Le’Veon Bell finding motivation in Madden rating, ESPN ranking
At a time when sports aren’t nearly as prevalent as they usually are in the middle of July, sports media needs to find content wherever it can. ESPN has been finding it in the unveiling of the initial Madden 21 player ratings.
The initial ratings have limited relevance to the game itself, given that the ratings constantly change and vary -- especially in modes like Franchise and Ultimate Team. But the initial ratings have some relevance as it relates to the way players react to them.
Jets running back Le’Veon Bell has reacted negatively to his rating (87), saying on Instagram that “I don’t even want Madden to update my sh*t...keep this energy.” He separately added on Tuesday, “I’m not mad, I’m motivated.”
The reaction to the Madden rating comes a week after Bell offered an “LOL” and a laughing-and-crying emoji regarding an ESPN ranking that placed him 10th among all running backs entering 2020.
The meaningless, made-up ratings and rankings definitely have meaning to the extent that they have impact on the mindset of players. If, for example, the perceived diss lights an extra fire aimed at getting Bell to work extra hard in advance of and/or during training camp, he will be in better shape than otherwise, laying the foundation for a better season.
As explained earlier this year, the problem with Bell’s performance in 2019 likely had less to do with his inherent abilities and more to do with the quality of the players around him. A high-end running back is the icing on the cake of a functional offense. With very few exceptions (the list arguably consists only of Barry Sanders), running backs can’t generate a huge impact without proper blocking and the threat of a passing game that can take advantage of the attention that otherwise is devoted to stopping the running back.
Last year, opposing defenses were able to crowd the box and shut Bell down, contributing to the perception that he’s not as good as he’s been. An improved Jets offense in 2020 could make it easier for Bell to have the kind of impact that will compel those who doubt him to eat crow. But, ultimately, the player himself won’t be much different; if he has a big year, it will have plenty to do with the fact that the Jets will have an offense featuring players with a higher level of talent.