Coaching in the NFL is one of the toughest jobs imaginable. Between the prima donna players, irrational fans, tempestuous owners, and brutal competition, the odds are stacked against any brave soul who manages to secure a job carrying a clipboard. Successful management means a dedication to detail that very few have been able to master.
The devil’s in the details
EA's latest NFL-themed franchise, NFL Head Coach, attempts to immerse virtual Lombardis into the life that's caused more gray hair - or flat-out baldness - than most other occupations combined. It's no Madden game, either, since you won't be using the controller to press any turbo buttons or Hit Sticks. Nope, all the action here is strategy-game menu and text selection, from negotiating salaries to firing assistants to calling the plays on game day.
Depending upon your perspective, Head Coach is either an EA NFL licensed cash-in, aiming to squeeze some extra gaming dollars from Madden freaks and gridiron obsessives, or it's a freakishly in-depth football management simulator like nothing ever seen in North America. If you spend more time monkeying around with rosters and balancing the salary cap than throwing passes in the traditional Madden game's franchise mode, then Head Coach likely has something to offer you. Have no doubt that every minute detail related to operating a gridiron squad is represented in depth to the nth degree.
The opening sequence in the game allows you to define yourself. Are you an offensive genius or a defensive mastermind? A simple interview process will set your attributes based on the answers you give - but don't worry, because it doesn't seem like there are any wrong answers. Following your interview, there are a few teams that will like you enough to make an offer for you to take over their team. Pick the deal and situation that most suits you and you're off. This isn't so easy, either. While a big money offer for a lot of years may sound like a no-brainer, chances are you'll have a much easier time taking a team like Philadelphia or San Diego to the playoffs than Detroit or Cleveland. Money isn't everything, you know.
Building the perfect beast
Develop your philosophy according to your tastes. Are you a guy who loves to throw the ball down the field like an aerial madman? Or are you a grind-it-out, smash-mouth brute who loves to run the ball up the gut and control the clock? On defense, are you a blitzing, Buddy Ryan-style no-holds-barred kind of guy? Or do you prefer a more conservative, two-deep zone approach? All of these are up to you; they can change over time, but setting up a plan and then executing it is the recipe for success.
Once your plan is in place, you'll have to sign the players who are going to make it happen out on the field. This is done first by scanning the waiver wire, and then (in a much more fun way) by running your team's NFL draft. Thankfully, all of this year's real rookie players like Reggie Bush, Mario Williams, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, and so on are in the game; if they weren't, it would be an exercise of confusing futility. It's hard enough after you get past the first couple of rounds to sift through all of the available players and pick one. As an added bonus, ESPN's own Mel Kuiper, Jr. is on hand to tell you how good or bad of a job you're doing. It's a nice touch for sure.