The Madden Experience

This is about a Madden franchise I created. I’m posting this as a memorial to some great times.Image result for madden 15 cover free use

My friend Kyle, who’s an Eagles fan, and I started a Madden franchise on Madden 15 on his Xbox 360. I sucked at the newer Madden games, especially in the passing game. I had played Madden 07 on the Gamecube for many years and on the earlier versions, you could fit the ball in tight windows and your quarterback could really gun it. You can’t do that in the newer versions. The older games were more offensive but the newer Maddens are more defensive. Quarterbacks can’t throw half as hard on these games as they used to be able to and their mobility is severely limited.

Kyle and I chose the Oakland Raiders as our franchise because they are a sad, sad team these days and created our own coach: Samuel L. Jackson. Yes, I’m a huge fan of the guy and I decided he had to be the coach.

We decided to start our team from scratch and do a fantasy draft.

We basically created one of the best teams ever.

We tried to target relatively young players so we could push for the future. With our first round pick, we took my boy, Steelers WR Antonio Brown and in the second round, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson. Unfortunately, I was unable to look at the original draft history of our team so I’m going mostly from memory from here on, but we focused on our offensive line and defensive front first. I believe Rams DT Aaron Donald was our third pick, followed by Ravens G Marshall Yanda. I am a firm believer that the linebackers are the heart of the defense so I wanted to get beastly linebackers. We grabbed Eagles LB Kiko Alonso and Cowboys G Zach Martin, with the intention of moving Yanda to right tackle like the Ravens did this past season.

Next I believe we took Dolphins SS Rashad Jones and Cardinals LG Mike Iupati, followed by Bengals RB Jeremy Hill. After the 8th pick, we looked at quarterbacks and I’m pretty sure we cried. Colt McCoy was our starting quarterback.

However, there was hope because we used our next pick on a quarterback also, Blake Bortles. It also wasn’t the end of the world if our quarterback wasn’t great. We boasted the best offensive line in the league, with three of our five lineman posting an overall of 90 or higher and the gridiron god AP in our backfield. Cornerbacks and D-line ended up being our last picks, but we still got some solid playmakers with Bears CB Kyle Fuller, Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Texans DL Louis Nix III and Redskins LE Ricky Jean Francois.

The starting lineup of Kyle and Tim’s 2015 Oakland Raiders:

Redskins QB Colt McCoy, Jaguars QB Blake Bortles, free agent QB Terrelle Pryor

Falcons LT Jake Matthews, Vikings LT Matt Kalil

Cardinals LG Mike Iupati, *

Bills C Eric Wood, Redskins C Kory Lichtensteiger

Cowboys RG Zach Martin

Ravens RT Marshall Yanda, Giants RT Justin Pugh

Redskins FB Darrel Young

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Bengals RB Jeremy Hill, Giants RB Andre Williams

Steelers WR Antonio Brown

Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders

Saints WR Brandin Cooks, Raiders WR Kenbrell Thompkins, Eagles WR Josh Huff

Lions TE Joseph Fauria, Jets TE Jace Amaro

Steelers RE Stephon Tuitt, *

Rams DT Aaron Donald, Browns DT Armonty Bryant

Texans DT Louis Nix III, Giants DT Everett Dawkins

Redskins LE Ricky Jean Francois, Cowboys LE George Selvie

Eagles ROLB Kiko Alonso, Bengals ROLB Vincent Rey

Eagles MLB Mychal Kendricks, Vikings MLB Jasper Brinkley, *

Falcons LOLB Brooks Reed, *

Bears CB Kyle Fuller

Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Jets CB Buster Skrine

Bears CB Kelvin Hayden, 49ers CB Leon McFadden

Dolphins FS Chris Clemons, Jaguars FS Johnathan Cyprien, Buccaneers FS Major Wright

Dolphins SS Rashad Jones, Texans SS Danieal Manning

Rams K Greg Zuerlein

Chiefs P Dustin Colquitt


I’m missing some of the backups (*) but I honestly can’t remember.

