Since 2000, EA Sports has been putting players on the cover of the Madden video games...and since 2000, players have been haunted by what has been called the "Madden Curse."
Since 2000, Garrison Hearst, Eddie George, Daunte Culpepper, Marshall Faulk, Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Shawn Alexander, Vince Young, Brett Favre and Troy Polomalu have all been struck by the Madden Curse.
For many fans, it was no surprise to see reigning Super Bowl MVP of the energized New Orleans Saints Drew Brees appear on the cover of Madden '11. And if anybody could break the curse, it would be Brees, right?
There have been two main contributors to the Madden Curse: An unexplained decrease in statistical production, or an injury.
Brees threw for the second-highest total yardage in his career (4,620), and was one touchdown shy of tying his career high (33). But he did throw a career-high 22 interceptions.
Since dislocating his shoulder in his last game as a San Diego Charger in 2005, Brees has missed only one start, that being a Week 17 game in 2009 to rest for the playoffs. He started all 16 games this season.
So that brings up the question, did Drew Brees break the Madden Curse?
After a 36-41 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card Round, many debates will arise that he did not. But the defending champs falling to the 7-9 NFL West Champion Seahawks is not Brees' fault.
Brees completed 39 of his 60 passes, throwing for 404 yards and two touchdowns. Brees had his team in the game until the very end. If anybody is to blame, it is the defense. On Marshawn Lynch's victory-sealing 67-yard touchdown run, eight different Saints missed tackles.
Along with Drew Brees, people could also argue that Arizona Cardinals All-Pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald also escaped the Madden Curse. Fitzgerald appeared with Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu on the cover of Madden '10. Polamalu missed 11 games due to injury.
Fitzgerald, on the other hand, had a Pro Bowl season with his defending NFC champion Cardinals, who repeated as NFC West champions.
Fitzgerald was voted to the Pro Bowl, started all 16 games, finished with just under 100 receptions, had over 1,000 yards receiving and led the league with 13 touchdowns.
Fitzgerald's Cardinals also made it past the Wild Card Round, beating the Green Bay Packers 51-45 in OT before falling to Drew Brees and the Saints, 45-14.
With the exceptions of not winning their division this season, and being upset by Seattle, I think Brees technically escaped the Madden Curse.
However, I don't think fans will truly accept the curse as broken until a Madden cover athlete wins the MVP and leads his team to a Super Bowl victory.