This is a high quality guide for NFL Head Coach 09, which is currently (August 13, 2008) only available when you buy the bundled Collectors Edition of Madden 09.
This is the guide that should have been included with the game itself. Nearly half of this guide is filled with instructions on HOW to play the game and HOW to use the Play Editor - and that's a good thing.
The lame 12 page pamphlet that EA ships with the game itself is basically useless and this guide answers most of the gameplay questions. There are so many things happening behind the scenes in this game that you would have no idea about unless you either figured it out on your own (which would take hours and hours worth of restarting Career mode to fix your mistakes), or took a look at this Prima guide.
The second half of the guide details various play strategies for each of the NFL teams. It breaks down each team's best offensive and defensive plays in easy to understand terms (strangely, it doesn't include any player names in any of the descriptions, only their jersey numbers). They've also included a pretty good primer on professional football offensive and defensive formations and strategies in general.
I would have liked to see a bit more detail about the "strategy" of the off season and free agent tendencies. Instead, this guide acts more like the (missing!) instruction manual and doesn't give you many specific things to try, like bundling draft picks with signing bonuses in order to snag elusive players.
Likewise, although the Play Editor section is descriptive and explains it's function very well, but doesn't offer you much advice regarding WHAT pieces and parts that will make for a great play. Unless you're already pretty good with football strategies, you'll learn HOW to move the X's and O's around, but you won't learn WHY. Some illustrated examples would have been great.
I have read some other reviews of this product which leave the reader with an unfavorable impression. I'd like to rectify that situation by fully endorsing this guide.
I played three entire seasons of Head Coach '09 before my guide (ordered from Amazon.com) arrived. The first season I relied upon those unfavorable reviews and simply went at it. The second season, I began to suspect I had been mislead. By the third, I was convinced and restarted my league. Though I did not yet have the guide, I knew the learning curve was steep, particularly with so many facets of the game unexplained, even after visits to the EA forums. I only played a part of another season before I had the guide in my hand and I've not looked back.
One could say that the list of 50 future stars alone pays for the guide. It's nice to have that peak into the future, to know a certain player will be another Dan Marino or LT.
But the real value, in my opinion, is in the advice the book offers. There is a useful discussion of coaching skills at the beginning, as well as a discussion about choosing playbooks (when you should and when you should not) and some advice about whether or not to start before or after the '08 draft.
There is an in-depth discussion of the off-season, for example, how free agency works, your cap, "free agency tactics", trades - and valuable trading tips as well as a very useful chart which details the philosophies of the starting GMs (how often they trade, their mindset - over offer or low ball), spending philosophy, etc). There are also some helpful tips on contract negotiations and player grades (see note below).
Good book and thorough enough on each aspect of the game. A must for Madden or NCAA Football players looking to get an edge in making their own plays. Gives you more control over features the other two dont.
This guide kind of gives you a good hint on which teams or players you should go after. I bought this used and it was just like new and arrived early. It gives you overalls, how to make plays, some others that I can't think of right now, but it is a good guide.
As the other review alluded to -- This makes for a great instruction manual. As far as a strategy guide, this is not. It more or less tells you how to play the game, and what different options mean. And a lot of the instructions are pretty much direct from the in game tutorial. For as in depth that this game seems to be, as well as being essentially a brand new franchise (I get Madden skimping on docs, since most owners already have played and know the controls), it needed a better manual than was provided.
And maybe that's where the pain lies. The game itself isn't that good, but that's okay as it's only $30(as found with the Madden Collector's Edition), but since you need to buy this manual to know how to play, the game is now a $50 game. And, that is more money than the game itself is worse.
Also adding to the dissapointment of this guide is the quality of the manual. The manual itself is very short at 160 pages. There are typos galore. And the paper it is printed on is about the quality that a cheap magazine comes in.