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16 Years Ago, Michael Vick Changed Madden NFL Forever
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Madden NFL is undoubtedly one of the greatest video games of all time. I mean, what other game causes the same uproar from players when their ratings are too low? Heck, the video game franchise even employs its own scouts to help keep those ratings accurate.

First released as John Madden Football in 1988, the game was and still is developed by EA Sports and has sold more than 130 million copies since the first version with legendary NFL coach John Madden on the cover.

Of course, Madden has been a source of entertainment for gamers of all ages. Whether you play on Xbox, Playstation or PC, you probably have a story to tell regarding the iconic football video game.

Mine? Throwing my controller into my ceiling fan while playing against a friend only to have it come back down and thump my Xbox, breaking the disk inside of it. Don’t worry, I bought another one immediately.

Many gamers likely have similar stories and one player to blame for their controller-throwing, rage-quitting outbursts: Michael Vick in Madden NFL 2004.

Michael Vick Madden 2004

No one in the franchise’s history was as maddening to play against than the cover athlete and Atlanta Falcons quarterback with lightning speed and a booming arm. He embodied the phrase “cheat code.” He made you scream at the top of your lungs or cry yourself to sleep figuring out a way to stop him.

The only other unfair video game athletes comparable to Madden ’04 Vick were Bo Jackson in Nintendo’s Tecmo Bowl and Mike Tyson in Punch Out. Sometimes an athlete is just that dominant in real life.

So, how was Vick so damn good in the 2004 version?

For starters, he had a 95 speed and 92 elusiveness rating. That was faster than all but four running backs in the game. The go-to play was anything where Vick could roll out of the pocket and blow by all the opposing defenders. Sure, you could put a QB spy on him, but he could juke anyone and no one was fast enough to catch him. Scroll through the defensive playbook and you’d find there was no option he couldn’t score a touchdown against.

Then there was his absurd 98 throwing power and 97 throwing accuracy. In the off chance you didn’t want to run with Vick, you could just choose to chuck the ball 80 yards with heat-seeking abilities.

Somehow, Vick was only rated 95 overall (out of 100). That didn’t really matter, though. Once you picked the Atlanta Falcons, likely going up against your opponent also using the Atlanta Falcons, you were set.

Other dual-threat quarterbacks have come along in Madden. Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick were all speedsters. Robert Griffin III had a 92 speed and 95 agility along with good passing ratings. In Madden 20, Lamar Jackson’s 94 speed and 95 agility may be the closest thing to ’04 Vick.

But today’s version of Madden is different. Users can’t maneuver their players like they could 10 or 15 years ago. With Vick, you could literally run circles around dudes. In today’s more realistic version, players basically plant their cleats in the ground when they change direction and it takes longer to do so.

How Michael Vick Changed Madden Forever

Aside from being a cheat code, human joystick or whatever other colorful description, Vick was an actual game-changer.

Madden recognized (read: users complained, a lot) that Vick was unfair. So in 2005 they put Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis on the cover and changed mechanics of the game to help stop Vick. They introduced the defensive hit stick and made it harder for QBs to scramble out of the pocket right after the snap.

Yes, Mike Vick was so good that EA Sports had to tackle him themselves.

“Michael Vick was the greatest quarterback in Madden history, because his speed rating as a QB was astronomical, and there was nothing you could do stop him,” Clint Oldenburg, former NFL lineman and current game developer with for Madden, told Gamesradar. “For a number of years before I got here, features were added to the game specifically to stop Vick. Now [to prevent one player from being similarly overpowering] we try to keep ratings within a certain range. So if a QB comes out of the draft with a 99 speed rating, A, B and C is done in the game engine to make sure everything is balanced.”

What’s crazy is that Madden 2004 Mike Vick was accurate. Watch his gameplay and highlights from his Atlanta Falcons days and you’ll see he really was that dynamic. He could rush for 50 yards or fire a 70-yard bomb before you even blinked.

And the speed? That was a fair rating as well.

After an incredible career at Virginia Tech, Vick ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at his pro day and had been clocked as low as 4.25. That’s unheard from a quarterback. That’s fast for anyone on the field, let alone the one with the ball in his hands on every single play.

That’s why Vick holds the NFL career rushing yards record for a quarterback. He tallied 6,109 rushing yards across four teams — the Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers — and even rushed for 1,000 yards in 2006. There are some starting running backs in the NFL today that don’t even hit that benchmark.

It should come as no surprise that Vick topped IGN’s list of the 25 greatest quarterbacks in Madden history, even if he was never the highest-rated quarterback.

It’s obvious to me that Madden 2004 Mike Vick is the greatest video game character ever.

But I would venture to say that Vick was the greatest pure athlete of all time. That’s in the NFL, NBA, MLB or any other league. His combination of speed, agility, elusiveness and arm power might not ever be matched.

You can use Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson or whoever else in the latest Madden video game, but just remember that no one will ever be like Mike.

READ MORE: Madden 20’s New Career Mode Features 10 College Football Powerhouses

Patrick has spent parts of the last four years covering University of Florida athletics and spent two seasons with Major League Baseball. He's a baseball junkie who spends his days defending Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. A recent Gator grad, Patrick currently resides in Gainesville, Florida.
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