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10 Jul 2006

Game Review: EA Sports Head Coach

by Mike Tanier

EA Sports' Madden football games are already so in-depth that they allow you to offer contract extensions, participate in off-season drills, and set the price of stadium hot dogs. Is there anything left? What element of the NFL experience hasn't already been simulated by the Madden series?

The answer, according EA Sports Head Coach, is the tedium. Head Coach literally puts you behind the skipper's desk and introduces you to a weekly grind of staff meetings, scouting sessions, and conference calls, with some practices and football games mixed in. As coach/GM of your favorite NFL franchise, you have total control over your roster, coaching staff, and scouting department. You develop your own playbooks and implement your own gameplans, and you decide who gets practice reps and what gets emphasized in training camp. You can't actually control the players on the field, but you direct every other element of management, micromanagement, and nano-management.

Hey, we're the Football Outsiders -- the micromanagement people. We can tell you which running back gained the most yardage when it was second-and-3 in the third quarter (Willie Parker). This game seems tailor-made for us. I'm a veteran of the Railroad Tycoon series of strategy games, and I've wasted many hours merrily assigning freight cars to the Altoona-Binghamton run. For ham-handed video gamers like me, Head Coach promises the cerebral challenge of assembling a Super Bowl team without having to worry about the juke stick or the spin button. This game seems tailor-made for the Football Outsiders audience, which is why we wanted to give it our first-ever video game review.Unfortunately, the game's shoddy AI and clunky interface detract from the fun.

Head Coach offers Bill Cowher wannabes a wealth of options for assembling and helming a perennial contender. The familiar player ratings of the Madden series have been expanded, so you can now select a quarterback based on his play-action passing rating, a receiver for his route accuracy, or a safety for his ability in man or zone coverage. The ratings are dynamic and will go up or down based on practice time or game performance. Scouting reports on rookies and opponents are incomplete, so you need to budget your scouting efforts properly: you must balance between game-planning for opponents and preparing for the next draft. Menus loaded with coaching options allow you to fine-tune plays, so you can tell cornerbacks to go for the interception or play it safe or tell your quarterback to tuck and run if no one's open. You can also motivate players using either the Stuart Smalley or Facial Expectoration methods of interpersonal communication.

But a sim like this has to meet gamers halfway on the complexity, and Head Coach doesn't. With thousands of variables to consider, information management becomes a big issue. It's hard to tell what impact your decisions make without checking and rechecking multiple screens and menus, and screen navigation is a headache. After a few hours of play, Head Coach starts to feel too much like work.

The complexity and weak ergonomics of the game would be forgivable if the designers didn't cut so many corners. But you'll discover the first major oversight soon after you load the game. You're asked at the start of Head Coach to customize your coach's appearance, from his body type down to his headgear. There's only one problem: there are no facial hair options. What gives? I've been customizing lifelike avatars of myself in EA games for almost a decade, some of them convincing enough to fool my three-year old son. But instead of creating a realistically paunchy, gray-whiskered doppelganger to roam the sidelines, I was forced to watch a baby-faced imposter carry out my directives. It's seems like an odd omission for a game that features Cowher on the cover.

The "no beard" gaffe seems like a minor issue, but takes away from the game's immersion factor. It's one of many elements of Head Coach that feel unfinished. There's a lot to do in the game, from selecting assistants to developing "money plays" through multiple practice reps, but unless you have the patience of Job you'll be frustrated by the repetitive gameplay and dopey AI long before you scratch the surface of the features.

Here's a partial list of the problems that plague the game:

