Calling EA's NFL Head Coach a niche title is an understatement. People who would rather play video-game football than watch from the sidelines are obviously out. So too are the legions of fantasy-football enthusiasts who work off stats posted by real teams every Sunday, and probably have no use for fake stats generated by fake teams run by an AI staff. That leaves only those diehards interested in simulating the day-to-day operations of a professional outfit, from staff meetings to player development to basic accounting. Armchair generals may jump at the chance to run their favorite teams the right way, but there isn't enough beer in the world to swig in the load time between tasks, which themselves are an exercise in tedious repetition. Needless to say, the pressures and thrills of leading a franchise to glory never come close to translating.
In essence, Head Coach is just a more sophisticated version of a feature that already exists on many sports titles, only here you're limited to calling the shots instead of taking them. Career mode starts in preseason, where your newly hired chief has to assemble a battery of coordinators and position coaches, then go through all the steps necessary to assemble a quality team. This includes re-signing restricted free agents, luring unrestricted free agents, scouting unproven talents and players on other teams, making trades, designing plays, preparing for Draft Day, and putting the final squad through training drills and preseason contests. And once you've accomplished all that, you're ready for a season of watching your team execute plays that can be almost entirely dictated by your offensive and defensive coordinators.
Beyond the game: Part of being a head coach is keeping office hours. You have the option to check email, go over documents, or make phone calls, but it's mostly an eerily precise simulation of sitting at your desk and doing nothing.
Worth playing for: You get to wear a fedora, just like Tom Landry.
Frustration sets in when: The load times between each task are inexcusable, but worse yet are the games themselves, which you barely have to orchestrate.
Final judgment: Should that dirty jockstrap be machine-washed or sold on eBay? Coming soon from EA Sports: NFL Towel Boy.