One of America's most beloved video games "Madden" first entered our homes with the debut of John Madden Football in 1989. For about a decade, Madden himself graced the cover of each game.
This changed in '99 when San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst graced the cover. This is when the Madden Curse began. From '99 onward, each year a different, high-profile football player would be featured on the cover.
With the recent injury of Troy Polamalu (The latest cover athlete, shared with Larry Fitzgerald), I couldn't resist bringing this issue back. The cover accolade is certainly an honor, but along with this honor has come a strange phenomenon.
Virtually every cover athlete has suffered massive injuries, or decline in performance the next year. Call it a coincidence, nit-picking, or something to watch out for, but this article is dedicated to the not-so-lucky victims of Madden's infamous Curse.
Madden '01 Eddie George
Before Madden Cover: Started all 16 games in '99 and rushed for 1300 yards while helping to lead the Titans to the Super Bowl.
After Madden Cover: Got better as a runner and even racked up 1500 yards, but here is where the Curse got started. In the 2000-01 divisional round of the playoffs against the Ravens, he had a costly fumble that helped lead to a shocking loss against the visiting wild card Ravens.
Verdict : Cursed
Madden '02 Daunte Culpepper
Before Madden Cover: In 2000 Culpepper lead the Vikings to 11 wins, the division crown, and to within one game of the Super Bowl.
After Madden Cover: His stats dropped considerably. He started five fewer games, went from 33 touchdowns to just 14, and the Vikings failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since the '95 season.
Madden '03 Marshall Faulk
Before Madden Cover: Faulk helped the Greatest Show on Turf go 14-2, light up the NFL and to Super Bowl XXXVI, before a shocking upset at the hands of the Patriots. Faulk put up exceptional numbers.
After Madden Cover: In 2002 Faulk and the Rams took a big step back. Faulk's yardage dropped by 400 yards, and he rushed for four fewer touchdowns. He did manage to squeak out a seventh pro bowl appearance, but his team dropped all the way to 7-9, and out of the playoffs.
Madden '04 Michael Vick
Before Madden Cover: Michael Vick electrified the NFL in 2002. He was named to the Pro Bowl, had one of his best seasons statistically, and even led the upstart Falcons to an upset win over the Packers in the playoffs.
After Madden Cover: In 2003, Vick missed all but four games with a broken leg. The Falcons fell apart without him and finished 5-11. This is a no-brainer.
Madden '05 Ray Lewis
Perhaps the one person who has legitimately avoided the cover curse. He hardly registered a drop in production and was an outstanding player all around.
Verdict: Curse Avoided
Madden '06 Donovan McNabb
Before Madden Cover: McNabb was fresh off leading the Eagles to their fourth straight Conference Championship appearance and first Super Bowl appearance since the 1980 season. He was a pro bowler and had one of his greatest years as a pro.
After Madden Cover: McNabb missed seven games. Had a terrible fued with wide receiver Terrell Owens, suffered an obvious drop in production. And to top it off, the Eagles suffered their first losing season since '99.
Madden '07 Shaun Alexander
Before Madden Cover: In 2005, Alexander was the league MVP and set the record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season with 28.
After Madden Cover: His performance went in the tank. He ran for almost a 1000 fewer yards, and rushed for 20 fewer touchdowns. Not to mention the fact that his record for most rushing TDs in a season was broken in 2006 by LaDanian Tomlinson.
Madden '08 Vince Young
Before Madden Cover: Vince led the upstart Titans to a record of 8-5 in games he started. He was named to the Pro Bowl and was named rookie of the year.
After Madden Cover: In 2007, he threw nine touchdowns to 17 interceptions. He managed to lead the Titans to the playoffs but played poorly in the game. He was eventually relieved of starting duty by Kerry Collins in week one of the '08 season. He hasn't started a game since.
Verdict: Mild Curse
Madden '09 Brett Favre
Before Madden Cover: Brett rides off into the sunset after leading the Packers to one of their best seasons in years.
After Madden Cover: Opts out of retirement and undergoes offseason-long fued with Packers. He signs with the Jets, and they collapse after an 8-3 start. They finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs.
Madden '10 Feat. Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu
Fresh off a Super Bowl win and at the height of his game, what could possibly go wrong for the Flyin' Hawaiian? Well how bout an MCL tear in the second quarter of week one? He could miss up to six weeks. Madden Cover Curse strikes again. Sorry, Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time.
Well perhaps there is strength in numbers. Maybe the curse can only affect one guy at a time. Maybe it won't get good ol' Larry Fitzgerald. Or just maybe it's only a matter of time. For when featured on the Madden Cover, many will try but few will ever avoid that dreaded, awful...Madden Cover Curse.