10 features to improve Madden NFL 21’s Franchise mode

A simulator that has yet to simulate reality.

Madden NFL 20

After EA Sports published a list of upcoming, new additions to the classic Franchise mode for this year’s Madden installment, Madden NFL 21, fans were left stunned in disbelief by the lack of crucial changes. They saw instead minor fixes, like accurate contracts for rookies and a reformed playoff bracket that mirrored the actual league’s tournament, which was about it. The disbelief soon became backlash, as hardcore fans enabled #FixMaddenFranchise to trend number one on Twitter on July 1. Surprisingly enough, the calls for change were heard, as EA tweeted out a video addressing the frustration and stating that it will go back to the drawing board to mold new additions into this year’s mode.

In support of a new and improved franchise mode, a list beckoning for new features, along with ones once present, is in order. Honestly, it is likely we will not see a single one of these, as the game is set to release very soon. However, as typical EA Sports fans do, it’s better to talk about what could be than what is.

10) In-depth announcing

Via EA Sports

Before Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis grasped the reigns, calling each Madden game, former superstar quarterback Phil Simms and legendary CBS personality Jim Nantz plastered their voices into the franchise. EA Sports’ creativity, in the realm of presentation, was on a high. Unlike other sports titles, Madden’s team decided to have the two commentators appear on the screen and speak about what they expect from each team. Now, players never see Gaudin or Davis, and may even become tired of their poorly-written dialogue and insignificant analyses. A wise modification to Madden 21 would be to either bring in a new tag-team of announcers or have the current announcers read off loads of more lines, especially ones that can inform gamers on who each player is and what they bring to the team. In turn, players will likely continue to hear, for instance, “that quarterback,” instead of the actual name of the QB they are using.

9) Coaching carousel

Via EA Sports

What made the NCAA Football series so special, aside from its recruiting, was the nerve-wracking shakes one would get after losing a game. Players were always on the hot seat, and never felt the least bit of comfort if their season went up in flames. In Madden, one could play like the less-than-enthused Cleveland Browns for two-decades and receive a heartfelt compliment for “getting the job done.” The coaching system is blind to organizational dumpster fires, and never truly immerses gamers into the stressful job of being an NFL head coach. To add, Madden should also steal the NCAA series’ offseason tool that allowed players to watch jobless coaches choose which school they were going to. For Madden, users are left in the dark about what coaching changes are made around the league.

8) Fair trading

via EA Sports

Ever had to give up half your team for that middle-age, worn-down running back who you just love too much to not have? I know almost everyone has. Madden 20‘s trading system was such a fictional piece of work. Each team held unrealistic expectations for what they could get out of a deal. For example, I booted up the game, for the sake of being right (obviously), and tried to give as little as I could for the 37-year-old marginally-valued Frank Gore. Apparently, in Madden’s eyes, he’s worth at least one first-round and one second-round pick. Imagine what would have to be sacrificed for someone like the interception-prone Kirk Cousins. The system can certainly make you careless for the mode, as it is incredibly unfair to players.

7) We need Chris Berman

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Halftime recap personality Jonathan Coachman is undoubtedly a charismatic guy, and that’s not a bad thing. However, after hundreds of games played, it all starts to feel like he’s yelling scores from around the league at you. So, like the pre-game presentation, the half-time show also deserves the same treatment. NFL 2K5 is the prime example of a title executing flawless presentation, as beloved commentator Chris Berman reeled off a passionate, detailed analysis of team performances, behind his small wooden desk. It felt so much like something you’d see any given Sunday. EA should aim for that level of objectivity and reality. As long as it is a presentation empowered by someone showcasing an immense knowledge of football, with no underwhelming generalities, franchise mode would be a bit more refreshing.

