By now, anyone who has heard of the Madden Football franchise has heard of the inevitable “curse” that seems to follow which ever player is selected as the cover athlete. Madden began using cover athletes on their games in 1999, and every one of them has suffered from “the curse.” If you don’t believe me, the stats and injury reports speak for themselves:
1999 – Garrison Hearst – Garrison’s cover was only available on select games, the first year a player graced the cover. In an almost false sense of security, Hearst finished third in rushing yards and had an outstanding season. However, during the divisional round of the playoffs, he suffered a severe break in his ankle against the Falcons. The injury cost Hearst two years of his career.
2000 – Barry Sanders – In one of the more bizarre instances of the curse, Barry abruptly retired before the 1999 season, although he wasn’t really the cover athlete (there is a small picture of him over Madden’s shoulder in blue) I guess one way to avoid the curse is to quit all together.
2001 – Eddie George – Eddie’s curse didn’t come in the form of injury, rather in the form of poor play. Eddie failed to reach 1000 yards, compared to the 1500 yards he recorded the year before. Eddie’s sub-par play led the Titans to a 7-9 record and a missed playoff birth.
2002 – Daunte Culpepper – Daunte threw for 14 TDs and 13 INTs in 2001, 19 less TDs than in 2000, and missed the final five games due to a knee injury suffered against the Steelers in December. The Vikings finished the year 5-11, their worst record since 1984.
2003 – Marshall Faulk – Without being plagued by injury, and playing the same amount of games, Marshall rushed for only 953 yards with 8 rushing TDs, Faulk’s worst season since 1996. The Rams finished the year 7-9, failing to make the playoffs after a Super Bowl appearance the year before.
2004 – Michael Vick – In one of the more obvious of the Madden curse strikes, during a pre-season game against the Ravens, Vick suffered a broken leg and missed the first 11 games of the season. With the exception of one game against Carolina later that year when he rushed for 141 yards, his season tossing the ball was sub-standard to his previous years.
2005 – Ray Lewis – Ray Lewis is a beast, plain and simple. It seems that Ray was the only person to play through an entire season while being the cover athlete and not have it drastically affect his performance, although his numbers were slightly down, but some say his curse came a year later, when he was injured for the season during week 6.
2006 – Donovan McNabb – Donovan had a rough year in 2005. He threw for for 16 TDs and 9 INTs. Not a terrible year, but after week nine, a sore thumb and a sports hernia sidelined him for the rest of the season. The Eagles finished in fourth place in the NFC East with a 6-10 record, failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
2007 – Shaun Alexander – Shaun broke his left foot during week 3 causing him to miss six weeks. Upon his return his numbers were far lower than his previous MVP season, finishing with 896 yards and 7 TDs, his lowest total for each stat since his rookie season back in 2000.
2008 – Vince Young – Vince didn’t have a big season-ending injury like other players, but he did miss about 3 weeks due to a quadricep injury he suffered against the Buccaneers in week 6. Vince finished the season with 9TDs and 17INTs, but with a 10-6 record, the Titans made the playoffs, only to lose to the Chargers in the opening round.
2009 – Brett Favre – In the most unique of Madden cover moments, Brett announced his retirement in March of 2008. Madden decided to have him grace the cover in his trusty green and yellow Green Bay Packers uniform. So what could go wrong? The man retired. Oh that’s right, we’re talking about Brett Favre. Brett came out of retirement and signed with the New York Jets. Speculations were made as to how the curse would eventually pan out, would it effect the Packers because Brett was photographed in a Packers uniform or the Jets because Brett was playing for them now? Eventually Madden released a separate cover featuring Brett donning his green and white Jets jersey. Brett started the season off strong after having a career season the year before, but after injuring his throwing arm, his luck and the team’s record, quickly fell. Brett threw for 22 TDs and 22 INTs leading the Jets to a disappointing 9-7 record, missing the playoffs, even though the Jets started off 8-3.
2010 – Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu – For the first time ever, Madden will be sporting TWO cover athletes in their upcoming release. Larry and Troy were on the representative teams of the Super Bowl so it will be interesting to see if this becomes a common trend in the future. With each athlete playing on separate sides of the ball, it will be interesting to see how each season will be effected knowing the curse will be looming overhead.