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In this Communities Interview we meet the the grand-daddy of all Madden NFL strategy; who has arguably helped more players than any other. Paul Gleason, better known as Kobra, has authored close to 40 strategy guides for Madden and other football games base on real concepts used at all levels of football. Kobra is now writing strategies for XsOsFootball.com and MaddenGuides.com.

Kobra and I met in May 2008 during the EA Football Community Day in Orlando, FL, and although we have a history of disagreeing, we both share an unquenchable thirst for football and Madden. I noted the types of things he looked for when examining the Madden and how he applied the information to simulate the game of football. Recently, we spoke with Kobra to hear what drives him and influences how he plays the game.

TNT713: How did you get started writing guides?

Kobra: Basically, I can remember back in 1996 I used to work at a tire factory and during my lunch breaks, I wanted to get better at Madden, so I would literally take a spiral notebook with me and I’d basically draw out all the X’s and O’s of all the plays of Madden at the time. And I would sit there literally during my lunch break which was about ½ hour long and I would sit there and put who covered who, how this play would react to this play. I had maybe thousands of thousands of pages. I remember just collecting them in my notebooks. Seriously, it was crazy. And I would study them.

The reason I did that is because my friends. I had a hard time beating them and I wanted to get better. In particularly one guy – his name was Bill and I got tired of losing to him all the time. I started to get better at the game by learning all the X’s and O’s. He called me kinda the ‘nerd of Madden,’ I started turning the tides and started beating him all the time.
So that’s how it started out initially. Back then, there wasn’t anything online. Come 2000, I’m still playing the game and I got into a league. It was the BMFL league in 2000-2001. At that point, a lot of the guys were asking how I’m playing defense and how I’m doing this on offense and stuff like that.

They were asking me, Can you show us how to do some of those plays? And I’m like, I just don’t have time. I think we had 30 owners at the time and I didn’t have time to basically chat with each one of them individually. Bly Kilmore – I don’t know if he owned MaddenMania at the time or if he was help running it or something like that, but he was a BMFL owner. In any rate he wound up asking me if I could just do it in PDF format for him to write up some strategies in PDF. And I’m like yeah, I can do that. So I wound up putting them in PDF format with images and text and he wound up posting them up on the BMFL site.

And over time, that wound up getting pretty big. It wasn’t just our guys from the league that were reading them, lots of different people coming around looking at it from all types of different sites. Other leagues were looking at it.

So that got pretty big, but he couldn’t post stuff fast enough to keep up with what I was sending in to him. So I started thinking I need to learn HTML. Matter of fact, I went to Geocities. And so I started learning a little bit of HTML. Although they did it for you for the most part, but it wasn’t very flexible for me anyways.

Then I started looking at anybody else that was doing stuff like I was doing, the only site that I found at the time that was even close to what I wanted to do was a site called Thinking Man’s Guide to Madden. And at the time, he had a lot of text, but it didn’t use any images, no video, or stuff like that so I thought I could one up that. I could have all the images and videos so I added all that to this MaddenGuides site I created through Geocities. That was back in 2001 so that’s kinda how I got into doing these strategies. At least the initial part was trying to get better to beat my friends. Eventually I wound up playing in some leagues and started doing them there.

TNT713: We’ve followed the same pattern. Eventually, people who want to get better at Madden get tired of losing.

Kobra: Yeah. It is. You don’t like to be shown up by your friends and I was that way. I didn’t like to lose to my friend. I was too competitive. I’m sure that you probably played Tecmo Bowl. Back in Tecmo Bowl, I ruled on that. And then when we went to Madden I didn’t lose quite as well. I wanted to get better.

His statement taught be a truth about competitiveness of Madden players. Players don’t become competitive when they begin to win. The competitive drive that is already in them is what pushes them to work toward winning. Madden, more than any other video game, is difficult to learn, play, and win.

As we recounted the common experiences as we pushed to become better Madden players, our conversation turned to how we approach our offensive philosophies. Being a fan of offense from under center, I opted to yield the floor to Kobra to discuss his offensive approach:

TNT713: I know you run a lot of shotgun.

Kobra: Yeah. I do. Go back to the league I was in, the BMFL, I was under center quite a bit. I had Ricky Williams and I ran a lot of under center at that time. But because the nanos in the game were so strong, depending on what year you’re playing Madden. I think it was 2007 or 2006 when they came with the random blitz gap back on the PS2/Xbox… At that point I went back under center because they weren’t as effective.

