3) Madden 08 San Diego Chargers
If you didn’t have tall receivers in Madden 08 you were, as the great Jim Ross used to say, a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest. It was extremely easy to “strafe catch” in that year’s game. You threw lob passes up to your receiver, held down the strafe and catch buttons, and watched the magic happen. The animations available to the receivers vastly outweighed those of the defensive backs.
This, like Madden 09, let users throw passes into traffic with virtually zero worry of an interception. Some may argue that the Patriots from Madden 08 deserve this spot because of Randy Moss, but no team exploited these circumstances like the Chargers. Their towering trio of Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, and Antonio Gates brought back memories of the Air Coryell days for users.
When it came time to stop the jump ball offenses you needed to have tall defensive backs. The Chargers were prepared on this front too with 6’2 Antonio Cromartie, who could also be subbed in as a spot receiver from time to time. In fact, it was better in the game to use tall receivers as defensive backs than actual defensive backs. The game has thankfully come a long way since then.
2) Madden 09-Madden 11 Oakland Raiders
This is sure to cause some head scratching outside of the Madden eSports community.
It is the only spot on this list occupied by multiple teams. Towards the end of Al Davis’ life he was accused of losing touch with what it took to build a successful team. This was not an unfair statement judging by the Raiders win-loss record and draft outcomes in those years. Davis always went after whatever players were tall and fast no matter how the rest of their attributes looked.
This led to misery for real life Oakland fans but 1985 Bears-esque dominance in Madden.
Before Madden 12, all that really mattered in the game was speed and height when it came to receivers and defensive backs. Ratings like “route running” and “awareness” were just there for show. Players like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford could dominate defenses as if they were Fred Biletnikoff.
For quarterback ratings, all that really mattered was throwing power and mobility. This turned the likes of JaMarcus Russell into a faster version of 1984 Dan Marino.
The secondary featured a young Nnamdi Asomugha who was tall, fast, and also great in real life during those years. Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt provided depth at corner with both standing over 6’1 and having blazing speed.
Then you have the curious case of Darrick Brown — a legend wrapped in a myth wrapped in a masked vigilante in hardcore Madden circles.
Brown’s career spanned just three seasons in the NFL, but he may go down as the greatest user controlled deep safety in Madden history. After all, if you are controlling the player, all A.I. ratings in the game go out the window. Awareness? Pshaw. Play recognition? Who cares? Not Raiders users.
He stood 6’4 and despite never breaking through in the league, was given leaping and catching ability similar to that of a taller Ronnie Lott. It may have been due to things like this. It all came to an end with Madden 12 when the EA development team started making other player ratings a larger factor in the game. Before that, though, the Raiders were a digital dynasty.
1) Madden 04 Atlanta Falcons
How could I put any other team here? Michael Vick took his place alongside Tecmo Super Bowl’s Bo Jackson as the most dominant football video game athletes in history.
After a breakout season in 2002, Vick was given a 99 speed rating in Madden entering the 2003 season. His athleticism and throw power were literally impossible to contain for a number of reasons. One is that defensive hotroutes, quarterback contain, and quarterback spy assignments did not yet exist in the game. Defensive hotroutes give users the ability to change the defensive assignment of an individual player without changing the entire play. In Madden 04, though, you were stuck with whatever play art the game gave you.
Vick’s dominance single-handedly caused huge defensive innovations the following year in Madden 05. It was the equivalent of Wilt Chamberlain’s 1961-62 season in which he averaged 50 and 26. It created an urgent necessity for rules and new features the game never knew it needed.
Users would resort to manually lining up their defensive ends ten yards outside of the tackles in order to achieve pseudo QB containment in Madden 04.
Competitive tournaments that year featured nothing but Falcons v. Falcons matchups.
If you didn’t play as them you were pretty much attacking The Death Star in a World War I biplane.
Besides Vick, the team featured a more than adequate thunder and lighting rushing duo of Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett.
Although a decent player in real life, Finneran was greatly enhanced by the nuances of Madden 04. As a tall receiver who was not rated highly enough to have access to special catching animations, users could trigger wonky jumping catches with the receiver that negated the game’s defensive back’s ability to stop them. Add the speedy Peerless Price on the other side and you have a well oiled Madden offense even without Vick.
With him, though, you have the greatest Madden team of all time.
Jonathan Delozier writes for The Oberlin News Tribune and The Wellington Enterprise in Northeast Ohio. Follow him on Twitter @jondeloz or @DelozierNews