The Beginner's Guide to online Football Leagues

This document is intended to assist people who are getting started with online football leagues based on the "Football Pro" series by Sierra Online, Inc.

I played through my first (complete) season and managed to finish with an 8-8 record and a wildcard playoff berth. By no means am I claiming to be an expert coach or an authority on online leagues, I am just offering some tips that helped me move from a league whipping-boy to be at least competitive and capable of winning a few games. Its always more fun to win than lose.

Getting Started

Pick a league carefully: There are lots of leagues that start (and stop) all the time, many of them fold up before completing a season. If you pick one that fold up, don't despair, there are many more leagues with openings and you can certainly find one. I recommend look for one that has played out at least 1 complete season and has low turnover rate of its owners. Look for a league that suits your style, there are "home sim" leagues that let the owners simulate their own games and there are "commish sim" leagues that require owners to mail in their PPP's each week and the commissioner simulates the games, posts the results, and mails out updated league data files. There are also some leagues that play all of their games head-to-head using SIGS.

Evaluating your talent: Once you are join a league you will probably inherit a team with existing players. It should be noted that it is not necessary to have the QB or RB with the highest attributes to have a good passing or running game. A good coach will often take a mediocre QB and have him end up with a rating of 120 or more just because he knows how to write great plays and disect defenses. You can follow the links at the bottom of this page to find lots of information on how the various attributes affect play.

If your league has a salary cap, choose your big money players wisely and don't overlook the importance of good defensive players, especially linebackers.

Making your PPP (Plans/Profiles/Plays)

Profiles: The profiles dictate the tendencies of your team. Do you want to be a ball-control rushing team, or an air-it-out passing team, or strike a balance in between? The profile editor in FB97 is a tedious and quirky part of the program, USE CAUTION when using the "copy" feature as it will often overwrite parts of the profile that you did not want to change. Always check your profiles carefully before saving them.

Plans: Your game plan is the what contains all of your plays. If you are in a league that allows custom plays, this is where the plays that you wish to use get stored. Often, the sim leagues (home sim or commish sim) have very specific requirements for how and where to store your plans and plays on your computer, FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. One of the most frustrating thing in online leagues is when you work all week on your plays and your game profile and it doesn't get used because you didn't store them in the right directory or you didn't name them correctly.

Many leagues have minimum requirements for the number of unique plays that your game plans must have (offense and defense). The game allows you to have up to 64 plays in your game plan. Do not make the mistake of thinking you must fill up your plan with as many plays as possible. Its better to have a small number of very effective plays than to water your playbook down with alot of really bad plays. Start by putting the minimum number of unique plays allowed by your league in the plan and work hard on refining those plays until they are effective in a variety of situations.

Plays: This is an area where I am most definitely not an expert. I will only offer a few play making tips that helped me alot this year. If your online league does not allow custom play making, then this is of little or no value.

Stock plays suck - for the most part. There are a few stock plays that are pretty good, but don't go into a custom play league thinking you will get by with mostly stock game plans. You may get lucky against other new coaches, but experienced online coaches will rip you apart with ease. If you don't have the time or interest in designing plays, join a stock play league, its better for everyone.


Defense is an area where most coaches, even experienced ones struggle. I have some links at the bottom to some much better guides than I can provide. My only tips are these:


All the best coaches, to some degree, do their homework against their opponents. At the least, you can study his statistics and see if he tends to favor the run or the pass. If you have access to old log files and one of the many log analyzer programs available, you can see his tendencies and what the team likes to run in each situation. If you have a access to alot of highlights, you can see what plays are working for him and prepare accordingly. If the opponent scores alot on outside runs, then you should shift your defense to be prepared for that. If he throws timed passes you can play more bump-at-the-line logic. If he blitzes alot, keep more blockers in and run quick passes (etc, etc...).

Once your profile is established, tweaking it weekly is pretty easy (except for the bugs in the crappy profile editor in FBP97). Don't become predictable by always using the same profile each week, don't be afraid to mix things up and try some trick plays occasionally if the opponent is much stronger and will probably not expect it.


In short, don't be discouraged if you get destroyed the first time you play against an experienced coach. I lost my first game 75-6. I've seen other teams lose as bad as 120-0. I eliminated alot of my problems by just getting rid of bad plays (fumbles, penalties, sacks).


Here are some links to some other FBPro tutorials and information that I referenced often when I was getting started:
Comments ?
Will Ingersoll Nov. 1997