Madden 21 is finally here.
The #FixMaddenFranchise movement within the community has been growing for years, but it finally exploded this summer.
But EA responded fairly quickly with a roadmap of progress that has been received positively.
The updates won't be there until mid-season, so parking them for a second - what are the key things to do when you start a new franchise in Madden 21?
1. Choose a play style and scheme
There are a few options in the NFL for play style, as well as different schemes.
The biggest choice is whether to play a 3-4 or 4-3 defense.
If you choose to change this from the team you have selected you will have a journey ahead to trade and move players around to fit the defense.
On offense, you need to have a clear plan for whether you will be pass or run-heavy, and what kind of wide receivers you want. Do you need big physical players or fast and agile ones?
FOUNDATIONS: Your entire franchise is built from the Scheme
In Madden, schemes have a big impact on players' development and when they are a scheme fit they get bonus development points.
Depending on the players age, you will need to decide whether they can change style, or if its better to trade away and change the team.
You don't have to play how the team current does, if you want a challenge you can change it up entirely!
2. Acquire multiple user players
There are indications that with changes coverage and pass rush gameplay, that Madden 21 will end the need to user the middle of the field.
The reality is that this is unlikely to be a wholesale move away from what has been the only way to play defense effectively for many years.
Competitive players will be trying to get the fastest players they can in the middle of their defense.
As they are controlling the player, a lot of the stats like zone coverage don't matter. This means they can turn a lowly rated player into a superstar in their defense. And this is without much cap cost.
Look out for players like Troy Apke (FS, Free Agent, 69 OVR), Devin White (MLB. Buccs, 78 OVR), and Devin Bush (MLB, Steelers, 76 OVR). Don't be surprised to see great players trying to sneak a deal for them.
3. Trade away older players on big deals
Franchise mode is a long term proposition.
Not every team is in win-now mode, and the reality is that there are plenty of teams that can't compete because they have given a big deal to a player that hasn't panned out.
BE BRAVE: Dealing a player like Von Miller away will bring in picks just at the peak of his value
Take a look and cut any dead wood. Particularly those over 30 who will be regressing each year. Often its better to deal with a cut situation early, or trade them away and get something for them.
Don't be afraid to face a losing season or two to set yourself up to win it all in season three or four.
4. Set your depth chart with positional substitutions
In franchise mode once you have dealt with players coming in and out, you need to sort your team out for the season.
Now you have clarity on your play styles and you know who you have available, you can put the puzzle together in the depth chart.
A lot of players will auto fill the depth chart, but think about what players you want in different scenarios - the overall rating isn't always the best option.
What is very important is going into the formation subs and being clear who you want in what situation.
This is one of the areas Madden actually has implemented some detail, and its often overlooked.
You can see every formation and choose certain players to play those formations. Of course, this can be done during the game, but this saves time with the default.
You might choose to introduce a better pass rushing OLB to a formation which is heavy in blitzing, whilst having a run stopper in your base run stopping formations.
5. Plan the next two years of contracts
The final stage of planning before you get stuck into games is to plan ahead.
Success in the NFL is a lot to do with timing. And whilst EA has committed to improving this aspect of the game, contracts are hard to manipulate in Madden.
On the plus side, they historically haven't been difficult to manage. But you need to have clarity of which players are going to need resigning this year and next.
Then be clear about which you want to keep, and roughly how much is it going to cost.
There's nothing worse than losing a star, or having to dismantle your team to pay them.