The story behind Madden’s rating system

In a beautifully-orchestrated article, FiveThirtyEight documents the life of Donny Moore, the man responsible for pairing ratings with NFL players in a franchise worth $4 billion over its existence of 26 years.

Marshawn Lynch quandered about his sub-99 trucking speed and Cam Newton evaluated his speed rating and took it up with Moore personally, saying, “I want to talk about my speed.”

Although leading all quarterbacks in total rushing yards (583) for the 2013 season, Moore designated Newton as the ninth-fastest field general in the pool of Madden quarterbacks.

Playing the role as a Ratings Czar to EA Sport’s Madden, Donny Moore assigns 40 numerical grades that spans 2,600 NFL players.

In a licensing agreement that occurred in 2005 between Madden and the NFL, the league allowed EA Sports sole possession of teams, players and stadiums to use in the franchise.

On a week-to-week basis and in synchronization with the NFL’s current season, Moore re-visits and edits his database of Madden players to simulate reality, despite the 5 million Madden gamers who instruct a player’s actions through a controller.

Other than receiving assistance from Madden’s cosmetics engineer, Moore fiddles with 100,000 player attributes as a lone wolf.

And with the evolution of a data heavy generation, managing a library of numbers and their assignments, Madden has eclipsed other franchises in being the most sophisticated.

Divulging in a system of player personnel, Moore eyes Madden’s future rating system with even more in-depth analysis, such as a long-snapping attribute. And while the challenge of updating veteran players and creating a new spreadsheet for rookies is hair raising, gamers are granted access to live roster updates via the Xbox and PlayStation networks.

Donny Moore on his sources for obtaining proper measuring sticks for statistics:

“The big factor during the season is stat-based. The advanced metric sites like Pro Football Focus, like the Football Outsiders, this guy named Ryan Riddle — [a] former NFL player who actually does a blog that has a lot of great information — those types of things bring out the snap-by-snap look on a player. And that, to me, gives a truer look in terms of a player’s value, rather than the conventional ‘how many receiving yards’ or ‘what was the completion percentage for the quarterback.’”

Madden’s Grading System – Offense / Defense

The Case of Walter Hickey

“I was on the 50-yard line, trying to make sense of the long slant route ahead of me. My debut was not going well. I was winded, slightly dehydrated and kicking myself after a day of mediocre runs and failed catches. The next pass was my last chance to impress, and I knew the cameras would be on me. When I heard “hike,” I took off. Eight yards out, I saw the ball above in a spiral. I jumped for it pitifully … and hit the ground. The ball was not in my arms.

Before that pass, I knew I wasn’t cut out for the NFL. But when it sailed over my head, something else became clear: I was barely cut out for a video-game facsimile of the league.

I was in Orlando with a crew of people who work on Madden, EA Sports’ premier football simulation, because I, like many obnoxious New York Giants fans, once had a fleeting moment of hubris. Sometime during QB Eli Manning’s 97 interceptions over the past five years, I thought: “Christ, even I could throw a better pass than that.”

I cannot throw a better pass than that. Yet there was a sort of perverse appeal to the damage I’d bring to the Giants if I were swapped with Manning. What would happen if a schlub like me played in a league as unforgiving as the NFL?”

In a game that spanned from 1974 to 1999, the weight of rookie offensive linemen inflated by 24 percent.

Below is a chart, where the y-axis (player’s weight) and the x-axis (year) represent the upward correlation of an offensive linemen’s weight between 1941 and 2013.

Walter Hickey continuing his experience on entering the Madden realm:

“And shockingly, the people behind Madden were willing to turn me into a guinea pig. All I had to do was give them 36 hours and sit in front of a panopticon of cameras, and they’d turn my corporeal self into a digital one”.

“But I wanted my avatar to at least get a point on the board, at least complete a couple of passes, and at least lead a team to one victory over several simulations (even if I broke an interception record for good measure). I wanted to show that the average dude could survive the rigors of the NFL”.

Walter Hickey recorded 6.75 seconds in the 40-yard dash and completed the three-cone drill in 10.22 seconds. As for his throwing arm, Hickey didn’t notch any noteworthy numbers over two pass completions worth 20 yards and called his throwing pattern an “often loose spiral.”

After his invitation to Moore’s office for evaluation, Hickey finished his trip in Florida with a Madden score of 12 – the second lowest score in Madden 2015 (41 – LS Carson Tinker of the Jaguars).

Walter Hickey’s Madden Score by Position

After announcing his retirement from EA Sports as a Ratings Czar, Moore opted out to join emerging fantasy league outlet, FanDuel. Moore logged in 16 years and it is expected Madden 2015 will be his last involvement with EA Sports.

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