  • The game is built around a year-long schedule of activities, but there's too much filler, starting with the endless "Office Hours". After every meaningful event, like a scouting session, you're dumped back into your office to check e-mails or design plays. You can only perform so many actions during each Office Hours session, so you have to perform a task, go back to the office, perform another task, and so on. One example: you can only adjust two places on the depth chart in one Office Hours period, so if you sign a new free agent and want to make him the number one receiver, you have to put him in the top spot and move your old #1 receiver to the #2 slot in one Office Hours period, then remember to go back and put your old #2 receiver in the #3 spot in the next Office Hours period. When you finish your two Office Hours tasks, it doesn't just take you to the next part of your schedule -- you have to hit the "back" button four or five times, over and over and over again.
  • In the early part of the game, the computer schedules a weekly opportunity to change your coach's appearance. It's just a persistent reminder that you can't grow a beard, and besides, what head coach changes his mind about his on-field gameday clothes 20 times during the off-season?
  • The draft has the potential to be fun, with a real clock hurrying you along, incomplete scouting reports on obscure players, and analysis by Mel Kiper Jr. himself. But the computer demonstrates the same idiot savant decision making that you've come to tolerate in the Madden games. The computer never misses a "sleeper," so players like Chris Gocong leave the board early in the first round. But it doesn't draft for need, so the Eagles might draft Jay Cutler or the Giants Vince Young.
  • Free agency is a big part of any sports management game, but for some reason Head Coach doesn't simulate the 2006 free agent class. No Antwaan Randle El. No Steve Hutchinson. All the major free agents are re-signed by their previous teams before the start of the open signing period. If you are a Cowboys fan who wants to play with Terrell Owens or a Cardinals fan who covets Edgerrin James, you'll have to trade for them. The only free agents on the market at the start of the game are the rummage sale guys who weren't on 2005 rosters.
  • Practices are dull: you call a play, watch your troops run it, and maybe select some criticism from the "strategy" or "motivation" menus. Drills are worse: in one drill, you select a running back and linebacker, and they just smash into each other. You can sim past all the practice, but then you can't control which players improve or what Money Plays are developed. The designers should either have allowed users to jump in and control players during drills, or they should have created macros – a "focus on play action passing" or "give rookies extra reps" command during the game's Gameplan Meeting phase would save users a lot of time.
  • Skipping any period of the game is necessary but dangerous. If you don't sim ahead, you'll repeat the same tasks for hours, but if you do, the computer will countermand many of your decisions. If you don't want to re-sign a useless free agent but sim the end of the free agency period, the computer will sign the guy for you. Move an outside linebacker to defensive end on your depth chart, sim ahead a week, and the dude may be back at linebacker. Practice injuries are far more common when you are simming than when you are in control.
  • Assistant coaches are pretty useless. They affect player improvement, and they make depth-chart suggestions at team meetings. But they don't provide the type of information the user needs in a game teeming with tiny variables. A message from the running backs coach like "Reggie Bush's pass catching really improved in practice" would let the user know that his strategic decisions were having a real impact, but the assistants aren't that interactive. Furthermore, some of the assistant coach's opinions are loopy. My special teams coach kept insisting that I replace kicker Kris Brown with punter Chad Stanley. When you shoot down an assistant's advice, his trust in you drops. After a few hours of gaming, my special teams coach wanted to blow up my car.
  • Actual football games can be fun, and I played through some 23-20 nailbiters that had me carefully calling plays and making adjustments. But games themselves contain two major flaws. First, the offense snaps the ball before you can make any defensive shifts. You access the shifts through a drop-down menu, and unless you memorize the menu and read the formation as the offense breaks the huddle, you aren't going to be able to make many adjustments. Second, there's no "sim to the end" feature to get through 31-10 blowouts. Like the beard error, that's an example of poor game execution.
  • Play a full season, and Kevin Jones will likely win the rushing crown. Maybe the designers wanted to make the Pro Football Prospectus staff feel better.

Ultimately, Head Coach cannot decide whether it's a strategy game, an RPG, or a management simulation. The game has many role-playing elements – changing ability scores, character creation, dialog menus – but there's not enough to make you think of the owners, assistants, or agents as actual characters. Gridiron contests themselves feel a little like real-time strategy battles, but there's far too much drudgery to be done in the office and on the practice field to get your troops in top fighting form. When you watch your computer avatar sitting at his desk, fidgeting, and conducting interviews, you'll swear that you are playing an educational management simulation. That's probably not what EA had in mind.

I've given up on this year's edition of Head Coach, but not on the series. If the designers scrap "Office Hours," automate the practice process, and improve the AI, I might come back. If they add more dynamic elements – how about shouting matches on the sidelines? – I might come back. Until then, well, I'm waiting for Madden 07.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 10 Jul 2006

66 comments, Last at 24 Jan 2007, 7:14pm by Geoff

Comments

1
by Omroth (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 12:04pm

I've been playing HC for a week or so now. Most of your critiscisms are fair in my opinion, but don't forget you *have to* get the sliders utility from football-freaks.com to make the games realistic.

Despite all the flaws, I myself am really enjoying it, and I have a feeling next years edition will be much, much better. Remember Madden has had over ten years to get it right.

My name has a link to my initial opinions on HC if anyone's interested.

Cheers,
Ian

2
by Joe Blow (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 12:06pm

This game sounded good months ago, but I read other reviews when it first came out and I realized it was horrible.

If EA improves this game maybe I'd consider next year's version. For now I will stick with the Madden and NCAA games.

