For Kevin Stefanski, playing Madden has helped prepare him to become the Cleveland Browns’ head coach. Stefanski appeared on the latest episode of Pardon My Take and discussed how the new and younger generation of coaches are more prepared to handle in-game management thanks to their days booting up Madden on PlayStation or Xbox. Here’s what he told hosts PFT Commenter and “Dan Big Cat” Katz.
“I grew up playing Madden,” Stefanski told the show. “I really believe our generation is maybe a little bit better at game management. Because we’ve done that. We know when we’re down ten, I’m going to kick the field goal now, then I’m going to get the onside. I gotta get the seven later. I do think all those games, I know it’s silly, but I do think it all helps when it comes to game management.”
Stefanski, 40, is part of that younger wave of coaches. Hired in 2020 to be the Browns’ head coach, he has a career regular season record of 26-24. The last two seasons have been disappointments but he’s helped turn Cleveland around into less of a laughingstock, taking them to the playoffs in 2020 and upsetting Pittsburgh on the road during Wild Card weekend.
Like other younger coaches, Stefanski is heavy into analytics, a staple of the organization that includes GM and Harvard grad, Andrew Berry. In 2022, the Browns were second in the NFL in 4th down attempts in the first three quarters, 21 over the course of the season. Only the Detroit Lions’ 23, led by 46 year-old Dan Campbell, had more.
Mike Tomlin has been rightfully criticized for poor in-game management. An old-school coach, he didn’t grow up on games like Madden quite the way names like Stefanski and the Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay did. By the time Madden got really popular and fairly realistic, Tomlin was in his 30s and essentially already in the NFL, hired by Tony Dungy in 2001. Stefanski was still in college.
Though his comment might sound odd on the surface, there’s truth in what Stefanski has to say. Playing Madden for a decade has real-life skills. It won’t turn you into a head coach (as an avid Madden player from 2005 to 2009, I’m proof of that) but it’s an early way for football fans to think about and manage the game.
Video games have been used to keep coaches sharp in other sports. Baseball simulation computer game Out of the Park has been used by managers to handle in-game situations and create mock events. During the COVID pandemic in 2020, Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli played the game in an attempt to test strategies and play out scenarios before the baseball season resumed.
“In an attempt to stay mentally sharp during the downtime while acclimating to a new staff, Baldelli, his Twins coaches, and several advanced scouts and front office members used the simulation nearly a dozen times to experience game situations and decision-making scenarios while baseball was in the middle of its COVID-19 shutdown.”
And if anyone reading this plays OOTP, let us know in the comments below because Joe Clark and I are the only two people I know who actually love that game.
Unfortunately, Madden isn’t the game it once was. Thanks to EA’s exclusive license, it’s still the king of football games, but the product has suffered in recent years with bland features, few upgrades, and the game generally being a buggy mess that seems to get worse every year.
So if Madden helped Stefanski call plays, then I imagine the head coaches of the future who grew up on the game will get really good at buying MUT Packs and have in-depth knowledge on how to deploy DJ Khaled.
Check out the entire interview with Stefanski below.