Battle of the Brands: American Football in 2002

The 2002 NFL season was the 83rd regular season of the National Football League. There was a ton of changes including an expansion team and a division realignment. Even more importantly (to this blog) is that 2002 saw the most diversity among NFL video game series than ever before or after. It was a crazy ass year.

  • NFL QB Club 2002 (Acclaim)
  • NFL Game Day 2002 (989 Studios)
  • NFL 2k2 (Sega)
  • Madden 2002 (EA Sports)
  • NFL Blitz 20-02 (Midway Games)

And if you’re not including strictly NFL there was NCAA 2002 and NCAA Gamebreaker 2002.

So… we’re going to hop in a football shaped time machine and tumble end over end back into time until we reach the year 2002. An innocent time where clouds were made out of marshmallows and Fox News still only hated one race.

But for starters, a quick recap on what happened during the real football season. The Buccaneers beat the Raiders in the “Gruden Bowl”. At the start of the 2002 season, Oakland Raiders Head Coach, John Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gruden took his new squad to their first Super Bowl Appearance ever after a 12-4 regular season record. Gruden’s, “old team” the Oakland Raiders led by Coach Bill Callahan would go 11-5 and make it to the Super Bowl as well. Super Bowl XXXVII is also known as the, “Pirate Bowl” because .. well..people just like giving shit nicknames in sports. That’s just a rule.

Also it was the best Super Bowl Halftime show ever featuring Shania Twain, No Doubt and the legendary, Sting.

(Time Magazine)

ALSO: I understand that Madden 2002 was made in 2001. I don’t really care though. Its just easier and less confusing to go with the year that’s on the case of the game(s) I’m covering than to do everything that happened the year before. So with that said – let’s take a look at some of the games and features of the different franchises and see how they’ve aged. I will also have all of these videos and more on the Buffalo Retro YouTube channel.

*ALSOALSO* For those who have never heard of the “Madden Curse” there is said to be a hex on every player that has graced the cover of any Madden Football game. However, it’s only proven true maybe 50% of the time and this article proves it might be a curse to be on ANY Football game cover.


Developed by: Acclaim

Published by: Acclaim

Commentary by: Kevin Harlan & Bill Maas

Metacritic Score: 67% (PS2)

What in the world score: GameZone gave it a 9/10

Cover Athlete(s): Green Bay Packers Quarterback, Brett Favre and Oakland Raider’s Quarterback, Rich Gannon.

Madden Curse?

Not really. Brett Favre wouldn’t see the level of success he had in 90’s as a player but would still continue breaking records throughout the early 2000’s. Around 2008 – Favre would be replaced by another hall of fame quarterback, Aaron Rogers. Farve would be traded to the New York Jets – which is as good as a curse as any.

Rich Gannon would feel the effects of the cover athlete curse almost immediately. Later that year he would lead the Raiders to a Super Bowl berth / but throw five interceptions and cost his team the game. The following season (03) was ended halfway by a shoulder injury and he would suffer a career ending neck injury in 2004. He would go on to be one of the most annoying sports commentators in all of football.


Quarterback Challenge / Exhibition / Season / **No Franchise**

One thing that was a specific selling point for the entire series is the Quarterback Challenge. You can select up to eight quarterbacks and do a series of mini games with each one to amass points. It’s seriously fun.

What’s not fun is the actual season mode which has nearly no depth. The pre-game presentation is good but the gameplay itself just never feels right.

Overall: 70%

NFL GameDay 2002

Developed by: 989 Studios

Published by: Sony

Commentary by: Dan Fouts & Dick Enberg

Metacritic Score: 51%

What in the world score: 6.8/10 (Gamespot)

Cover Athlete(s)? Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback, Donovan Mcnabb

Madden Curse?

The 2002 season was looking to be Mcnabb’s finest yet until week 11 when he was sacked and broke his fibula in three places. He would miss the rest of the season but return for the playoffs where the Eagles would be upset by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the NFC Championship.


Exhibition / Tournament / Season / General Manager

The General Manager mode is a nice touch – basically mirroring Madden’s franchise mode but unfortunately the game play is absolute trash. On top of that all of the free agents are fictional players. Presentation wise, Game Day is right up there with 2k and Madden but 989 just never could find the right gaming formula to deliver replay-ability.

Overall: 66%

NFL 2k2

Developed by: Visual Concepts

Published by: Sega

Metacritic Score: 85%

Awards? Nominated as a runner up and highest rated Football game in Gamespot’s annul awards for best traditional sports game. (Winnner: NBA 2k2)

Cover Athlete(s): Minnesota Vikings Wide Receiver, Randy Moss

Madden Curse?

No. Randy Moss is a legendary player who happened to be completely immune to the Madden Curse. Generally regarded as the second best Wide Receiver to ever play the game.


Exhibition / Season / Franchise

The interface and menu feels a bit underwhelming and the presentation would only increase in its next few iterations but the gameplay is hands down the best of the year. Topping even Madden, 2k feels a bit more arcade-y than Madden but that’s only because it just ran smoother and faster. Even to this day the game is just enjoyable.

Overall: 83%

Madden 2002

Developed by: EA Tiburon

Published by: EA Sports

Commentary by: John Madden & Pat Sumerall

Metacritic Score: 88%

You ARE a loser, Casey

Cover Athlete(s): Minnesota Vikings Quarterback, Daunte Culpepper

Madden Curse??

Culpepper continued to struggle in 2002, throwing 18 touchdowns to 23 interceptions and leading the Vikings to a 6–10 record. Some attribute this to his appearance on the cover of the Madden NFL 2002video game, where he subsequently proceeded to have the worst year of his career until 2005, keeping with the superstition of the “Madden Curse”. Culpepper went on to win the EA Sports Madden Bowl title among NFL players during the 2003 offseason.

– Culpepper’s Wikipedia page

Culpepper would ultimately bounce back during the 2003 campaign and have a historic performance during the 2004 season. He would go on to say he, “felt like a, Jedi Knight.”

Which is pretty cool but would be short lived. The very season he would decimate his knee in an injury and effectively end his tenure as a Viking.


Exhibition / Season / Franchise

Basically the gold standard for Football simulation at the time. The franchise mode is deeper than any other game on the list and the gameplay is rock solid. But after awhile the stripped down presentation and stiff controls just starts to feel a bit empty. It doesn’t carry the high energy like a real game does.

Overall: 81%


Developed by: Midway

Published by: Midway

Metacritic Score: 76%

What in the world score: 50% (Gameinformer)

Cover Athlete(s): Oakland Raiders Free Safety, Charles Woodson

Madden Curse?

Yes. In the 2002 season Woodson suffered his first major injury in his professional career in the second game of the season. The shoulder injury prevented his from playing for eight weeks. Soon after recovering from his shoulder injury, Woodson would miss the last three games of the season with a cracked fibula bone in his right leg. Woodson would manage to start every playoff game for the Raiders but would show signs of his injury throughout the Super Bowl.


Exhibition / Season / Tournament / ** No Franchise **

The game is your typical Blitz experience. Over the top arcade insanity. The game offers a season mode and 11 on 11 play but it’s all pretty shallow. You’re not playing this game for any real football experience – it’s all about power bombing Rob Johnson repeatedly until your finally done crying about how hard it was being a Bills fan in the 2000’s subsides.

Overall: 69%

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2 responses to “Battle of the Brands: American Football in 2002”

  1. Colin, your article brought me good old memories! I still remember the first time I went to an American football match, in Georgia, 25 years ago. What a day! Thank you Colin and take care!

    1. Thank you so much, Filipa! ❤️

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