3
by Dan (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 12:27pm

I downloaded the demo from shareware.com and was put to sleep by it. And I am part of the target market.

4
by solarjetman (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 12:31pm

Another omission - the game does not include last year's trade between the Broncos and the Redskins - where the Broncos gave their 2005 #1 to the Redskins for their 2006 #1. In this game, the Broncos start off with the #29, and the Redskins have #22 (and Jason Campbell, who they drafted with the Broncos' pick). So don't expect to pick up this game and coach the Broncos with Jay Cutler.

5
by Igor (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 12:40pm

In regular Madden it is a known fact that there will be more injuries if you sim a game then if you play it.

6
by John A (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 12:54pm

My experience with Head Coach has been an exercise in frustration so far. EA got just enough right to make the stuff that's missing really stand out. Tedium upon tedium doing the same basic tasks that I enjoyed in Madden. They've sucked the fun out of salary cap management.

But if you're a big fan of interceptions returned for touchdowns, you'll enjoy this one. I finished a game last night with a final score of 35-28, with NO OFFENSIVE TOUCHDOWNS. Given, the QBs were Vince Young and Alex Smith, but that's just ludicrous.

I had real high hopes for this, and I'll probably get Version II if they do one, but it'll be on a short leash.

7
by steelberger1 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 1:39pm

I just want the 2k series to come back.

8
by Lou (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 1:54pm

I love management sims, but this isn't even a completed video game. I got it the day it came out and returned it the next day. I have hopes for next year, but i'm just offended that EA would release this game in its current state.

9
by witless chum (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 1:55pm

"In regular Madden it is a known fact that there will be more injuries if you sim a game then if you play it."

I've noticed that. I've never simmed my own team's games much, I always thought it was that a user's team got less injuries than a computer one. I even set the sim injuries lower and it still happens. Possibly the game is simulating 15-minute quarters and I'm only playing 6-minute ones?

The 2013 Lions are 10-2 going down the stretch, by the way. When I play, KJ hasn't won any rushing titles, but Charles Rogers leads the league in yards and touchdowns.

10
by Luxx (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 1:58pm

Front Office Football is still the best. It's devoid of pretty graphics, but by far the best. http://www.solecismic.com/

11
by As Heard in the Front Office (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 2:08pm

"You know, we could save a lot of money if you dropped Kris Brown. That Chad Stanley kid can do it all." -Asst. Coach

"Uhhh, no." -Mike T.

"C'mon, you said you wanted my advice and here it is." -Asst. Coach

"I said no." -Mike T.

"Well, why not just fire me while you're at it!" -Asst. Coach

"Look, just chill out, I'm not changing my mind." -Mike T.

"The pits of the underworld are reserving a place for you. You will rue the day you kept Kris Brown as kicker." -Asst. Coach

12
by mactbone (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 2:10pm

I second FO Football. I had an old version that was great and then a couple years I got the new version for my brother and it was still a great game. No NFL license but it's good enough that you don't need that.

13
by JJ (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 2:11pm

I jumped on board with the 2k series the first time I saw it. Madden has always been too bias toward big name players. Since then I had become acustomed to the 'feel' of 2k and switching to Madden was rough last year. Playing Madden really just take too much effort. I just want to take the worst team in the league and beat the sh*t out of the Patriots. Is that too much to ask??

14
by Bad Doctor (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 2:21pm

Haven't tried Head Coach, but I'll agree with #10 and 12. Front Office Football works a great balance between the roster management minutiae we all love while progressing through each season at a fairly timely pace. FOF: The College Years and its recruiting process are even better at it, and that's coming from a much, much bigger fan of the NFL than college ball.

15
by Theo (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 4:28pm

For soccer, there is Football Manager (2006).
That is the most addictive, well balanced soccer strategy game ever made.
If someone, someone smart, would just take that game and turn it into an NFL Manager game, this review would've read:

"
Hi,
BUY THIS GAME. IT ROCKS.
Mike Tanier"

NFL Head Coach is just another unfinished piece of crap just like the latest Madden releases.

16
by Barnas (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 4:29pm

The biggest problem with NFL head coach is the *complete and utter lack of player progression* if you play your practices, and insane veteran stat loss.

17
by Signor Sack (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 4:33pm

Here's a good head coach simulation.

http://www.dksports.com/

18
by Nathan (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 4:56pm

Worst. Game. Ever.

Or at least since 10 yard fight.

Interface? Terrible

Timelines? Slow

Dialog? Boring

I could just rant about how bad the interface is for several 1000 words.

