of Super Bowl XL].  Later, Steve Sabol of NFL Films steps in for a chat.  Then, Mel Kiper Jr does the draft work...analysing every pick made. 

PRACTICE:  This is where you teach your team certain plays.  The more you practice them, the better shot it has to working on gameday. 

COACHING:  On are the guy with the headset roaming the sidelines.  Your coordinator calls a play to you on your headset which you can then relay to the QB or choose your own play.  Once it is called, you can order some audibles, motions, shifts, etc.  But it is the players which you cannot control that determines the success of your plays.  During the game, you can discuss certain strategies with your guys.  You know how in Madden, you only call time outs to stop the clock.  Here, you used them to discuss strategy.  In fact, most of your hands-on ability with your team is during timeouts and between quarters.  You can tell your QB to keep his passes near the sidelines during the 2 minute drill.  Youcan tell your RB to stay in the middle or tell him he can bounce it outside if he needs.  You just can't do it for him.  You can yell at specific players.  If you have the headset and all of can really feel like a coach by calling plays in your headset.

It is a pure strategy game with very little actual football that you play.  But, it gives you that feeling of running a football team.  Not only do you have to deal with guys play on the field...but their emotions....your coaches' emotions....doing what your owner wants from figuring out the salary cap and your player personel.  Again, it is intense when having to keep all these people happy yet keep yourself looking good to the boss and your players.  It can be boring during the offseason when there is nothing to do but check e-mails and make phone calls.  But, if you are a football nut that loves fantasy football but need a different kick....this game is for you.

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