The release of Madden NFL 15 on Tuesday, Aug. 26, in North America (Aug. 29 internationally) has been met with excitement, but there is always concern surrounding the game's cover athlete.
Dubbed the "Madden Curse," most of the players who appeared on the cover of the game since 1999 have suffered subpar statistical seasons or injuries following the honor.
This year’s cover is adorned by Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, but unlike many players in the past, the defensive back has shown no fear of the curse. When Sherman was asked about the curse, he told Terry Blount of ESPN.com simply, “I don’t believe in curses. I believe in God.”
Sherman better be confident. For many fans, the curse is very real.
It started with the 1999 edition of the game. When Garrison Hearst of the San Francisco 49ers became the first player on the cover, he also became the first player to be struck by the curse. In the second round of the postseason that year, Hearst broke his ankle and missed the next two seasons recovering from the injury.
The curse continued in Madden NFL 2000 with Green Bay Packers running back Dorsey Levens, who performed poorly and lost his starting job the season following the game’s release. Levens was also subsequently released by Green Bay in 2001.
Eddie George of the Tennessee Titans was on the cover next. While he found success during the season, his career after being the Madden NFL 2001 poster boy steadily declined, and he never found the same success again.
After watching Daunte Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings (2002) get injured, Marshall Faulk of the St. Louis Rams (2003) struggle to match his previous statistical output and Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons (2004) break his fibula and miss 11 games, fans and athletes began taking note of the "Madden Curse" and its very real effect on players.
While Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis had a solid season after appearing on the 2005 cover, the curse came back with a vengeance for Donovan McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles after his 2006 appearance.
Instead of bucking the trend, McNabb injured his groin and missed the remainder of the season. The injury bug also struck Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander when he was on the cover of Madden NFL 07. Alexander broke his foot in Week 3, and his career was never the same.
Madden NFL 08 featured Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans, who struggled mightily on the field and lost his starting job. The curse took a strange turn when Brett Favre was given the honor the following season.
After retiring, EA Sports put Favre in his Green Bay jersey on the front cover. A few weeks later, Favre signed with the New York Jets and had a solid season, despite adorning the game in different colors.
The Favre saga resulted in a unique concept for Madden NFL 10. Both Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals and Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers were given the honor after playing each other in the Super Bowl, but the results were unpredictable. While Fitzgerald bucked the trend and had a great season, Polamalu suffered two knee injuries and was a shell of the player he was the season before.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees didn’t have a great season when he was on the cover of Madden NFL 11, but his team still made the postseason. Brees may not have been affected by the curse, but Madden NFL 12's Peyton Hillis was hit with the curse twice as hard.
Injuries derailed his season with the Cleveland Browns, and the poor performance resulted in the running back being allowed to leave via free agency.
Another player who denied the curse was Detroit Lions star wide receiver Calvin Johnson for Madden NFL 13. Johnson managed to rack up an NFL record 1,964 receiving yards.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 covers for Madden NFL 25 (Barry Sanders was on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 editions). While he still managed a solid statistical season, he suffered from nagging injuries that limited his success along with his team's in 2013.
Now the focus turns to Sherman. As the cover boy for Madden NFL 15, there will be increased pressure on Sherman to help lead his team back to the Super Bowl.
With a long history of injuries and statistical struggles plaguing the face of the Madden franchise, Sherman and his teammates must work together to avoid the curse.