It's monumentally bad.

Game play? Terrible.

Overall? Wait till next year.

And as voiced earlier, I am the target demo....

19
by Nathan (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 4:59pm

the computer will countermand many of your decisions. If you don’t want to re-sign a useless free agent but sim the end of the free agency period, the computer will sign the guy for you.

Dear god did this drive me nuts. Did in the past tense as I will never open this game again.

20
by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 5:03pm

9, I think the injury thing is that the computer tries to use the hit stick a lot. I use the hit stick a lot, I get a pretty decent rate of injury.

13, once you get used to it Madden is far easier than the 2k series. The AI seems to have much more trouble with a wide variety of plays. Then with the way that players improve, just blow out a few opponants in straight weeks and the guys you use will be better at their jobs. Working with a bad O-line can be trick though..

21
by Nathan (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 5:04pm

Oh... and why does the Scounting Director suggest the worst possible picks, and then complain for the rest of the draft when you rightfully ignore him.

(traded Edge to the Cards for almost nothing to try and get some simulation) Running backs on the board, first pick, need one, suggests a WR.

Good call there guy. Sure need a WR...

22
by Nathan (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 5:07pm

And 2k is much better than madden. yes, the cpu does a poor job on many plays but if you look at the growth rate of nfl2k vs madden, you'll see it was much much higher, so I'm sure they would have gotten it fixed.

And if nba2k is any indication, they listened to their fans so much more. When I complain to them, they actually fix the problems.

It's an amazing thing.

23
by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 8:30pm

Slightly off-topic, but has FO ruined football video games for anybody else here? I can't run a play without wondering how this will affect his DVOA. And then I get mad when the increases in player ratings correspond to the 'normal' stats, as opposed to DPAR...

24
by Lou (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 8:43pm

It hasn't ruined them, but I've definitely wished DVOA and DPAR were available in Madden.

25
by John A (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 8:59pm

The save files required to have DVOA and DPAR would blow out the tiny memory cards on today's poor consoles. But I've thought the same thing before. Someone hook Aaron up with EA.

26
by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 9:02pm

This may make me a bit of a jerk, but if you honestly perfer Madden to the 2k series.... you don't need to be talking football with anyone that has a bit of intellgence about it. I can't play Madden, I refuse to play Madden, and EA's little sweatshop can go shove it.

27
by mattman (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 9:11pm

Don't worry, Catholic Samurai, that doesn't make you sound like a bit of a jerk...

28
by Brian (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 9:41pm

I only ahve three problems with he game:

1. Does each task really need 2 minutes to load? After you've access your office hours for thr 432nd time, you'd think the game would have it down pat. You spend more time waiting on the game to load than actually playing it.

2. You should be able to extent your office hours, maybe half a day devoted to depth charts and drawing plays, so that the game goes faster and is less frustrating.

3. Looks WAY too much like the past two Madden games. Give us something new for crying out loud.

Overall, this game has great potential. Anyone with patience will enjoy it. Just to add, during the season, simply agree with your coaches on any roster changes and then reverse their decisions later if you have to. Then they don't pick fights, you gain their trust and have room to chew them out when needed.

29
by tim (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 11:16pm

2 cents:

i was pumped for this game and it is horrible.

simply the beta for madden '07 with some cheap tamagatchi effects.

30
by Bosman (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 11:33pm

Maybe it's just me, but the HB screen plays are really messed up. Everytime I call for a screen pass, my quarterback tries to air it long. And even if nobody but the HB are open, my quarterback still feels the need to try and run the ball, instead of flipping it to my HB for a potentially larger gain. AAHHHH the frustration!!!

31
by MikeT (not verified) :: Mon, 07/10/2006 - 11:39pm

30: Noticed that too, Bosman. And it really takes away from the game when you are trying to build around Reggie Bush but your QB won't throw him a screen, even after you have clicked Focus on Shorter Routes, Focus on Primary Target, and so on.

Slants, delays, and draws don't really work well either.

32
by BillWallace (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 2:09am

Wow that sounds like it would be a great game if they ever fix it.

I played FO Football's first commercial version. It was fun for a while, but there were too many AI holes. You could reform a team to have the best player in the league at every position in 3-4 years.

Maybe they've fixed it since then.

33
by Barnas (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 8:07am

I never did know that the NFL worked like this, though:

GM: Coach, we've signed a free agent CB. He'll be good across from Joe Starter, and we can move Jim Demoted into the nickel packages he's more suited for anyway.

Coach: Thanks, Bill. Cancel my appointments for the next 3 days whilst I fix the depth chart.