Behind our commanding offensive line, Adrian Peterson beat the single-season rushing record by about 70 yards, but somehow finished in second place for the NFL MVP behind the Jets’ Roethlisberger. Colt McCoy was never reliable and after the 11th game, Kyle and I had decided we were benching McCoy and trading him at season’s end. It was time to develop Blake Bortles. A stronger arm from Bortles made it much easier to make the big throws when we needed to. We finished 11-5, good enough for the AFC’s 3-seed and the NFL’s number one defense. We named our front seven “Sack City”. We had around 60 sacks during the regular season, led by Donald and Jean Francois.

We defeated Roethlisberger’s Jets, struggled in our second round matchup but made it through and beat the Houston Texans who had a lineup very similar to our own: beastly lines and founded on the running game. In our first year, we had seven Pro-Bowlers, including AP, Iupati, Martin, Yanda, Jean Francois, Donald, who led the league in sacks and Colquitt.

In the Super Bowl against the Eagles (who remember Kyle is a fan of), led by Cam Newton, we destroyed. We won by at least three touchdowns. Adrian Peterson had over 220 yards and two touchdowns in the big game, yet they gave the MVP to Kiko Alonso for six tackles and a pick-six.

Our first draft was a big one. Despite my limited knowledge of college football, I’m more intrigued with the draft each year. That and we had a lot of holes to fill.

We traded McCoy as promised to the Saints for a 3rd-round pick and Hill for a third-rounder to the 49ers. We should have gotten more for Hill looking back, but it was what it was.

When you create a franchise with a fantasy draft, the game takes care of all the salaries and cap hits for you, meaning most of your key players, like Brown and AP, are signed to five-year contracts and you don’t have to worry about resigning major players until your third-year.

We basically sold house on our backup defensive line. Only Dawkins impressed and he wanted $2 mill a year for four years as a second string so we let him walk.

Our draft went flawless. RE Tahrick Harvey was our first pick and was an 81 overall. Fantastic block shedding and tackling ability, he was a steal with the 32nd pick. Our second round pick, LE Tahrick Maggitt (fantastic name) was also a power tool and demonstrated the same ability to throw off blocks as Harvey. He would serve as a great backup to Jean Francois. We let Leon McFadden go and used our third on a CB named Emilio Fleming, who had killer speed and decent coverage abilities. I can’t remember who we drafted with our second third-rounder (from Hill).

Something that teams today do not do enough, in my opinion, is trade down when they don’t see someone they want. Kyle and I did this a lot. We traded our current picks for higher future ones three times.

We searched through undrafted players and free agent lists for backup players. We let Pryor go and in his place signed Bears QB Jay Cutler and Jets QB Michael Vick for cheap, one-year deals. We found an undrafted running back named George Boenzi with some quickness and moved Andre Williams to the second slot behind AP. We signed an undrafted RE named Khalil Moody to help out Harvey and Tuitt and found TE Heath Miller on the free agent list, so we picked him up and placed him above Amaro on the depth chart.

With Bortles now starting at quarterback, the passing game was much better than it was in our first year. Brown ended the year 19th in receiving and considering how little we passed the ball, that was pretty good. That and Adrian Peterson suffered an MCL sprain during our week 7 match and missed six games. With the running game on the backs of Andre Williams and undrafted newcomer Boenzi, we managed to go 5-1 without our biggest weapon, quite an accomplishment. It also demonstrated our depth was solid. Adrian Peterson still managed to finish second in rushing and our defense (Sack City) remained the best in the league. We finished 14-2 and with the #1 seed in the AFC. We narrowly defeated the Miami Dolphins by one touchdown and then had a rematch of the 2015 AFC Championship with the Houston Texans, a team that had Matt Flynn at quarterback, who was actually pretty good by this point and WR Calvin Johnson. We crushed them again and proceeded to the Super Bowl to defend our title. We had 11 Pro-Bowlers, including our entire offensive line, backup LT Matt Kalil, C Kory Lichtensteiger and RT Justin Pugh, AP, DT Aaron Donald and our rookie first-round pick, Tahrick Harvey.

We faced the 49ers, led by QB Ryan Tannehill, WR Jordy Nelson and our former teammate, RB Jeremy Hill, who ended the year fifth in rushing. We won by two scores, AP had 220+ yards and 3 touchdowns and won Super Bowl MVP.

