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Madden Shapes My Bears Artificial Intelligence

The D-Day this year is August 10, 2010. The actual NFL season doesn't start until September, but more players will report that week than the 1,696 that will be contracted to each team. It's so cliché to talk about “Madden Mania” and how many people occupy their time with the game, but you can't deny the force it has become.

Being the zealous Chicago Bears fan that I am, I can't help but choose them as my team to play with no matter how bad they may suck in a given season. We all know that this game has a way of making you stare the truth square in the face. It's hard to tell yourself that your favorite team isn't that bad when your backup QB (Caleb Haney) has an overall rating under 50 and your most dependable and versatile defensive player (Israel Idonije) has a rating under 65.

The EA Sports people aren't the end-all, be-all authorities on NFL talent, but be honest: Don't you trust them more than the current Chicago Bears brain trust?

A new Madden football game is crafted each and every year with each version better than the next. The people who are in charge of all of this work very hard to make things seem as close to realistic as humanly possible. The ratings are just their perception on the Chicago Bears team but in life most times perception equals reality.


Idonije has to be worth more than a 65 rating right?
Almost all Bears fans will tell you that Izzy deserves a higher rating but EA Sports see upwards of 125 million each year in the first month alone so they are invested in putting out a thorough and accurate product for their consumers.

Anyone who has ever tried completing an entire season in franchise mode knows how addicting this game is. Dreams of playing in Soldier's Field have been replaced with dreams of being one of the best Madden players in the world (according to EA Sports online ranking system of course). Instant gratification is the name of the game these days and instead of seething over a misused timeout, fans can turn on their game system (preferably PS3) and play that particular game the way it should have been played!

So all of this leads me to a big question: Who knows more about our Chicago Bears?

Nothing but nothing beats a good football skirmish. Who can put together a better game plan? Who knows the personnel the best? Who can make the better adjustments for the 2011 season? The battle is on: Chicago Bears Coaches vs. EA Sports!

C'mon, you never thought to yourself, “if only Lovie coached the team like I play this game...”

Of course this “battle” I speak of is totally facetious; there's no real way of breaking down the intelligence of the Bears coaches against the artificial intelligence (game players of course get the paronomasia) of the Tiburon/EA Sports people but certain things do make me wonder...

1. Is Change is for the better? In the game, you can change Jarron Gilbert's position from DT to DE and see his potential skyrocket so much that within 3-5 years you have a viable Hall Of Famer on your hands. Do they know something that the coaches don't? Gilbert came out of college as a guy who mostly played end, but spent time at both positions. Is DE his best spot?

2. Do You Move Tillman? The fan-flamed “Move Tillman To Safety” sentiment doesn't make that big of a difference. It's basically a lateral change that adds no real value to your team and weakens you at corner, which is a much more important position than safety. The coaches and upper management have always been reluctant to make that move, and according to Madden they are right (unless you can get another cornerback close to Tillman's skill level).

3. What Do You Do About Punting? Brad Maynard sucks. The eye test tells us that he is generally pretty good and just makes a few key mistakes now-and-then but Madden says he is terrible and a change is needed now. His price tag is too high for someone who doesn't have enough power to kickoff as well as punt. Punters who make over 1.2 million have to be able to do more than kick 40 punts that net 26 yards. Not sure if the coaches feel the same way though; damn that eye test.

4. Is There An Omiyale Debate? Frank Omiyale is a nurse around your salary cap's throat. He would be great as a backup because of his versatility but at over 3 million per season you are paying him to be a starter (and a damn good one) but he never lives up to his potential. He has a lengthy contract and when looking to lighten your cap load he looks enticing, but the cap penalty you would take for cutting him isn't worth it. Madden says you are stuck with him which means Jerry Angelo made a huge mistake with this signing.

5. Is Hester is better at returning than receiving? A number one receiver is desperately needed. With the game's intelligence improving, the glaring need for someone who can catch in traffic and get separation is obvious. The receivers get better in 2 or 3 years (except for Hester) but if you want any semblance of a passing game you better trade the house and pick up a top-flight guy to move the chains. Hester makes a ton of money which is fine as long as he is returning 4-6 kicks back for you each year (in both worlds).

Too involved doesn't begin to describe my relationship with this franchise (in both worlds). Sports video game makers are just visual pundits. They are giving an opinion and allowing you to add your two cents for your overall entertainment. Madden has turned armchair quarterbacks into joystick general managers. The game certainly gives you a lot of things to think about and analyze, doesn't it?

Lovie and his staff are at a stated disadvantage having to fly by the seat of their pants, essentially making decisions on the run. Whatever decisions they make come after watching thousands of hours of film and dissecting each and every player on an ongoing basis; we have to live and die with their assessments.

Conversely, if there is something we don't like about the game we can change it, turn of the system, or just start a new game. Sadly, there's no rewind for the decisions Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith make or a new franchise would have been started roughly after Devin Hester's position change. Knowing full well that the game isn't real, confliction consumes me as the realization that my faith is entrusted more in a game's IQ than that of humans who do this stuff for a living.

Damn that eye test!


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