34
by Phil (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 11:51am

Mike Tanier:

Thanks for the article. You saved me from spending money (on the game and subsequently on a divorce lawyer).

35
by Frank (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 1:56pm

I also bought this game an hate it. It's a complete waste of money.

36
by Martial (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 2:20pm

What's fun about being a head coach? For me, developing game strategy (including both play design and the when and where a play is called). I don't want to deal with whether my staff likes me: I have to do that in real life. I don't want to deal with whether my players have had enough practice to do what I ask: I already spend enough time training my dog.

What's fun about being a GM? I want to evaluate talent and how a player will fit into my team. I want to try to make deals that will make my team better - and I want to fail when the other GM doesn't see eye-to-eye. I want to look at a draft, assign priorities, and have my draft board look different than every other team's.

I want to do that against other real live human beings. Brain against brain.

I have hopes for Madden HC, but for now, I'll stick with PlayMaker Football, warts and all.

37
by james (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 2:20pm

Dudes,

You guys complaints are probably what EA was shooting for. Most scouting departments have no clue. Most coaches are not going to agree on everything. Players don't listen to coaches. If you leave a team for a little bit the interim coach will screw up everything. That's how the real world works.

You guys want to coach a team of psychophants that listen to everything you say and hire 10 coaches that all have the belief system that you have. The real world doesnt work like that.

the key is figuring out how to become successful when ultimately you have very little control.

38
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 3:01pm

Wow what a surprise, another EA game with crappy AI?

39
by barry foster (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 3:52pm

#37- Everything you say is correct, but it doesn't make it fun. Computers are only fun if they do what you tell them to do. They might as well release 'Law Abiding Citizen - The 45 hour Work Week Simulator' if they're gonna release this junk.

40
by Peter (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 4:40pm

39: Do you think that might have a proper interface? Would Kevin Jones still rush for 2500 yards when we watch him on simulated TV? Hmmmm

41
by james (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 4:44pm

touche

42
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 5:15pm

I'll be the fourth guy to recommend Front Office Football from Solecismic.com. They don't have an NFL license, of course, but it shouldn't take more than a few minutes of digging around to find a roster pack online with real NFL names -- the 2006 rosters are already out, in fact.

Their college football simulation might be even more fun than their pro version, but it is in desperate need of an update -- lots of teams have switched conferences since the game came out, and the graphics look ancient even by the standards of the genre. Still a great game with infinite hours of entertainment, though.

Also note that if you have both the college and pro games, you can integrate them by importing draft classes from the college game to the pro. It's very satisfying to recruit a stud player out of high school, then control him all the way through 5 years of college and 14 years in the NFL.

43
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 5:21pm

Oh, and I almost forgot the most important selling point of Front Office Football: online multiplayer leagues! They necessarily move somewhat slowly (an average league might run through 3-4 seasons per calendar year), but if you get into a league full of active managers who also post funny and/or interesting musings on the league's message board, it can be the greatest gaming experience you'll ever find. It was for me.

44
by barry foster (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 5:24pm

#37, #41 - Sorry. I think I came across as more of a smart guy than I meant to be.

45
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 5:40pm

Re: #37

I think every one of the people here understands that a head coach doesn't necessarily agree with everything his assistants say. However, in the end, he is the head coach and it is his decision to make. People aren't looking for "I am God Simulator." Madden would let them essentially do that.

The problem is that in real life, the head coach can say that the decision is final, and to not bring it up anymore, and it won't be. Additionally, the special teams coach isn't going to continually suggest that the team go without a placekicker and just have the punter do it - even if it's ROBO-punter.

That is the problem. It's perfectly fine in a real-world or game sense for a scout to say "I think we should take a WR here." Even if the team is thin at RB, maybe there's a reason for that suggestion (for example, if the scout believed that the draft has lots of depth at RB, then maybe you can take a WR and get an RB later). But if the coach says no, the game shouldn't have the scout suggest it half a dozen more times, each time ruining his "trust level."

Likewise, the game shouldn't suggest things completely off-the-wall, like the punter thing, and each time destroy the trust level. First, because the head coach should be able to say "That's final", and two, because that is a stupid suggestion.

Yes, even in real life, if a coach continually disregarded the advice of his assistants, those assistants would have less faith in the coach. That's realistic. But the assistant wouldn't bring up the same suggestion 40 times, or suggest they replace the starting QB with a left tackle.

T.

