NFL Head Coach Review

Football sims have been around for quite some time, but they’ve always been for football fans with a strong affection for number crunching. With interfaces that are essentially souped-up spreadsheets, these games delivered hands-on control of a pro football franchise but did so at the cost of all of the on-field action that makes the sport so much fun to watch. NFL Head Coach changes all of that. You’ll get to do most things that you’ve only been able to do in the sims before such as negotiate salaries, sign free agents, draft new players, and put together a winning football team. While it’s not necessarily as deep as some of the sports management sims out there, it certainly looks the best.

Your first step as an NFL coach is to get yourself hired by a team. Basically you answer a series of multiple choice questions that determine your coaching style and philosophy in order to set your coach’s attributes. You can pick the team that you want to coach, interview with the owner, and expect to receive an offer from that team. You’ll also receive offers from a few other teams so you have the option of going with your first choice or one of the other teams that offers up a contract.

Once you begin your new coaching career you’ll quickly learn that your activities are directed by a rigorous weekly schedule. Each day is broken into blocks of time in which you are allowed to work on one particular task, be it to design plays, meet with your assistants, scout free agents, or negotiate contracts. In each of these you’ll receive a limited number of actions that you can use, so if you’re in a contract negotiation phase you may be limited to speaking with a maximum of three players. Even in your non-structured time blocks which the game calls “office hours” you’ll be limited to only a few actions and be barred from others which have their own phases such as scouting or calling up another team’s GM to propose a trade. I suppose that the game is doing this to simulate the amount of time a real head coach has to put into such activities, but in a game it’s a bit tiresome not to mention time consuming. The first time I played the game it took me well over two hours just to get through the free agent signing period, and this happens even before the draft! The game does allow you to skip ahead through time and let the sim take care of everything that you bypassed. You can even sip everything and go straight to opening day if you want, but if you do this then you probably shouldn’t be playing the game in the first place.

All but the most diehard of players will find themselves wanting to skip ahead a week or two here and there. It can get to be tedious at times to have to repeat the same tasks over and over again when there’s not all that much to do, especially when you have to face a load screen between each task and listen to the same songs over and over again from the game’s very limited list of stock NFL Films fanfares. However, taking the automated sim route has some big risks involved as the injury frequency goes through the roof during the sim sessions and the game seems to enjoy ravaging your starting lineup during these times.

Once you get past the contract negotiations, free agent signings, and draft, it’s time to take your team to training camp. Training camp is time to practice, practice, practice and that’s just what you’ll do. At various times you’ll run everything from one and one drills to full-contact plays and in each case you’ll be able to select the players or strings involved. Giving a player more practice time will result in a boost to his stats and running the same play over and over will turn it into one of your team’s key plays. After each drill or play you’ll have the opportunity to address individual players or your whole squad – basically you’ll be given the choice between yelling at the players and providing them with words of encouragement. Different players will react differently to each approach as signified by little plus or minus sign icons above their heads. Unfortunately the reactions don’t seem to be very consistent and it is frustrating to see a minus sign appear over the head of a player who has responded well to the last several encouraging things that you’ve had to say. It is also rather unclear as to how the plus and minus signs really change anything or affect the players’ performance, but it also seems to be perfectly fine to save some time and not bother with the whole thing.


Also reviewed on:
  •  · PlayStation 2 
  •  · Xbox