Posted: January 24, 2009
As the playoffs wind to their inevitable end in Tampa, there are fewer games but they each get better. The emotion in a lot of football fans is bittersweet; like realizing you've only got one last Christmas present to open and it's shaped like dress socks. But there's something else going on right now: the people working on Madden NFL '10 solidifying their opinions on how players should be rated in next year's game and it turns out there's some movement at the top.
The "99" rating in Madden means you're perfect, you define the position you play. When Madden 09 launched there were only six perfect players: Antonio Gates, Bob Sanders, LaDainian Tomlinson, Randy Moss, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. They make the Pro Bowl annually and their teams always have a couple of playoff games at the end of the year. By the time the 2008 regular season ended, Gates, Sanders and Tomlinson, through roster updates, were stripped of their 99's and banished to the high 90's with other "slackers" like Ed Reed and Carolina's Steve Smith.
Johnathan Crankshaw is a producer on Madden and describes himself as the one ultimately responsible for player ratings in the game. He's not the ratings dictator so much as he's the final word on who gets what. It seems Tomlinson's slippage is an event not taken lightly.
"People have been upset with LaDainian holding his 99 up until this week (early January). People have been calling for it to go down since the middle of the year because he wasn't playing as well," says Crankshaw. "And there's lots of reasons why he's not playing well: he's banged up, he doesn't have his All-Pro fullback Lorenzo Neal, the line isn't as good. There's all sorts of factors as to why he's not that elite LT that we all know."
In recent years player were suddenly able to earn a perfect 100 in a specific ratings category like speed (Devin Hester) or agility (Reggie Bush) because there are a lot of fast and agile players in the league. And these factor into the overall rating depending on how crucial that skill is to the position. This is why the 99 overall rating is so elusive. It means a player excels at everything an athlete needs to succeed at his position. History plays a part as well. Tomlinson, Brady and Manning are almost grandfathered into the 99 club after having been so good for so long.
Tomlinson's subpar (for him) season of 1,110 rushing yards an 11 TDs is going to cost him in Madden '10.
"Now that the year is over, we kind of have a chance to look at all the running backs. I definitely have Adrian Peterson ahead of him as far as running backs going by feel and his athleticism. He's the number one back now. So dropping (Tomlinson) from 99 to 97 was kind of to make that Adrian Peterson's spot at the top."
If you want to point a finger at somebody besides Crankshaw or Tomlinson himself you can always lay the blame for LT's ratings reduction on the good 'ol interwebs. Madden boasts one of the most vocal and involved communities in all of video games and their opinions matter eventually.
"If it's very overwhelming, then yeah, I might not be seeing the same thing that they're seeing. Like with Tomlinson, I still had him at a 99, I thought there were all these different factors. You eventually do it because it seems like this overwhelming majority opinion," explains Crankshaw."The homer fan and people who come with this outlandish stuff you kind of take that with a grain of salt. But people who put together an hour or two of information into it you kind of go okay, that's a valid point"
So then let the campaign for Larry Fitzgerald's 99 in '10 begin. He's had enough memorable catches in the playoffs to recruit the nonbelievers and the ignorant, he came into Madden 09 rated at a 97 before ending as a 98 and Randy Moss took a step back in 2008 without Tom Brady feeding him excellence.
We'll have more on Madden NFL '10 including rosters and ratings in the coming weeks and months because we love this stuff too.