46
by GMan67 (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 5:50pm

I agree w/ #17.

dksports.com has an outstanding GM and HC simulator. Not a graphics game. I just want realistic game situations and stats, internet leagues, and enough flexibility to move players around, draft, and basically build your own.

47
by SteelerBill (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 10:38pm

For the FO Audience I would suggest a review of Action PC Football by Dk Sports or Strat-o-Matic Football. Games that truly give you the ability to analyze each and every move you make as Head Coach, Offensive and Defensive Coordinator...

48
by the K (not verified) :: Tue, 07/11/2006 - 10:51pm

Pretty harsh. Not that I disagree with a lot of it. I'm still playing the game when I have time, it is unfortunately very time consuming...with little progress made thanks to endless office hours. I also agree that I haven't given up on the series and here's hoping that future version of the game alleviate the woes (or perhaps, in the case of the PC version which I am playing, maybe patches.) I also feel it was unfair not to mention Steve Sabol's excellent work on the game's cutscenes. Plus, I'm trying to turn Reggie McNeal into an instant NFL starting QB. Any game that lets me start Reggie McNeal as a rookie is okay with me.

P.S. No, Mr. April, I do not want to waive Rian Lindell and make Brian Moorman my placekicker, in addition to his punting and kickoff duties. For the fiftieth time.

49
by David (not verified) :: Wed, 07/12/2006 - 12:43pm

maybe you guys dont like this game cause you all suck at it

ive won 25 straight super bowls

50
by james (not verified) :: Wed, 07/12/2006 - 1:17pm

#45,
I have to respectfully disagree. While the head coach has the final word, it is very easy for him to alienate his staff if they never are allowed any input. It's human nature to need your opinion to be valued. When it isn't people shut off and become less valuable to those who haven't listened. If someone has a dumb idea you have to show them how dumb it was. Then its they will shut up about it.

51
by the K (not verified) :: Wed, 07/12/2006 - 2:53pm

#49: Yup, that's exactly what I hoped I'd be able to do in this game that's supposed to be a sim unlike Madden.

52
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 07/12/2006 - 5:14pm

#50

Which is exactly what the last paragraph of my post in #45 said.

T.

53
by Bosman (not verified) :: Thu, 07/13/2006 - 2:18am

#49 I am pretty good at the game (I've brought the lions to the playoffs with a 14-2 record), but saying that someone doesn't like the game because they're not good at it is just not a fair overall assessment of this game. The consensus on this site atleast is that EA Sports fell flat on its face when trying to deliver this game. The game may have its downsides, but we voice these concerns on boards like this in hopes that some random EA executive stumbles across our discussion of the game's shortcomings and tries to modify next year's copy. This could be a great gaming franchise, they just have to work out all of the kinks.

54
by Mediator12 (not verified) :: Thu, 07/13/2006 - 3:24pm

There are more than a few glitches that are simply unbelievable to have survived testing.

1. Who set up the completely unfriendly interface? Anyone else get sick of selecting something from the menu then getting the menu to reappear when hitting the enter button to run a play?

2. There are more than two ways to respond to a situation. You either ream the guy or gently express your displeasure. The one option that should be there is to teach the right way or technique. In real life camps and drills, things go at such a hectic pace the coaches rarely take time RIGHT THERE to correct anything until they see the film and step back from the situation. These "teaching Moments" could be limited to 3/10 plays run or so.
They really took the easy way out not giving more than two options.

3. Gameplanning is way more interactive than shown here, with coaches knowing the personnel that will create mismatches on gameday. The final decision does rest with the head coach after much discussion is involved but as it is presented it is way off base.

4. The Number one missing element though is watching game film and breaking down individual performances from your team and getting to know the team you are about to play. I love how you have to speak to someone right after running a play or not at all! The majority of the teaching and useful comments usually comes from unit meetings and film sessions, but here you have to chastise the player in front of everyone to get your point across.

5. You can tell that there was little input from real NFL coaches on this title. The coaching classifications are totally wrong and inadequate as well. Work Ethic as an attribute? Please, if you do not finish your responsibilities every time then you get fired. Coaches with no Work ethic never make it this far or have pictures of the head coach in a compromising position.

Real attributes would be playcalling, teaching fundamentals, teaching concepts, creative play design, individual and group dynamics, film review, scheme creation, in game adjustments, and team building.

6. I also want to know how first and second year coaches have higher Knowledge of Coaching certain positions. Coordinators with 40 years experience have lesser Knowledge than younger position coaches in some cases. Even though they have coached those positions previously and sometimes for their own teams! Plus, the Coordinators are running a scheme of their own devising in which they are setting the guidelines for how each player is going to act on any given play and situation.

