We've all heard about it. Some believe, and some don't. But you can't argue against the startling coincidence. Time and time again, the NFL player who has appeared on the Madden cover has hard an unfortunate year.
History of the Madden Cover
The cover of the infamous game was given to John Madden himself up until 1998. I'm sure some would say that was a curse in and of itself. But we will start our analysis at the first person other than Madden.
Garrison Hearst—Madden 1999
Garrison Hearst of the San Francisco 49ers was the first victim. He appeared on the cover for the 1999 game, only to break his ankle so severely during the season that he wasn't able to play again for two years. When he did return, it was never to the same level of play.
Barry Sanders—Madden 2000
Some say this game is the exception to the Madden curse since Barry Sanders isn't the forefront of the cover. Madden returned while Barry was a small, transparent point in the background.
In any case, Sanders' appearance is still relevant. The curse presented itself in a new manner, when Sanders suddenly retired. Sanders was expected to break Walter Payton's all-time rushing record that season, and walked away from it all after being place on the cover.
Eddie George—Madden 2001
Tennessee Titans RB Eddie George graced the cover in 2001. That year he had a costly fumble which cost the Titans the playoffs. Then he suffered a career-changing toe injury which caused his lowest rushing totals ever. He would ultimately retire with the nickname 2.7, his average yards per carry that season, and a play on his jersey number.
Daunte Culpepper—Madden 2002
The year before Daunte Culpepper received the honors, he had thrown for almost 4,000 yards. A back injury sidelined Culpepper for most of the next year. He never truly recovered, and his productivity never matched what he had done before. Culpepper has since retired from the NFL.
Marshall Faulk—Madden 2003
Faulk was a great running back in 2001 with the St. Louis Rams. The team was 14-2 and went to the Super Bowl. However, after Faulk made the cover he became much less productive, and suffered some nagging injuries. The Rams finished the season 7-9.
Michael Vick—Madden 2004
Highly praised out of college, Michael Vick seemed like he had it all. The Falcons thought they were about to be on the move. His first year out of college, Vick made the cover. But before he ever played a regulation game he broke his leg in preseason. This injury came only one week after appearing on the cover of Madden '04.
His road to the NFL Hall of Fame was derailed and never got back on track. In his downtime while recovering from a broken leg, he found some new hobbies such as dog fighting.
We all know where that ended up.
Ray Lewis—Madden 2005
Lewis and his Baltimore Ravens won their division the year before he appeared on the cover. Lewis was a standout player with six interceptions and some key plays. The next year Ray Lewis was plagued by injuries and didn't make a single interception.
Donovan McNabb—Madden 2006
McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles made it to the Super Bowl in 2004. He gets on the the cover, and comes out the next year playing horribly. McNabb was hurt most of the season, and the Eagles finished 6-10.
Shaun Alexander—Madden 2007
Alexander had one of the better years a RB has ever had in the history of the NFL in 2005. After receiving the cover, he returned, only to suffer a boken foot, miss half of the season, and watch as his records are broken by Ladainian Tomlinson.
He never returned to top form, was eventually released by the Seattle Seahawks, and has not found a home in the NFL yet.
Vince Young—Madden 2008
At first it seemed as if the curse could skip this year. After Vince Young's rookie year, where he won Rookie of the Year and sent his team on a winning streak, no one believed the curse would strike someone so young and promising.
The next year Vince didn't play as well as before. In his sophomore slump, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns, but the Titans still made the playoffs, so curse avoided right?
In his first game of 2008, he refused to take the field after throwing two interceptions. The next night the police were looking for him because his friends, family, and teammates were worried about his "mental stability."
Now he is out for two-to-four weeks with an MCL sprain.
Brett Farve—Madden 2009
He's placed on the cover after retiring as a Green Bay Packer. He retires, unretires, and ends up on the New York Jets.
Will the curse prove itself to be true yet again? Or will Brett put a stop to all this nonsense and prove that it's just a startling coincidence?
At the very least, it's something fun to talk about.