Madden NFL 16 Primer: Why 'Draft Champions' Matters

Why Madden 25 Should Rethink The Play Clock

I'm no scientist, but I don't think cheese is supposed to last this long.
I'm no scientist, but I don't think cheese is supposed to last this long.

While it may sound absurd to make any sort of criticisms about Madden 25 when we’re still months away from release, I think history has shown us that in the case of the play clock, time is often running out too quickly, so it would probably be wise to put our foot in the door before it’s too late.

Madden NFL 25, just like its predecessors, is meant first and foremost to be a representation of the NFL game day experience packed into a video game, and in many ways it delivers on that difficult challenge.

Most notably, Madden players can select plays from full playbooks, customize gameplans, adjust their roster depth chart and many more nuances involved in both managing, and playing the game, and they all go together to create an experience that feels very much like the NFL, even if it’s still a ways away from being perfected.

The thing is, when it comes to simulating the NFL, it’s important to not just replicate what is seen, but understand why it’s seen in the first place and to recognize where adjustments need to be made to accommodate the inherent differences between Madden, and the NFL. In short: There’s one area that EA Sports really needs to consider making changes to, and that’s the time of the play clock. Wait, change the play clock? I can already hear the complaints: “That’s not sim!”

Madden 25 May Have Itself a Math Problem

Madden’s commitment to the 40-second play clock that the NFL utilizes has been a notorious issue in Madden among the hardcore community for years, but it has continued to fly under the radar without much serious complaint. Complaints or not, however, the ability to reserve 40 seconds for play calling would be detrimental to online games in Madden 25, just as it has been for prior editions, and it’s because 40 seconds doesn’t make any sense in a six minute universe.

Real-life NFL games are played with full 15 minute quarters, but online games in Madden are much shorter and for good reason; people simply don’t have the time to invest hours into a single game. But while Madden wisely made the adjustment long ago to make six minute quarters standard in Madden, they forgot to change the play clock along with it. That means the effectiveness of draining the clock on your opponent online is drastically more effective than it should be.

The fact that you can knock 40 seconds off the clock with every play in Madden, means that you can actually consume more than half of a quarter with just one third-down conversion. This often leads to players battling over just one possession each per quarter, which is not only wildly unrealistic, but it makes the coin toss absurdly valuable, as the ability to correctly time your last possession and get the ball at half is significantly enhanced. Compare this to the NFL, where draining the clock in a similar scenario would only consume roughly 20% of a given quarter, and wins and losses are decided on much more than a measly coin toss and one or two drives.

This is such a big problem to not only realism, but also competitive balance, that many online “sim” leagues enforce rules that disallow players from draining the clock until the fourth quarter, just because it’s such a powerful technique that is so not like the NFL, and takes so much fun out of the game for both teams involved.

It’s Time For a Change (Zing! Anyone? Anyone? *snort*)

If Madden 25 wants to make a real improvement to its gameplay, then its designers need to find a way to alter the play clock to something that is suitable for six minute quarters, while also allowing its casual players to pick plays, and of course doing so without compromising Madden’s desire to have quick games. One solution might be to get rid of the accelerated clock idea entirely, and simply shorten the play clock. With the right tuning, the effect could be roughly the same for players and game speed, without actually allowing the play clock to drain inordinate chunks of time.

There may also be a compromise somewhere in there that retains the accelerated clock, but any solution has to have a shorter play clock, because the math just doesn’t add up the way it is now. Adjustable play clocks for online Connected Franchise would be a nice short-term workaround, but really it’s standardized online ranked games that need this sort of change more than anything, since there’s no commissioner looking over your shoulder to police your style of play.

And before anyone who has special access to Madden game statistics tries to make an argument for keeping the play clock based on comparing number of possessions in the NFL versus Madden, let me just tell you to stop right there good sir. The play clock time isn’t necessarily a problem for everyone, but it’s a problem for anyone who plays someone that understands it. High-level Madden ranked contests against these types of players are often just a glorified game of keep away, and not in the “man that’s great ball control” type of way that we praise in the NFL, we’re talking about the “Did I really just play a game?” type of keep away that seriously dilutes the online experience.

The issue of Madden using a 40-second play clock has come up numerous times on various forums for years now, but it’s really about time we sat down and thought about a solution, because it’s not good for the game, it’s certainly not “sim,” and it makes for some really bad puns when I get the itch to write an article about it. And at the end of the day, can’t we all rally around the idea of keeping me away from puns?

What do YOU think Madden 25 should do about the play clock?

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  • Shopmaster

    Good stuff David. I totally agree with what you are saying. I just think there needs to be more commissioner options, because it’s really the area of Online Leagues that guys are complaining about.

    • GoMadden

      Thanks mate! Long time no talk :) More robust features in general for online leagues would be great. I usually played with a friend in a private 1-on-1 franchise each season, but this was the first year I really jumped into the full online leagues side of things. Can never have too many commish options.

  • Eddie

    I also think they need to change the way the clock runs when you do huddle vs hurry up. If you throw a 50 yard pass with around 30 seconds left, it’s faster to huddle up, go to the play book and quickly pick a play then it is to hurry up because your players just start right behind the ball. This completely takes the skill out of a two minute drill. I don’t get why the accel clock is taken off during the last two minutes because that’s when it seems like it would make the game the most realistic where you have to hurry up and keep the same players on the field and get to the line quicker.

  • jd

    The problem is you still have to read and react presnap to the defense IN REAL TIME. So you can’t take too much away from the playclock. One solution would be to have 2 playclocks. A playclock that is for picking your play, and then another that begins counting as you break the huddle. The playcall clock would still result in a 5 yarder if violated, however, the actual clock wouldn’t run. Then, the “true” playclock would begin with time to read the defense and without the ability to drain the time left in the game.

    For example, you could have 10 seconds to pick your play (this time wouldn’t come off the actual clock) then you would have 20 seconds after the huddle breaks to hot route, audible, etc