Video game football is not like the real deal played in the NFL in fall. In Madden, for example, you’ll see players go for two much more often than you would in the NFL, and games are often see more points than you would in a typical NFL matchup. Saturday’s Madden Bowl, however, saw one of the most fascinating departures from real football we’ve ever had.
Namely, that the best Madden player in the world didn’t throw a single pass in route to winning the tournament. Saturday saw Raidel “Joke” Brito win $65,000 and a Madden belt for his efforts in the annual tournament where he executed a run-only strategy and had Washington punter Tress Way serve as his quarterback, handing the ball off every offensive play en route to a 17-0 win in the final.
As ESPN’s Arda Ocal layed out in detail, the Madden Bowl has a different setup than most of the games you might play against friends. Teams are assembled fantasy football-style, with a salary cap limiting players from getting too stacked a team. But if you don’t value the pass and don’t pick a top quarterback, you can use those assets to build a solid team everywhere else.
Joke did not throw a single pass in the entire tournament, taking advantage of the run-focused meta of the game and his skill to create a championship-winning formula. In the tournament, players crafted their rosters in a salary-cap system, with current and former NFL players available. Joke used this to his advantage, opting not to field a true quarterback in his lineup; Washington Redskins punter Tress Way was under center.
This freed up funds for Joke to go after strong offensive and defensive players with special abilities, such as Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark, a power specialist, and former NFL safety Taylor Mays, a secure tackler. Joke chose the run-dominant Raiders offensive playbook and the widely popular Miami Dolphins defensive playbook to put it all together.
It’s an extremely risky strategy, of course, but Brito is a talented Madden player who clearly made it work. He’d finished at the top of various tournaments all season, and put it all together this weekend to take belt. It was a particularly emotional tournament for Brito, who dedicated the win to Taylor “SpotMe” Robertson, a Madden player and friend who was killed in a tragic shooting at a Madden event in Florida. This year, due to COVID-19, the tournament took place entirely online.