Over the years Madden NFL has lost many features along the way. Here are some of the best Franchise features we’d like to see return for Madden NFL 20.

STORYLINES 

While I don’t necessarily expect the Tony Bruno Radio Show to return to Madden, I do hope and expect to see the return of some of the storyline features that surrounded that feature. An NFL season is full of drama and intrigue. Each year has turnover in coaches and free agents. Some team goes from worst to first in at least one division. A key injury or holdout may completely derail a season. And so forth.

Madden needs to bring back features that collate these storylines in a central place so the user(s) can see all the goings-on around their league. Key free agent signings, trades, injuries, position battles, player performances during contract years, up-and-coming Cinderella teams, hot streaks, cold streaks, awards, Pro Bowl voting, and so on should all be collected in one place so that the user feels like their league is an interesting and dynamic one.

Of course, there needs to be storylines for the game to report, which brings us to our next features…

POSITION BATTLES 

One of the biggest sources of drama in an NFL season is positional battles and controversies when a team has two or more players in a position who are potential starters.

Will an over-performing back-up keep the starting job when the anointed starter returns from injury?

Will the rookie phenom get the chance to start over the veteran journeyman?

Does a player acquired from a recent trade know the playbook well enough to start over an established veteran this week? Or will he have to sit a week or two?

Every year, these sorts of controversies and decisions define the season for multiple teams. Madden games have implemented such features in the past, but it was dropped in the jump to the new console generation. But these sorts of storylines and controversies are what make an NFL season so intriguing, and Madden needs to bring this feature back!

HOT AND COLD STREAKS 

Perhaps inspired by the “player form” feature of Natural Motion’s Backbreaker, Madden 25 included a feature in which a player who performs well above their rating(s) could go on a hot streak, or a player performing well below his ratings could fall into a cold streak. The streak would raise or lower the player’s ratings for a few weeks of the season, allowing him to continue to perform above or below expectations (as the case may be).

A player on a hot streak might be more likely to make clutch plays and lead his team to an tough victory or upset, and a hot streak going into the playoffs could carry a team to the Super Bowl!

On the other hand, a player in a cold streak might become the goat of a game, and might see himself benched in favor of a lower-rated — but ultimately less prone to mistakes — backup or reserve. You might even find yourself looking through the free agent pool or trade block to replace a player who isn’t carrying his weight. And going through a cold streak on a contract year could mean the player doesn’t get the deal he wants, and might lead to him being let go in the offseason.

Streaks (cold streaks in particular) give the user more to think about when it comes to preparing for your next game, and it’s a feature that should definitely return to Madden games in the future. 

COACHING STAFF

Being able to hire and fire coaches is a feature as old as the Franchise mode itself. Madden 19 allows Franchise users to hire (or fire) a head coach, a scout, and trainer. Madden games as late as [MADDEN ??] also allowed the user to hire offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators from a pool of available coaches. Each coordinator would provide various bonuses to the team (in addition to any bonuses provided by the head coach).

The coaching staff that you chose could specialize your team and stack bonuses onto the same players or positions, or you could hire coordinators who supplement your head coach by providing expertise in areas that your head coach is lacking. For example, you could have a conservative, ball-control-minded head coach who provides bonuses to your offensive line and running backs, and you could supplement him by hiring a more aggressive offensive coordinator who would provide bonuses to your quarterbacks and receivers.

If the head coach gets fired, you could look for another head coach who doesn’t have a job, or you could hire a coordinator from another team, or promote one of your own coordinators into the role. It was up to you.

An essential part of playing a Franchise or Dynasty mode is being able to build a team over the course of many years, and having the right staff in place to implement your gameplan and get the most out of your players is just as important as the players themselves. That is why the ability to hire coordinators and assistant coaches must return to the Madden series!

TRAINING CAMP

Once you have your coaching staff in place, you’re going to need to teach your scheme and gameplans to your players. Madden 19 currently allows the user to use the Skill Trainer to practice with or against certain concepts and schemes in order to improve their player’s performance with or against the respective concept(s). However, this is all done during the season. There is no offseason training camp in which you teach your scheme, evaluate your players’ performance, and improve their ratings.

