Posted on September 12, 2011 at 4:55 PM
Tuesday, Sep 13 at 8:57 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Cam Newton played a great game Sunday afternoon. Not exactly Bo Jackson in Tecmo Super Bowl great, but still great.
Newton, Carolina’s rookie quarterback, threw for 422 yards in his first NFL regular season game, breaking a record set by Otto Graham in 1950. His stock may have gone up in the eyes of Panthers fans, but his rating will also go up in a more tangible way: from 77 to 81 on Madden NFL ’12.
In that video game, players are rated on a scale of 0 to 100. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, for example, is a 99. Rookies are rated lower than veterans simply because they’re unproven, says Donny Moore, EA Sports’ Madden NFL Ratings Czar (he has that on his business card).
Newton, the number one overall pick, didn’t exactly have the Czar’s toes a’tapping at first. Cam didn’t crack Madden’s list of the top ten rookies. As we’ve learned from Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, people who come up with ratings don’t always get it right.
Before this week, Newton’s best attribute, according to Madden ’12, was his throwing power (94). His weakest was awareness (49). Yesterday, Newton won rave reviews for his poise. He hit his targets consistently, completing 24 of 37 passes. Moore says Newton’s accuracy rating will go up across the board. Madden ’12 will now consider him to be a better quarterback than Donovan McNabb.
All of this surprised the Czar and EA Sports’ team of guys who sit around, week after week, digesting statistics and watching football to diagnose how good NFL players really are.
“I think people were expecting [Newton’s] ground game to lead the way,” said Moore. “And then we all went 'whoa,' this guy is looking like a legit passing quarterback.”
Moore calls Newton’s four-point jump “significant.”
He’s not the only guy whose ratings went up. Steve Smith, who caught two touchdown passes and picked up 178 yards on Sunday, will go from 89 to 91. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell’s rating will increase from 71 to 73. The biggest ratings jumps tend to go to unproven players who prove themselves. Houston’s Arian Foster was a fourth-string running back last year before he exploded on to the scene. Over the course of the season, his Madden rating went from a 67 to a 92.
(Not that we’re bragging, by the way, but this is the only place you’ll find the updated ratings before they’re available for gamers to download on Friday. Here at NewsChannel 36, we’re looking out for you and your Madden team.)
Moore got his job by winning an NCAA Football 2000 tournament on the Playstation. EA Sports saw him play, and decided to hire him as a tester. Now 33 years old, he spends his Sundays at sports bars in Orlando, Fla., because you can watch more games there than you could ever hope to at home. He takes a huge notepad with him and fills it with notes.
He watched Sunday’s game and picked out Newton’s 77 yard touchdown pass to Smith as a high point. But he says a player’s rating can just as easily go down. Running back DeAngelo Williams, for example, will drop from 89 to 88 after rushing for 30 yards against the Cardinals. Moore’s not sure if his team underrated Newton, or if Arizona’s secondary was just plain soft.
And yes, he says, in most cases, one game doesn’t make all that much of a difference.
“But in the case of a guy named Cam Newton,” he says, “it does.”