This is the guide to understanding the terminology and symbols used to describe formations and plays in the Monstrous Madden Playbooks. This playbook was developed using the Nintendo Gamecube versions of Madden NFL, though this should not make any difference in using this playbook because to the best of my knowledge there are no differences in the Create-a-Playbook feature between platforms.

NOTE: A big problem with the formation maker in the Madden Create-a-Playbook feature is that any formation made completely from scratch will not contain motion (offense) or shift/coverage audible (defense) capabilities. Losing motion on offense is a pretty big inconvenience, but losing shifts and coverage audibles on defense is disaster waiting to happen. For a tutorial on how to create original formations as fully featured as the ones that come built in, see the New Formation Creation Guide.

Offensive Formations

Offensive formations are depicted on a 21x6 grid, just like in the Create Formation mode in game. The symbols used have the following meanings:

Symbol Player Position
empty empty location
Line Offensive Lineman
QB Quarterback
RB1 Running Back (Halfback) #1
RB2 Running Back (Halfback) #2
FB Fullback #1
FB2 Fullback #2
TE1 Tight End #1
TE2 Tight End #2
TE3 Tight End #3
WR1 Wide Receiver #1
WR2 Wide Receiver #2
WR3 Wide Receiver #3
WR4 Wide Receiver #4
WR5 Wide Receiver #5

For most formations the different receiver and tight end assignments are somewhat arbitrary, they are meant to be balanced and benefit my favorite plays. You may want to make adjustments after experimentation to best fit your own favorite plays.

Defensive Formations

Defensive formations use a 21x7 grid. The symbols are:

Symbol Player Position
empty empty location
RE Right Defensive End
DT1 Defensive Tackle #1
DT2 Defensive Tackle #2
DT3 Defensive Tackle #3
LE Left Defensive End
ROLB Right Outside Linebacker
MLB1 Middle Linebacker #1
MLB2 Middle Linebacker #2
LOLB Left Outside Linebacker
CB1 Cornerback #1
CB2 Cornerback #2
CB3 Cornerback #3
CB4 Cornerback #4
SS Strong Safety #1
SS2 Strong Safety #2
FS Free Safety

Defensive formations are even more flexible than offensive formations, especially in terms of which personnel are usable. In all of the defensive formations I've made so far, I have not used more than five down lineman, four linebackers, four cornerbacks or three safeties. This should cover the needs of any formation that might be desired.

Offensive Player Assignments

Most player assignments are self-explanatory. In an offensive play, each player has specific instructions to carry out. Each offensive lineman must block. The Quarterback receives the snap, either under center or in the shotgun, and will automatically handoff on running plays. Wide receivers block or run passing routes. Running backs block, run routes or take pitches and handoffs. That's it as far as user defined actions. Fake handoffs, wide receiver end arounds, and the like cannot be input manually. Hopefully future versions of Madden will add these features (until then check out this FAQ answer for a way around this limitation).


Offensive lineman have relatively simple actions. They can pass block, run block, pull left or right, or set screen blocks left or right. These limitations make it difficult to run fancy screen passes (actually, almost any screen play is hard to run effectively) such as a middle screen, but at least prevent people like me from spending endless hours tweaking blocking techniques on running plays.

Backs, receivers and tight ends can pass and run block, and can also lead block. There are many types of lead block, though the only difference between them is the direction of the block (when lined up outside), or the gap the player blocks towards (when lined up in the backfield). Picking just the right blocking scheme for backs and receivers is often the key to a successful running play.


Running back actions are where things start to get sophisticated. The back taking a handoff on a rushing play has two actions: the initial step and the running direction/type. The initial step sets the tone of the running play. A delay might make the play look like a pass, while a counter may attempt to misdirect the defense, and a back step usually preludes a straight-ahead power run. The direction the back starts running in is partially determined by the initial step, for example after a "Receive Pitch" step the back can only run to the outside, not up the middle (this may not be true if the back lines up in an unusual position). In the Monstrous Madden Playbook running actions are designated by the initial step, a hyphen (dash), and the running direction (type and left or right).


This is where things get really interesting, and a custom playbook gets a chance to shine. There are two types of passing routes: standard and custom. Standard routes are the ones everyone has heard of, like post and streak. Standard routes are designated by yardage and type, such as "5yd In" or "12yd Curl".

Custom routes are created by selecting way points (positions relative to the starting point) and particular actions. Routes are designed in a 12x13 position grid, with the receiver starting at the middle column and the second row from the back (allowing the receiver to start a route with a small backwards motion). Each square in the grid is 2.5 yards on a side, allowing the route to be defined 25 yards down field and 15 yards to the side. This may seem pretty good, but can actually be a bit of a limitation for some routes. If you want a player to go all the way across the field or run as deep as possible, you may receive a nasty surprise as the player decides to do something else after the route you've defined is used up. This is due to the "Get Open" action which ends almost all routes, curls being the primary exception). After completing the assigned route the receiver simply tries to move away from the nearest defenders and towards an open spot, which may be in the opposite direction the route was supposed to be aimed at. If nothing else this provides a good incentive to make reads and deliver the ball in a timely manner.

The convention for describing custom routes is as follows. Each way point is defined in compass coordinates (N=North, S=South, E=East, W=West) from the previous position. "N1E2-N5W4" means the first segment is up 1 square, right 2, while the second segment is up 5 more squares and left 4. Way points are separated by hyphens.

Each way point also has an action associated with it. For most way points before the end of the route this will be "continue", nothing extra is displayed here. Other actions are displayed in parentheses immediately after the way point coordinates. These actions include a 1, 2 or 3 second delay, which must be used before the last way point, and curl left or right, which ends the route. The most common action to end a route is "get open", this is designated simply as "(open)". I use the special actions only infrequently. Unfortunately there is no "keep going in a straight line" action, it can be very frustrating for a player streaking down the field turn back after 25 yards because the short pass is more open than the bomb you really need, or for a player running across the field to stop short when you want him to keep going.

Defensive Player Assignments

Defensive assignments are simple. Basically, each defender plays base, blitzes, or covers a man or a zone. Base defense is simply what I call the default action for each defender, it seems to act mainly like a blitz, and cannot be selected after choosing another assignment, so it is best treated as a blitz up the middle. The only difference may be slightly less aggression, but this is uncertain. The three available blitzes are selected by direction: middle, left and right, from the perspective of the defense.

Man coverages are designated by which receiver is covered, although again the differences are hard to tell because a defender will (fortunately) never cover a receiver that is across the field from them. I almost always cover wide receivers starting with my top cornerbacks in man coverage, followed by the strong safety(s), the free safety, and linebackers last. For example, if I have two cornerbacks, the free safety and two linebackers in man coverage, CB1 covers WR1, CB2 covers WR2, the free safety covers WR3, and the linebacker takes WR4.

The zone coverages are pretty self explanatory. Flats and curl zones cover fixed positions on the field, hook zone covers at fixed depth but the same lateral position that the defender starts in, QB spy tracks the quarterback, and deep zone positions depend on both the position of the defender and the number and positions of other defenders playing deep zones. For hook zones the player can spy a wide receiver; I usually pick the highest wide receiver(s) not covered by man coverage. I haven't really tested how much this spy designation affects the outcome of the play.

Contact Arkaein with any comments or questions regarding the Monstrous Madden Playbook.