Older versions of the game have included off-season training camp mini-games (the old swat drill being a fan favorite), but I think that future Madden games could continue to use the Skill Trainer as a template for implementing an off-season training camp. Being able to run practice drills with your drafted rookies and new free agents will allow you to decide who to start and who to rotate in with the reserves during preseason games, and will eventually give you a better idea of who to cut when the regular season rolls around.

UNIFORM EDITOR / TEAMBUILDER

Everybody likes to be able to personalize their games. Madden games in the past have had robust uniform editors. Madden games of yesteryear have included custom team-creator features, as well as the ability to customize the uniforms of existing teams.

The last few years of NCAA Football even featured an independent, online cloud service that allowed users to create a custom team with a custom logo, uniform, stadium, and mascot, and import it into NCAA Football. Since it was a cloud service, that same team could be re-imported next year without having to re-create it in-game from scratch.

More team customization would go a long way towards helping to personalize an individual user’s Franchise experience, and would also be a great feature to have for your personalized MUT team!

STADIUM CREATOR

With new teams frequently building new stadiums (or relocating to new cities, like we’ve seen the Rams, Chargers, and Raiders do in the last few years), it would be nice to have a robust stadium-editor. In Madden 19, you can relocate a team and chose from one of a handful of prefabricated stadiums, but earlier iterations of Madden have included the ability to customize a stadium from the ground up, whether you were renovating your existing stadium, building a new one, or relocating to another city.

Plus, if future games do include team-creators, then a stadium-creator is a no-brainer.

EXPANSION DRAFT

Once you have a custom uniform and stadium, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to introduce your creation into the NFL as an expansion team? Madden games have allowed users to create custom uniforms — and even custom teams! — in the past, but only Madden 2002 included a genuine expansion draft. 2002 was the year that the Houston Texans joined the league, and that year’s Madden allowed the player to chose to use that team’s preseason roster, or to go through the actual expansion draft process and build a roster from scratch. You could also elect to import your own created team in place of the Texans and build that team from scratch, which provided a tremendous feeling of ownership and accomplishment if you built a winning program.

The expansion draft required each existing team in the league to select some of its players to be eligible for the expansion team to draft. The expansion team would then draft from those eligible players to build up a roster base. Then every team, including the expansion team, would go through the normal NFL draft and free agency period, with the expansion team getting the number one overall pick.

The closest comparison that we have in modern Madden titles is the Fantasy Draft option for Franchise mode, which puts every player in the league on the draft board and allows every team to pick players. It’s not quite the same as being able to build a new team using the actual rules for an expansion team.

This could be a neat way to add new users with their own custom team to an ongoing Online Franchise, rather than having them take over an existing team with its roster. 

HIDDEN ROOKIE ATTRIBUTES 

There was one year in which Madden experimented with hiding the attributes of rookies after they were drafted. I think it was Madden 2003, but it’s been 15 years, and I don’t remember for sure.

The idea was to make it so that the user had to actually play the rookie on the field to see how good he actually is, rather than simply looking at his overall rating to decide whether to put him on the depth chart or not.

This is a good idea in principle, but it had a lot of problems and wasn’t well-received by fans, so it was dropped after just a single year. However, this feature could work well when combined with the new in-season scouting and practice squad features that have been added to Madden in years since this failed experiment.

Having to gradually uncover the attributes of young, unproven players and rookies by playing them in practices, scrimmages, or on the field (in preseason or regular season) would make the decision of who to start less automatic. You wouldn’t know for sure if that player is any good until you actually put him on the field. By investing more points into scouting the player, you might be able to get a better idea of whether your top draft prospect is going to contribute or not, but you won’t necessarily be able to do this with late-round picks, unsigned free agents, or other young players.

Not being able to see the actual attributes for a give player would also help alleviate the problem of practice squad poaching. You won’t be able to simply look at another team’s practice squad and pick the player with the highest overall rating to add to your own team. Perhaps you would have to spend some of your own in-season scouting points on other teams’ practice squads in order to scout their players and uncover their attributes. Or you’d have to wait to see them in action.

Stay tuned for the latest Madden NFL 20 news and gameplay here at SGO.


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