Drew Brees enters the 2010 NFL season at the pinnacle of his profession.
Three-time All Pro. Super Bowl Champion. Super Bowl MVP.
Madden cover boy.
Of course, this final honor does not carry the same positive connotations as the previous three. While only elite NFL players are asked to be placed on the cover of the Madden video game series (unless your name is Vince Young), fans and players alike are wary of the Madden curse.
Supposedly, the players placed on the cover of the Madden video game will either be plagued with injuries, or suffer through a disappointing season.
Players such as Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, Shaun Alexander and Michael Vick have been cited as supposed "victims" of the curse.
Last season, the developers at Electronic Arts hedged their bets. They placed two players on the cover: Steelers star safety Troy Polamalu and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Polamalu dealt with repeated injuries and the Steelers missed the postseason. Fitzgerald, however, had a strong season and defeated "The curse."
Ironically, Fitzgerald was the first of the Madden cover players to believe in the curse. He admitted that he did worry about it and its potential to ruin his season.
So will Brees follow in the footsteps of Fitzgerald and beat the Madden jinx? Or Brees and the Saints suffer the same fate as Polamalu and the Steelers?
Escape the Preseason
Brees has already avoided incident in the preseason, a month in which two previous Madden coverboys began to have their issues.
In 2003, Michael Vick was placed on the cover. During the preseason, he broke his leg and missed the entire year.
While Donovan McNabb survived the preseason without injury in 2005, it was drama-filled and a harbinger of the disappointing season that was to follow.
Terrell Owens spent the preseason turning Eagles' training camp into a circus, sniping at McNabb off the field and refusing to speak with him on the field.
From the start, the 2005 season was a mess for McNabb and the Eagles. His eventual groin injury ended his season, but the problems had started in the preseason.
Brees, so far, has avoided such issues. His 96.3 preseason passer rating shows that the QB may already be in midseason form.
His preseason has lacked a serious injury or a major off-the-field drama.
Brees is off to a good start in his quest to beat the curse.
A potential reason for a dropoff in production by a quarterback would be the loss of key contributors on offense.
Brees will not have this issue.
At the major skill positions, only backup Mike Bell left the team in the 2010 offseason. The Saints return their entire receiving corps, including Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, and Jeremy Shockey.
Brees will not lack weapons, and will still have the same chemistry with those receivers that helped carry the Saints to a Super Bowl title.
The offensive line is intact from last season as well. Jammal Brown was traded to Washington, but he spent the entire 2009 season on injured reserve. Brees will not have to dealt with a developing set of pass protectors.
Potential for Injury or Decline
While the Saints' offensive line will do their best to protect Brees from potential injury, sometimes devastating incidents do occur.
If the Saints have a weak point on the line, it is likely left tackle Jermod Bushrod, who gave up nine sacks last season at the pivotal position. However, he improved throughout the season, and is relatively dependable.
Most of the time, injuries are random. The Madden curse is "blamed." In reality, season-ending injuries are simply part of the game. However, Brees is in a favorable situation. The Saints have built an offense with strong weapons and a stout offensive line. He's as protected as any quarterback in football.
Some Madden curse sufferers also dealt with a dropoff in production. Players such as Daunte Culpepper, Shaun Alexander, and Brett Favre all had sub-par seasons after being placed on the cover.
However, Brees is more reliable than any of the past "jinxed" players.
Culpepper was going into his third season as a starter when he was hit by the curse. Brees is a nine-year veteran.
Alexander was a 29-year-old running back in a league where age 30 is considered a death sentence at the position. His dropoff was predictable. Brees is 31, but he plays a position which star players can continue at a Pro Bowl level into their late-thirties.
Favre was 38 at the time of his Madden cover, and was brought down by an injury that was likely made worse by his increasing age. Brees is much younger than Favre and will not have that issue.
Brees is well suited to beat the curse that has defeated many players over the years.
His combination of weapons, solid offensive line, and age will help him to avoid the curse.
The Saints quarterback could be hit with injuries. But the same risk holds true for every other player in the NFL. No "curse" can change that fact.
There is no real reason to believe that Drew Brees is destined for a disastrous 2010. Now, he just has to survive the season and help to prove that the "Madden curse" is simply an illusion.