For a lot of the reason I stayed in the shotgun until now is because of the inside pressure you can get the A-Gap. My offense always felt more effective. Now this year because of the high snaps it leads to problems, but I still prefer to be in shotgun.

Although I have learned to go under center on certain things I’ll do. So it’s not like I stay in shotgun. If right now if I was to look at my stats, somewhere around 65% shotgun and 35% under center. So it used to be like 80%. So it’s definitely a drop for me. That that’s your point that I bear the shotgun offense because I still like to run that. But I think you’re more under center. I think I read on one of the forums that you prefer to be under center.

TNT713: I learned a lot more about pass protection than I would have if I’d gone to shotgun.

Kobra: Yea for me it’s just a personal preference to be in the shotgun. A lot of the college quarterbacks are coming out of college or the college ranks into the NFL are so used to shotgun. It makes it easier. They are able to read the coverages quicker. I have more time. I don’t have to worry about dropping back, I’m already dropped back. Then again, I drop back a little more than I really need to in the shotgun. That’s the reason I do it.

And the fact that the these last couple years the shotgun formation’s run plays are a little bit more effective than they used to be, you can still run run plays from the shotgun such as the draw play and there’s a couple off tackle run plays that are fairly effective.

But then throw in the fact I’m not one of those guys that chucks it up either. It’s not like I throw it 30-40 yards deep every time. Usually my stuff is ball control from the shotgun where it’s just quick throws and I’m just looking to move the ball down the field. If it takes me 10 plays and I run five minutes off the clock, more power to me. That’s what I like to do.

Matter of fact, in the VG Sports league I was in I had one of the one or two rated defenses in the league. And it wasn’t because my defense was so great; it was because my offense kept the ball from my opponent. So my opponent never had the ball. Last year when you’re playing in six minute quarters when you’re playing on that accelerated clock you can chew up a lot of clock on a 10 play drive. That’s why my defense was rated so high; it’s not that I’m some outstanding defensive player. It was because I held the ball on offense.

That’s what I mean. With my shotgun offense, it’s not one of those chuck it up 40 yards every play. I think that anybody that has ever bought any of my stuff will see that I run a lot of simple underneath stuff that allows me to move the ball with consistency rather than throwing deep balls all the time.

Madden players may not appreciate the long hours that went into the preparation to write strategy guides, but we definitely crave the result. Football is a simple sport with many moving parts. For almost a century the sport has been played, steadily evolving, into the game we love today. There are so many philosophies and schemes; we wanted to know what inspires Kobra to attack opponents:

TNT713: One thing I was always impressed by when I would read your stuff is that you always detail the how and the why so that people will know not only which throw to make, but also which throw not to make. Where do you get your coaching influences?

Kobra: When it comes to the breakdowns that I did, John Madden had a huge influence on me on the way he did the telestrations and really broke down the plays. For you guys that might have this disk, if you go back to 1998 if you had the PC version of Madden you’ll find that there’s, I think it’s on disk 2, he has probably – I don’t know – 50 video breakdowns where he does telestration and breaks these plays down. And to me, that’s one of my biggest influences if not my main influence is from Madden himself.

As far as actual life coaches and stuff like that, Steve Axman he does a book called “Passing Concepts - Attacking Coverages” or something like that. He also does another book called 101 Passing Concepts. And he’s had a huge influence on me on the offensive side of the ball, especially a lot of the short stuff you see me doing in the guides I do, and he breaks them really nicely too – he doesn’t go into quite as much detail as I do because you only have limited space when you do an actual published book. But yeah, those two guys in particular Madden and Axman would be the two biggest ones for me as far as what you see in the guides that I do.

No doubt, Kobra is the quintessential Madden player; one of many who make up our grand community of virtual gridiron coaches and players with a common goal. All of us want to win. We want to extend our thanks to players like Kobra that share what they know as they serve as diplomats of the game…

Madden changes every year, but some things remain constant. As long as there are people that need help mastering Madden, there will be people to help them. To celebrate our rich diversity, MaddenUniversity.com's Community Spotlight wants to offer our gratitude to players to work tirelessly to enhance the Madden experiences for others.

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