To begin our second offseason, C Eric Wood asked for a ridiculous deal, something like $35 million for three years. I offered something like $18 million for three. He declined and in doing so, lost more than $3 million because we franchise tagged him for $2.75 mill. Backup LT Matt Kalil wanted to be paid like a starter. I offered $3.75 a year for three years and he turned it down. I wasn’t happy but we weren’t willing to waste more cap space on a backup left tackle. It worked out for us. At the end of the offseason, no one had bid on Kalil. He was forced to sign an $800,000, one-year deal with us. We released MLB Jasper Brinkley and SS Danieal Manning and replaced them with free agent signings, Bears MLB Jon Bostic and former Falcons SS Zeke Motta. P Dustin Colquitt’s stats were dropping, so we cut him in favor of P Jordan Gay. We offered FB Darrel Young about a million more per year than he asked for and he still turned us down. That worked out okay though, because we signed FB Mike Tolbert. We then found undrafted FB Dominique Meyer, who was actually a better blocker than Tolbert, so we traded Tolbert for a 7th round pick.

After releasing CB Kelvin Hayden, we used our first round pick on CB Allan Frederick. His man coverage and zone were both in the high 80’s, he was quicker than anyone on our team and he was a solid tackler. He was an 84 overall. We put him third on the depth chart and had him work out of the slot his first year even though he had an overall a point higher than Fuller and Kirkpatrick. The guy we wanted in the second round wasn’t there, so we took a gamble on LOLB Will Vincent. His man coverage and block shedding were garbage but there was some hope. Vincent’s speed and acceleration were secondary-like so while he might not always make the tackle, he would be the first guy there and at least slow them down.

We drafted someone with our third, can’t remember, and traded our other third for a second the next year. We got some offensive line depth with right guard Brice Bostic in the fourth, an 81 overall. We were unable to trade our second fourth-rounder and saw no one we wanted so we took a chance on a runningback named Black. Black ended up a total bust. He was slow and he was weak, unable to truck through tacklers or juke them out. We couldn’t even move him to fullback because his blocking was desolate. We cut him after the third preseason game.

We made up for it in the 5th by taking LE Andrew Chaney. We were unsure why he was projected to go that low prior to the draft. His power moves and block shedding were similar to Maggitt’s. We drafted him and he had an overall of 79. In the fifth round we got this guy! We still had Maggitt in the second spot based off of experience and his on-field intelligence was higher. Still, that gave us three advanced LEs.

We cut WR Javelle Kelly prior to the draft. The guy was too slow, his hands were inconsistent and he carried the ball like a loaf of bread. We took WR Leron Boyce, who had a 69 overall but had the speed and the hands we were looking for. His on-field IQ was the only problem.

In the 6th round, we grabbed RE Javares Carey, who proved to be an improvement over Tuitt. I’m a fan of Tuitt in real life (he plays for the Steelers) but in the game, the guy was not developing. His overall had jumped only two points in two years. Carey was already a 73 and played much better than his overall indicated. It was a steal for a 6th rounder.

In the 7th round, we needed backup DL. For the last two years, Tuitt had been the primary backup, along with Vincent Rey. We took a big guy named Damarr Hawkins and a MLB named Chris Harrison.

After the draft, we signed C Doug Legursky so we had someone to develop on the off-chance we were unable to resign Wood the next season and LG Greg Van Roten. We found an undrafted receiver named Jamarcus Dobbs. Most of our receivers were around 5’11”. Dobbs was pushing 6’5″ and made some impressive catches during the preseason. We decided to keep him instead of signing a third quarterback. We had dropped declining Cutler and Vick and signed amicable Matt Moore earlier.

Our final year was our best year. Adrian Peterson broke the rushing record we had set in our first season by more than 100 yards and broke the single-season TD record set by LaDainian Tomlinson. Again, Sack City stepped up whenever our offense faltered. We went undefeated going into the playoffs. Peterson won MVP and Greg Zuerlein won kicker of the year for the third straight year. He never missed a kick all three years. Allan Frederick was runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year. After defeating the Aaron Rodgers-led Browns, we faced the Houston Texans for the third consecutive championship game. We were down at half, but came back and won by 10+.

