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NFL Head Coach needs more practice

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Gamers expecting "NFL Head Coach" to be the coaches' version of "Madden NFL 07" will be disappointed.

The popular Madden franchise has had over a decade of refinements and improvements, whereas the "NFL Head Coach" looks like a work in progress.

Gamers expect a polished product from Electronic Arts Inc., but this isn't one of them.

"NFL Head Coach" (E-rated, $39.95 for PlayStation 2, Xbox and PCs) has a lot of bugs, more than I can write about. The most annoying was when the game froze and I had to reset my PS2 console. This often happened during the preseason. I kept the autosave feature "on" even though it took over a minute to save.

The career mode takes up the bulk of the playing time. Your character starts either as a talented defensive or offensive coordinator from the Super Bowl XL champion Pittsburgh Steelers looking for a head coaching job.

After the job interviews, players can get up to five offers from teams. Once the character accepts an offer, you run your new team as the head coach/general manager.

The strength of the game is level of detail available to run the team.

As general manager, your duties include dealing with agents and other general managers, managing the salary cap and scouting and drafting players.

As head coach, you run practices, design plays and deal with the players and coaches under you. The "Sim to Task" feature is also available if you don't want to deal with the day-to-day minutia.

Injuries are a part of the game. However, they are almost nonexistent if you run all the practices and games yourself.

If you let the game simulate the practice or game, players get injured. My starting fullback broke his wrist during a non-contact drill. How often does that happen?

The hard work during the week of preparing a team for Sunday made game day both enjoyable and frustrating yet always entertaining.

I had my players blitz on every down and I enjoyed every big hit they made. They didn't tackle the opposing player; they pummeled them.

Most of my frustration came from watching the offense. Often I would say to myself: Why did my player do this instead of that? But then they would surprise me by turning a broken or short-yardage play into a 50-yard touchdown.

That's coaching. The players can make you look like a goat or a genius.

Complete a bunch of plays; you score. Score often, you win. Win a lot of games; you keep your job. Simple goals, complicated execution.

For better or worse, gamers now have a taste of life as a National Football League head coach.

Two stars out of four.