The "Madden Curse" started as a simple joke. A player makes the Madden cover and then is subsequently seriously injured, or their level of play falls significantly the next year.
Everyone began to joke and and say there was a curse, but most dismissed the idea with a laugh. Then it got really strange.
Since 1999, the game featured a player on the cover that is considered to be the pinnacle of their careers. The opportunity to be on the Madden cover is an honor to some, but a curse to others.
Of all the 14 players on the cover since 1999, not one of them had a good year, and most of them received serious injuries. Some injuries were even career ending.
The most recent player on the cover is Drew Brees, the quarterback for the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. He is featured on the cover of Madden 2011. Saints fans be prepared for a down year.
Garrison Hearst was the running back for the San Fransisco 49ers. For his efforts in the 1998 season, he was featured on the Madden 1999 cover.
Until that year, John Madden himself was featured on the cover of all the Madden games.
Hearst played extremely well in the 1999 season. He led the 49ers to the NFC divisional playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons.
He twisted his ankle when it was caught in the artificial turf by his cleat. The accident caused a broken fibula just above the ankle.
Hearst missed two full seasons rehabbing. He never could get back to full strength.
Two NFC North runnings were featured on the Madden 2000 cover: Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions and Dorsey Levens of the Green Bay Packers.
Arguably the greatest running back of all-time Barry Sanders was featured on the Madden 2000 cover. However, just before the Lions were set to begin training camp, Sanders unexpectedly announced his retirement from the National Football League.
Sanders clearly would be the all-time leading rusher in the NFL to this day if he would of continued to play.
EA sports later released new copies of the game with Dorsey Levens on the cover. He was a part of the Green Bay Packers teams who appeared in back-to-back Super Bowls.
Levens injured his knee. The Packers missed the playoffs, and he was subject to a backup role ever since.
The Madden 2001 cover featured Tennessee Titans Eddie George. a year after the Titans lost to the Rams in the Super Bowl by a single yard.
George had a career year that season, seemingly ending the Madden curse before it ever began.
He helped lead the Titans all the way to the divisional finals against the Baltimore Ravens.
Ravens Ray Lewis wrestled a pass from George with 6:41 left in the game, and took it 50 yards for his first career touchdown.
Many Titans still blame George for that playoff loss. The next season, he spent most of the season injured and never played like the running back he was accustomed too.
The Madden 2002 cover featured Minnesota Vikings quarterback Dante Culpepper.
The Vikings were coming off a horrendous championship game loss in Culpepper's season debut.
They had all the talent in the world and they were many experts pick to contend for the Super Bowl.
The Vikings went 4-7 while Culpepper was at the helm. He threw 18 touchdowns with 23 interceptions.
Culpepper suffered a season ending knee injury and besides his historic 2004 season, Culpepper never returned to his status as an elite NFL quarterback.
The 2003 running back featured one of the NFL's All-time great running backs in Marshall Faulk.
After helping the St.Louis Rams win two Super Bowl titles in three years, it was his turn.
Faulk was one of the main attractions for the "greatest show on turf." He was still in his prime, surrounded by talent at every position, and had four straight seasons where he rushed for more than 1,300 yards.
He was plagued with a nagging ankle injury and failed to rush for 1,000 yards. The Rams finished the season 7-9 and failed to make the playoffs.
The 2004 Madden Cover featured Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
Vick led the Falcons to their first playoff appearance in years the previous season.
However, it didn't take long for the "madden curse" to take affect. Vick broke his leg in the beginning of the preseason and only played five games all year.
Vick's dog fighting stupidity could also be a sign of the curse, but that has nothing to do with football, he is just an idiot.
The Madden 2005 cover featured Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. He is considered the greatest linebacker of his generation, and some would pick him as the most feared defensive player of all-time.
After a career-high six interceptions the previous season, and a pro-bowler year after year, Lewis was the obvious choice.
However, the curse hit Lewis as well. He failed to have a single interception the entire season.
The Ravens went 9-7 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. To make matters worse, Lewis was on the bench at the end of the year with a torn hamstring.
The Madden 2006 cover featured Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
McNabb was making his case as one of the best quarterbacks of his generation by the end of the 2004 season.
With McNabb at the helm, the Eagles went 59-21 and made the playoffs five straight years, including an NFC Championship game loss, and a trip to the Super Bowl.
He was known for publicly saying he didn't believe in the curse. However, he was subject to injury as well.
McNabb suffered a sports hernia, an injury that takes a long time to heal. He played eight more games, then opted for surgery that kept him out for the rest of the season.
The Madden 2007 cover featured Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander.
Alexander led the Seahawks to a surprise trip to the Super Bowl the year before, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Expectations were high for Alexander as well for the Seahawks. However, the year did not go as expected.
In the third week of the season Alexander broke his foot and missed six games. He returned late in year, but never regained the same prominence that season, or the rest of his career.
Madden 2008 featured Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young. San Diego Chargers LaDanian Tomlinson was the first player asked to be on the cover, but he declined.
He said it was because the financial offer was not what he liked, but most say it was because of the "madden curse."
Tomlinson had a record setting year, and Young played miserably. He played in just five games before suffering a quadriceps injury. In was the first time in his football career that he missed a game.
The next year he suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss most of the season and later lost his job to NFL veteran Kerry Collins.
Madden 2009 featured Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre who had just retired.
What could happen to a player who retired? Well, Favre began the first of his three retirement episodes and returned to play for the New York Jets.
Favre started the season well for the Jets, but then threw just two touchdowns and nine interceptions.
The Jets failed to make the playoffs after going 8-3 at one point in the season.
For the first time since 2000 when the cover featured Madden and Barry Sanders, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu graced the 2010 Madden Cover.
In the season opener against the Tennessee Titans, Polamalu sprained his MCL and missed four games. He returned for three games before tearing his posterior crucial ligament and sat out the rest of the season.
Fitzgerald on the other hand, had a great season gaining over 1,000 yards. He suffered a rib injury that caused him to miss the playoff game and the pro bowl.
The latest NFL player to grace the Madden Cover is New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Brees had a phenomenal season a year ago, leading the Saints to the Super Bowl title.
It will be extremely hard for him to duplicate his performance from a year ago.
It does not look good for Brees according to the "madden curse." He will more than likely have a down year, or worse, get injured.
Saints fans, BEWARE!