The Super Bowl was a rematch, once again against the 49ers. We were up by 3 with a minute to go and the 9ers had a 4th & 5 or something on their own 45. During the playoffs, Kyle would be the playcaller for the first half and I did the second. I had called Cover 2 Sink to pack the middle because I was expecting slant routes. They ran slants out of the right but TE Martellus Bennett and WR Jordy Nelson both ran deep routes, Bennett curving underneath Nelson and lone FS Chris Clemons in between the two. For the last couple games, Kyle had been jawing me that Clemons was old, pushing 30+ and it was time for him to go. Clemons backed up on Nelson and once Tannehill unloaded for Bennett, Clemons came up and smashed the ball right out of Bennett’s hands, a huge play that sealed our third consecutive Super Bowl and the second undefeated season in NFL history. Adrian Peterson ran away with all the awards, beating the single-season rushing record and touchdown record and won league MVP, the Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP.

We had 17 Pro-Bowlers. The whole offensive line, AP, Bortles, Harvey, Donald, Jean Francois, MLB Mychal Kendricks, who Kyle had been trying to get to the Pro Bowl during this entire experiment, and rookie CB Frederick.

I learned a lot from this Madden experience.

1) Send the blitz more than you think you need to. I used to be overly cautious, but my roommate Jon, who’s smart enough that he could be a defensive coordinator in real life, gave me a lot of pointers and that was one of them. Also, don’t be afraid to send corners and safeties on blitzes. I used to never send them but I discovered quickly that it’s very effective. Our final year, I sent Buster Skrine, our fourth DB, on regular corner blitzes. At year’s end, he had 14 sacks, good for 2nd-most in the league. Keep in mind Skrine is a corner.

2) Offensive and defensive lines are far more important than any football fan realizes. Adrian Peterson is a boss and probably would have shredded teams regardless of who was in front of him, but during our second year, when AP was injured and Andre Williams had to carry the rock, you could hardly notice the difference. Linebackers are still the heart of the defense in my opinion, but if you can’t get pressure with your defensive line, you’re going to struggle in coverage and you’re going to have to send blitzes even when you shouldn’t. It’s much easier to succeed with an excellent defensive line and an average secondary than it is to succeed with an average defensive line and excellent secondary.

3) Use the nickel as your main defensive package. Unless you’re getting trolled by the run game, more often than not the nickel corner will provide more value than a linebacker, depending on who your nickel corner is of course. Our nickel corner was Frederick, a large and quick corner that could take on a runningback one-on-one without getting trucked. More often than not, nickel is what you want.

4) View kick returns as offensive plays. Avoid touchbacks at all costs. Brandin Cooks was a beastly returner (he had 14+ returns for TDs in our three seasons) but you don’t have to have a playmaker to have good returns. You just have to have the vision and a speedster at your disposal. For example, the Steelers drafted RB Dri Archer in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft. In real life, Archer is terrible. He’s insanely quick, but has no vision and so is unable to take advantage of his speed. On Madden 15, Archer is the perfect returner and as long as you, the hands at the joysticks, have the vision, you can have some solid returns. On average, Kyle and I were able to get it to the 30 on most returns, even when we were at the back of our own end zone. That’s an extra ten yards we didn’t have to travel. In a separate game unrelated to this franchise that I played with my friend Alex, we picked two of the worst teams in the league, the Titans and the Jaguars. My returner for the Titans was Leon Washington. Washington is not even an adequate player in real life. Not a playmaker or a big name. I returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, then Alex returned his, and then I returned another one. We had kick return touchdowns to start a game, back-to-back-to-back. That was the first time I’d ever seen that happen. My offense was garbage the entire game and I think I only managed one offensive touchdown. If my memory serves me right, I won 21-14. More than half of the points scored in the game were on those kickoffs. Both of mine were at the very back of the end zone and I could easily have let them go by, but I viewed it as a chance to score and I did just that. Kick returns are still in play so teams have the chance to return the ball. Return it. Take the chance.

5) Know when to punt. Prior to this experience, I had refused to punt the ball in any Madden game I ever played. I punted it once against my dad in overtime from my own five-yard line. The punt traveled 15 yards and Dad kicked the winning field goal on the next play. I vowed to never punt again. However, as much as we all hate punting the ball, it’s an important aspect of the game. Sometimes, you need to trust your defense and play the battle of field position. If you’re playing for fun, do what you want, but if you’re going for realism, punt when you should.

I had a lot of fun with this and I hope you all had fun reading if you’ve gotten this far. Have you ever made a franchise in Madden? Tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.

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