These are just a few unrealistic elements needed to make this game anywhere near what it sets out to do. Most of the others I have found have been previously mentioned.

55
by Bosman (not verified) :: Fri, 07/14/2006 - 1:40pm

#54 I agree that a gamefilm type session would help enhance the gameplanning aspect of the game. I'm not sure how they would incorporate this, maybe an NFL Live set with Trey Wingo breaking down the tape of each game, but it would make the play designer feature a lot more useful. That way you could more easily taylor newly designed plays to the actual formations and coverages that the inadequate AI uses.

56
by Joe Wolf (not verified) :: Fri, 07/14/2006 - 9:59pm

RE: 9

the 2029 Vikings have lost only 7 games in nearly 3 decades and have won every superbowl since I took over. the first 5 superbowls were against the colts. and since I have taken over the entire Nfc north both nfc wild cards have come from there.
But most importantly Its all fake and dosen't mean a damn thing.

57
by Mediator12 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/17/2006 - 6:10pm

One way to do the gamefilm part would be tremendously easy. Allow the coaching staff's game film review Skill to generate a certain number of the opponents money plays and generate a report based on tendencies to run plays in certain situations just like the real NFL. It would not be that hard in the already voluminous simulation packages.

Also, this would add another valuable asset that is missing, the Pro Scouting director's who are way undervalued in today's NFL system. I personally am sick of seeing the scouting director each week. That SOB should be out on the road Scouting!

It would also be great to change up gameplans late in the year to fool people in the playoffs ala the Steelers going air Roethlisberger versus INDY and Denver.

I also would want to run practice and meetings each week based off these scouting reports.

58
by Joseph Baylor (not verified) :: Tue, 07/18/2006 - 6:05pm

Front Page Sports Football was easily the best football sports sim ever released until the total debacle of the '99 version. The game play was almost perfect until that point. The way you managed the team was great. It was not tedious like this game. EA should go find a copy of the '98 version of this game, add their graphics, and make a lot of money and make a lot of people like me happy in the process.

59
by Scorpious (not verified) :: Wed, 07/19/2006 - 10:36am

I remember FPS!! Those games were AMAZING. I had the '95 and '97 versions but never could find it after that. But I played that game for years. I must have been playing the '97 version all the way through 2002 or so. My favorite thing about that game was the play designer... You could do ANYTHING in that play designer! I had a pass play with two wideouts running crossing slants from opposite ends of the field, one pausing for a .5 second delay at the snap, the QB would throw on a timed pattern to the first WR, who would then pitch it to the second WR. Not necessarily an every-down play, but it actually WORKED in that game. You can't even make a play-action pass in NFL Head Coach... what the heck is up with that? No trick plays? Blah. How boring. And you can't change the players' number's either. I've got a converted WR playing DB, he's number 86! lol.

60
by Scorpious (not verified) :: Wed, 07/19/2006 - 10:50am

*Edit* I should say, no CUSTOM trick plays... I know the game already has the flea flicker and the HB or WR pass, and the reverse to the WR, and the TE end around... but I want a double reverse, or a TE end around pass, or a flea flicker reverse, or even a better fake punt.

Another game I played incessantly, even though it was more buggy than Madden (hard to imagine, I know), was Total Control Football. If that game's designers had been given another year to make a re-release, and a little better insight to the game of football itself (the game was released by Philips Media), they would have had a GREAT game. (Funny side note... NFL Head Coach cover man: Bill Cowher. Total Control Football cover man: Bill Cowher. You can look here to see a review of TCF.)

61
by Brandon (not verified) :: Wed, 07/19/2006 - 10:35pm

Let me be another to prop FO Football. I remember when EA had it with an NFL license back in 2001-02. Without question, it was the most enjoyable and addictive sports game I have ever played, period. Those who love the behind-the-scenes action of the game should plunk down the $24.95 and get it.

