Special Teams May Never Get Sufficient Attention in Madden

Posted January 12th, 2015 at 4:00 pm


For as long as I’ve been covering sports video games the neglect of special teams in the Madden series has been readily apparent. Such a huge part of the NFL goes without much of anything being done to represent the aspect of the game properly. Tinkering with kick meters has been about the only thing that has changed over the years.

So on Saturday when Kam Chancellor stunned everyone by perfectly timing and jumping over the offensive line on back-to-back field goal attempts naturally many wondered would something like that ever make it to Madden? If it is being attempted in NFL games why wouldn’t it be possible in the video game? Of course within minutes the idea was dismissed with a wave of the hand by one of the developers. 

Is being able to jump over the line to block a kick a crucial new feature consumers would be demanding? Of course not. But it is indicative of not just the neglect EA shows special teams but how so many things about real football are restricted or left out of the Madden series completely. There are coaching decisions that people simply aren’t allowed to even consider not to mention many other important things including the lack of penalties.

Sticking with special teams there is the surprise onside kick which was finally introduced in Madden NFL 12 (with restrictions that made sense) and then taken out the next year – it has yet to return. It seems like there was a surprise onside kick nearly every week of the NFL season and they’re executed successfully nearly 60% of the time (regular onside kicks are about 20%). There’s no excuse for this not to be an option in the game.

Again it comes down to making smart design decisions. In Madden 12 you were limited to doing it twice a game, and the risk/reward was possession vs the loss of field position (which maybe in itself needs to matter more in Madden). Still even then it was implemented in a way that didn’t represent it correctly as the success rate was not anywhere near the NFL’s 60%.

There are never any blocked kicks or punts (unless using some glitch). Again these occurred frequently during the season – many TDs were even scored on special teams but that just doesn’t happen in Madden. Kick and punt return blocking haven’t been touched for years. How about ball physics – ever recall seeing a punt not bounce 20 yards into the end zone? And there’s also simply no differentiation between teams. The best special teams units in the NFL are no better than the worst ones in Madden. They’re all the same.

Unfortunately there isn’t really a wave of consumer demand to improve special teams and that’s probably why development resources are directed elsewhere. Until that changes, and the developers decide to take pride in authenticity over gimmicks, Madden will never be a true simulation of the NFL.