The history of the NFL is peppered with tales of hyperactive head coaches sleeping overnight in their offices, drawing up crazy plays, and building championship clubs from the ashes of decrepit teams. NFL Head Coach from EA Sports allows you to experience this rather unique lifestyle; whether or not the activities that make up the job are more interesting than, say, your current employment situation is another question.
Head Coach is a freakishly in-depth sports simulator. The emphasis is on "sim," since you won’t be flicking Hit Sticks or mashing turbo buttons here. The term "micromanagement" may be an understatement when it comes to describing the game; there's hardly an aspect of your team that is not under your direct control. Everything that happens - whether those things turn out to be good or bad - is attributed to you.
Preparing a team to be ready for the rigors of the NFL is one ginormous effort. The first thing you need to do is get hired. Once you're in the door, if you don't like your assistants, you can simply fire their sorry butts. After the smoke clears from that, you’ve got to meet with your owner, scouts, and coaching staff regularly (not to mention hire some replacements), sign players by negotiating with slimy agents, and manage the salary cap. There's even an email inbox to keep up with (as if your real life inbox isn't already jammed full).
After a few hours getting your house in order, it's time for the NFL Draft, with ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. on hand to mock your selections. Choosing players can be nervewracking, but that's part of the fun. Next up is training camp, when you've got to choose which plays to practice and the players to run them, then yell at them when they screw 'em up. Choose wisely, since what you practice drives chances of success when you eventually get around to game time.
Thankfully, NFL Head Coach allows "fast-forwarding" of sorts through the most mundane of tasks, although your scouts and coaches are liable to royally botch things when serious oversight isn't provided. If you've been unlucky enough to sign with a lousy team, it's an especially bad idea to delegate many of your responsibilities.
When the season finally does gets started, you'll be coaching your squad in actual games represented by the Madden engine. The dynamics can be tricky, just as they likely are on real NFL sidelines. Do you encourage your quarterback who's stinking up the joint, only to leave your completely befuddled assistant coach to call a few plays while doing so? Now we know why all coaches go gray. Sadly, afterwards there are no postgame press conferences to scream profanities at writers who ask stupid questions.
The PC version of the game is the most tailored to an enjoyable NFL Head Coach experience. It just feels like it was meant for a computer; pointing and clicking through the myriad options and menus is much easier than fumbling with a controller. Also, while Head Coach isn't a particularly graphics-intensive title, there's no denying that the PC version is easier on the eyes. It doesn't take a souped-up hot rod of a machine to run the game smoothly, either. So long as you don't get freaked out by the whole computer-within-a-computer vortex dynamic, executing commands with a keyboard and mouse is definitely the way to go.
Chances are that NFL Head Coach won't cure your football jones unless heavy-duty statistical simulators are up your alley. On the other hand, there's so much to do - and gobs of hours that can be invested - that it's likely to keep fantasy football maniacs going for months (or at least until the next Madden comes out). Just be prepared to spend more time at the office than you ever have before.