62
by arman (not verified) :: Thu, 07/20/2006 - 5:34pm

I have a few problems, but I have to say I still have fun playing this game, but it's starting to annoy me now that the nostalgia is going away. I used to look forward to gameday after training the way I wanted, but it gets really annoying when you have a lot of good DBs and pick the ball off 5+ times a game, but in practice, if they do it, your QB rating goes down the toilet even if you have a really good QB and eventually you have to waste a training session on WR vs DB with your best WR vs your worst DB just to improve your QB rating. Very stupid. I'm the Seahawks and they have a good OL, but when I try and make my DL better, there's nobody on the OL that they can beat, so you have to hire someone that sucks really bad just so your DL can progress. All money plays do is give you more computer love on the play, not actually make your guys better at executing them. LBs suck at defending against the slant even, and instead of covering a zone or spying the QB during a pass play, the LB will head straight for their OL long after the play has started and get blocked and make themselves useless. Or when you're running the ball on 4th and 1 your guy will keep trying to get outside or sit there and run into a pile of guys trying to find a hole instead of putting the ball over the line by any means necessary. RBs seem like they try and get tackled if they are in open field. I was hoping with this game that some of the stuff I hated about ESPN would be fixed, but this game makes even less sense. ESPN the patriots are just stupid good, you can throw it to anyone and they'll catch it in any amount of coverage or get pass interference. If you actually know what you're talking about in football, ESPN is still the way to go. Madden is a complete pile of garbage still, it's nothing but a sad ripoff of other games. In ESPN, you can actually fool the AI using different plays under the same package and blocking schemes. Sure it doesn't make sense that Stephen Davis can plow through ray lewis and mcallister at the same time, but if you're actually good at being the playmaker, stuff like that gets shut down pretty fast if you are smart enough. The point is, at least in ESPN you can do way more moves and tricks to accomplish what you want. Multiplayer is the best though. If you have a buddy that likes football, you can pick up a used copy of ESPN 2k5 for about $5 at a gamestop or something. It's well worth it.
Anyway, after playing head coach, it has become clear to me that unless someone gets their crap together and designs some decent AI and hire some retired coaches or something to tell the programmers that there's more to football than a bunch of big names. You remember seattle's defense last year for example, the no-name defense, full of rookies and injury replacements still was able to not screw up enough to get them to the bowl. Madden is absolute rubbish and since he puts his name on such a piece of garbage, I hope he has a heart attack. (The doctor says I got a piece of polish sausage lodged in the lining of my heart! - Chris Farley GRHS)

BTW I'm a huge ESPN 2k5 fan (anyone wanna play 1v1 2v2 or 3v3 my xbl tag is "Seatown No12" or "CaCN2".

63
by trev105 (not verified) :: Tue, 07/25/2006 - 5:49am

As for the kicker punter coaching decision. How do you train that position? Because Nugent keeps missing last second (30 yard) field goals, but can nail a 55 yarder in regulation all day long.

64
by phubar (not verified) :: Wed, 07/26/2006 - 1:47pm

The game is good for a Version 1.0 Beta. Yes, there are a vast number of things that can be improved - for example, special teams are utterly pointless in the game (there is no way to prepare or improve your kicker / punter, and on punt returns, your guys will stand around looking at the ball while defenders run past them to force a fair catch 99% of the time).

And there are nasty bugs, like when the depth chart decides to save the same player as the starting LOLB *and* as the 2nd string LOLB - and the only way to clear the error is to change the player's position (thereby erasign him from the depth chart), and then change it back and rebuild the depth chart - all of which takes 2+ full 'Office Hours' tasks.

This doesn't even begin to mention limitations like quarterbacks unable to ever execute any form of screen pass. Or that quarterbacks cannot fumble - it's always ruled as an incomplete pass.

But, given the way games are rushed to market today, the number of bugs in the game is on the low side for a just-released first version of a game. And given that this is only the first iteration of Head Coach, I don't really expect there to be a lot of in-detail content. So for version 1, I am happy with the content level provided, and find the game very enjoyable. If this game follows the evolution of Madden, next year's version will have a ton more content, and the game should be awesome by about the 4th iteration or so...

My biggest complaint, however, is lack of challenge. I signed with the Buffalo Bills, drafted Vince Young, and went 19-0 in my first season. So far, I'm in the middle of the 2007 season, and I have yet to lose a game. Or even to win a game by fewer than 10 points. This even counts my preseason games, in some of which I started rookies in several key positions.

65
by Xfire (not verified) :: Thu, 08/10/2006 - 8:25pm

For those of you with questions about the game - or if you have something you'd like to talk to the developers about... some of the EA Head Coach developers will be visiting Xfire for a live chat on Aug. 16th, 5pm EDT. It should be a lot of fun.

Visit this link for more info, and to sign up: http://www.xfire.com/cms/xf_headcoach

66
by Geoff (not verified) :: Wed, 01/24/2007 - 7:14pm

I agree with #61. Of all the football sims, FOF 2002 was the most realistic. Unfortunately I couldn't stand the 2004 version. If only I had the formulas that were used in the 2002 version, the stats and realism they created were RIGHT ON!