Detroit Lions campaign in Football Mogul, part 1

I’m taking control of a team that is arguably more pathetic than the New York Jets, who last won the Super Bowl in 1969 and have only 2 AFC title game losses since. Who could that be? The Cleveland Browns? No, there are teams with worse modern records than the Browns. The Arizona Cardinals? They were just in the Super Bowl. The New Orleans Saints? Let’s see what the Drew Brees era nets first.

The correct answer is the Lions. Since the AFL-NFL merger, the Detroit Lions have won only one playoff game. One. That was 1991, the year they lost to the Redskins in the NFC Championship Game. A shame really. We were robbed of a run-and-shoot-no-huddle Super Bowl between the Lions and Buffalo Bills. The over/under would’ve been 120.

Oh, the Detroit “Portsmouth Spartans” Lions. Three championships in the 50s. A single playoff win since. The only team to go 0-16. Shameful. I have to help them. I’m taking off my Jets hat and loading a default 2009 season in Football Mogul 2010.

The addition of past AFL-NFL merger historical teams is incredibly good fun, but my focus is here and now with the winless Detroit Lions. Right away, I’m miffed that, as the new GM/team president, I’m coming in after the draft. It’s always been this way in Football Mogul. In Baseball Mogul, it makes sense to start with the season because the draft isn’t a big deal in baseball. In football, it’s everything. For a game to hand you the reins of an NFL franchise but wait until September to do so is just strange. Give me the option, at least, of starting a non-historical 2009 in which I can run my own draft. I feel like my first year as GM is wasted. I would’ve drafted Matthew Stafford anyway, so I’m not too upset.

One of my goals for the season (something I do in all my Mogul games) is to get my scouting and medical departments up to par. Scouting is a no-brainer, but getting the medical stuff from D to A-level would help minimize injuries. I never carry a lot of depth on my rosters, so keeping my starters healthy will be a priority in seasons to come (roster depth is always a casualty of the salary cap). I also drop ticket prices for the ailing Detroit economy (hint, hint, Roger Goodell and your blackout policy).

Ticket prices. Notice I forgot to take a screen pic of this until the 2010 season.

Ticket prices. Notice I forgot to take a screen pic of this until the 2010 season.

I also tweaked my concession stand prices. Yes, really. Stop laughing.

I also tweaked my concession stand prices. Yes, really. Stop laughing.

Tweaking scouting and medical staff expenses.

Tweaking scouting and medical staff expenses.

I scan the free agents and add a few bodies to my dreadful roster and begin the season hoping to progress Stafford as an everyday QB. I’ve got an okay O-line, good receivers, but not much else. In his first game, Stafford throws for 3TDs, and the Lions break their horrendous losing streak. So far, so good. Then we lose to the Vikings twice and the Bears on the way to a 4-6 record after 10 games. Not bad. I have dreams of 8-8. Then Julian Peterson gets a broken back and I lose all three starting linebackers to injury. I finish the season 5-11. Maybe Lou Holtz will write us a fight song like he did with the Jets in 1976, answering the question, “What rhymes with Lions?” Scions? Mayans?

15 games into the 2009 Detroit Lions campaign. 5-10.

15 games into the 2009 Detroit Lions campaign. 5-10.

I simulate games, but you do have the option of putting on the headset and calling plays on both sides of the ball. I’ve tried it, and it’s not bad, but this isn’t Madden. You want to call the plays? You want complete control? Play Madden. Football Mogul is at its best as a GM simulator. There is some middle ground. You can pick your base defensive set (4-3 or 3-4). You can create or modify plays in your playbook. You can alter the run/pass balance of your offense. But when it comes to individual games, I’d rather simulate them. It saves a lot of time, focuses on the strength of the game, and allows me to build a dynasty over 20 or 30 years rather than micromanage two or three seasons’ worth of individual games.

What the game is missing, is hiring/firing a coaching staff. Give me a head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator. Give me four stats for each: motivation, development, running game, passing game. Let those stats provide small modifiers in-game (and modify the development of players in the off-season). Keep track of their coaching records and titles as both a head coach and coordinator. Give me the option of promoting or hiring a coordinator as a new head coach. Give me a small pool of three or four coaching assistants who may or may not graduate into coordinators.

I also miss the situation sliders from Baseball Mogul. I could pick tendencies regarding pitch counts, base stealing, bunting, the hit-and-run, etc. I’d like that included in Football Mogul. How often does my team throw on third-and-short? How often does my team substitute fresh bodies on defense?

These are relatively small complaints. What Sports Mogul honcho Clay Dreslough gets right most about Football Mogul (and Baseball Mogul) is how well he paints the broad strokes. There are certainly details that one might want to be added in future versions. Do I want hiring/firing of coaches? Situation sliders? Tracking of player awards (see Part 2)? Finer control of player salaries? Yes, four times. Yet no matter how much I pine for these things, I’ve still enjoyed the hell out of this game for years. At its core, Clay has built a game that is simply fun. While I know there are fans for whom the minutiae of salary cap manipulation could never be too precisely modeled in a game, Football Mogul’s compromise on complexity hits the sweet spot for me. It’s complex enough to get sucked in to tweaking ticket prices and determining salary bonuses, but not so complex that I can’t run two or three seasons in an evening.

2009 season leaders. Notice there are no Lions.

2009 season leaders. Notice there are no Lions.

In my 2009 season, Stafford completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,275 yards, 24 TDs and 16 interceptions. The Chargers beat the Giants in the Super Bowl, and Dallas finished with 4 wins (suck it, Jerry Jones).

Next, my first offseason. Part 2.

Played on Football Mogul 2010 with NFL team graphics added.

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