6) Realistic stats

via OperationSports

Since Madden‘s jump into the current-generation, statistics recorded from CPU v. CPU have been wildly unrealistic. Many can probably tell when your star quarterback is throwing for at least 400 yards a game and isn’t considered an MVP candidate. If you simulate through a season in Madden 20, you’ll find that most quarterbacks will pass for a completion rate of, at least, 75%. As a result, it becomes a domino effect. If all players perform at unrealistic rates, then there would be no such thing as a draft bust, and, as a Jets fan, I know that’s certainly not true. It’s a simple fix that most fans don’t even think of, but it is one that Madden 21 needs to delve into an actual football drama simulation.

5) Complex moral system

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An element that transforms NBA 2K20 into something so frustratingly great for me is that players hate to play for my teams. I fire their favorite coaches, trade away their closest teammates, and threaten them with pay cuts (sacrifices do have to be made for our ridiculously cheap stadium parking). In Madden, I could cut a player on my team and bring them back 10 times over, and they’d still be pleased to play for the team. Quite truthfully, the drama of running a franchise must be emotionally draining for players to be glued to the mode. As a simulator, it should teach me how to run a team successfully. Madden 21 should mimic the real-life situations of player hold-outs and suspensions to build onto this next-generation of profound digital realism.

4) Treat me like the champion I am

via EA Sports

In late 2019, the almighty Kansas City Chiefs somehow managed to sign speedster running back LeSean McCoy for nothing of the pretty penny he deserved. It wasn’t because of something scandalous, but rather he knew they were bound for the Super Bowl, with or without him. So, he chose to sacrifice money for a shiny new ring. That being said, every team in Madden 20 is treated fairly by players, as anyone could sign a big-name player by merely tossing them eight-digit checks. A worthy addition to Madden 21 would be to bring to life this sort of reputation system. If I continuously win several championships, why do I still have to pay the same amount for a player that a 1-15 team will pay them? The conceptualized system would allow winning franchises to make their status known to players and coaches who simply want to join the bandwagon. I don’t believe any sports title has this, but its one of those real-life matters that developers forget about.

3) League adjustments

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via EA Sports

It’s clear the National Football League is now open to borderline absurd and chaotic changes, all for the betterment of entertainment value. With changes to the playoff bracket, to a seventeen-week schedule, Madden fans shouldn’t have to wait for the next installment to include these changes. Gamers should be able to do that themselves. League adjustments should mirror that of 2K20‘s owners’ meeting, where teams can change divisions and mold tournaments that can be added into the season. Letting players scramble around conferences allows for more competitive Super Bowls and breathing space for teams who, year after year, get bullied by their rivals (looking at you, Miami).

2) Realistic player development

via IGN

There is a strange level of hypocrisy found in Face of the Franchise compared to the tradition mode. Somehow, in the RPG-inspired mode, your character can be drafted in the seventh round and become an MVP. However, in the classic Franchise mode, a user constantly finds busts when drafting past the third round. Of course, fans aren’t begging everyone in a draft to be great, but there’s no such thing as depth in any draft you partake in. If Madden 21 implemented a scouting and drafting system to the level of MLB the Show 20‘s, it would be hailed as one of the best titles in the series. Aside from MLB the Show, number one picks in sports video games always end up being the best. We need a reason to draft an out-of-shape, slow as a snail player, in the vein of seventh-round QB Tom Brady, if the name rings a bell.

1) Complete customization of all teams

When the Raiders decided to leave Oakland in 2018, in favor of Las Vegas, many Madden diehards thought it was an opening for a fully-customizable team recreation function in the series. Instead, Madden 19 and 20 cursed users with a fixed relocation feature: one that pressed users to relocate a team to only one of a dozen cities, with only three team names to choose from for each. Fans have since been crushed been when discovering they cannot relocate a team to their own hometown or select their own team nickname. NBA 2KMLB the Show, and EA’s own NHL series offer this function. It’s the most asked feature for a reason: franchise mode is for those who want to see pipe dreams come true. It’s the only reason why they play it. Although the current puny relocation feature puts enough gas in the tank for a year or two, it’s about time to empower players, by allowing them to govern where each team calls home and even what they call themselves.

Madden 21 will be making waves, whether good or bad, on Aug. 25 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia, as a next-gen version will presumably launch alongside the new consoles.