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Madden Curse: A Complete History of the Cover Curse

Joseph GoodeCorrespondent IIIAugust 30, 2011

Madden Curse: A Complete History of the Cover Curse

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    This year, the people over at EA Sports decided to let the fans vote for who should grace the cover of the most prestigious sports video game of all time. The final was between Michael Vick and last year's breakout star, Peyton Hillis.  

    Luckily for Vick, Hillis won, because the Madden Curse is something not to play with.

    I will take a look at all the players who were on the cover of Madden and show you that the curse is still alive. Be afraid of the curse!

1999: Garrison Hearst

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    Up until Madden 99, John Madden had been the cover guy of the video game. The Madden curse didn't seem to affect him, so it must have started with Madden 99.

    EA Sports decided to put a player on the cover, and the San Francisco 49ers' running back, Garrison Hearst, was chosen.

    Hearst was breaking records and was destined for the Hall of Fame. But after being honored with the cover, he led the 49ers into the playoffs, where he broke his ankle. The break was so bad Hearst missed two full seasons and was never the same.

    The Madden Curse had begun.

2000: Barry Sanders and Dorsey Levens

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    I know what you're thinking: Barry Sanders never graced the cover of Madden.

    But he actually did. Sanders was the best running back in the 1990s, maybe in history, so it was fitting to put him on the cover for Madden 2000.

    Maybe Sanders was sensing something, so he shocked the world by deciding to retire before training camp began. He would never play again.  

    Now that is a curse.

    EA Sports later re-released the Madden 2000 game during the season with Packers running back Dorsey Levens. After back-to-back Super Bowl trips, Green Bay failed to make the playoffs, and Levens injured his knee. He was never the same.

    The Madden Curse unloaded a massive big hurt.  

2001: Eddie George

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    The great Eddie George was chosen for the cover of Madden 2001 after a monster season and leading the Titans to a narrow loss to the Rams in the Super Bowl. George was probably the best running back in the league at the time, combining power and speed.  

    George never got injured or had any problems during the regular season, but when the playoffs came around, the top-seeded Titans lost to the Ravens because George bobbled a pass that was intercepted and taken to the house.  

    An interception that proved costly for the Super Bowl favorites.  

    The following season, George was injured and was never the same. This was only the beginning of the Madden Curse.

2002: Daunte Culpepper

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    Daunte Culpepper was the leader of one of the most explosive offenses in the league. The combination of Randy Moss, and his deep ball was a thing of beauty to watch. Culpepper was a fast-rising star who can be remembered for his touchdown rolling celebration, so it was destined for him to be on the cover.

    As the season began, Culpepper looked like a shell of his former self, which led to a 4-7 record before his season-ending knee injury.  He was the first casualty with an injury from the curse.

2003: Marshall Faulk

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    In 2003, Marshall Faulk became the cover star of Madden. He was once part of "The Greatest Show on Turf," where his speed and quickness were unleashed upon the league.

    That season, Faulk had an ankle injury and was obviously slowed by it. He would hobble off the field almost every game and even missed two games. 

    The ankle injury did not allow Faulk to be on the field full time, and he never rushed for 1,000 yards again. He stayed in the league a few more seasons with abysmal stats until he retired.   

    Faulk was a great player whose career changed when he became the Madden cover boy.

2004: Michael Vick

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    Michael Vick is the most electrifying quarterback anyone has ever seen. His speed and quickness are that of legends, and his arm strength is unbelievable, so it was easy to choose Michael Vick to be on the cover of Madden 2004.

    The day after Madden was released, Vick broke his fibula and missed 11 games that season. When Vick broke his leg, people started to become curious about the curse—and rightfully so.  

    Vick had two more Pro Bowl seasons until he was caught for that little dog fighting incident. Since then, it has been looking bright for Vick as a $100 million starting quarterback. 

2005: Ray Lewis

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    Ray Lewis is the most intense player anyone has ever seen. He is a tone-setter and brings fear to the eyes of opposing quarterbacks.  

    Just look at those eyes on the cover.

    Big Ray was chosen to be on the cover of Madden 2005, and as the season rolled around, he broke his wrist. Although he only missed one game because he is such a beast, Lewis had no interceptions for the first time in his career.

    His stats were not comparable to previous seasons, either. The Ravens went 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.

    The Madden Curse was so mad that Lewis played through a broken wrist that it cursed him the following season with a thigh injury that caused him to miss 10 games.

2006: Donovan McNabb

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    Donovan McNabb was one of the top quarterbacks in the league when he was in his prime. He led the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs almost every season, so he was picked to be on the cover of Madden 2006.

    In his first game of the season, McNabb hobbled off the field with a sports hernia. He missed seven games and had a public feud with teammate Terrell Owens.

    McNabb had been a five-time Pro Bowler prior to that season; he has not made one Pro Bowl since the cover.

2007: Shaun Alexander

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    Shaun Alexander had a monster season in 2005, breaking the record for touchdowns in a season. Alexander was in line to be the next great running back, which was an easy pick for EA's 2007 cover guy.

    During the season, Alexander fractured his foot and missed six games. After the injury, he never recovered and was soon out of the league with his production on a decline.

    If Alexander was never on the cover of Madden, he would have had a great career.

2008: Vince Young

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    At first, LaDainian Tomlinson was chosen to be on the cover, but after fans petitioned against it fearing the curse, Tomlinson was released from the cover.

    Vince Young was the poster child for college football, and when he entered the NFL, Young started off with a solid, promising career. He became the Offensive Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler in his first season. He was the fastest-rising star in the NFL and became the cover boy for Madden 08.

    During the season, Young injured his quad and hindered his scrambling ability. He missed one game that season, but that wasn't where the curse started.

    Young was on suicide watch, quit on his team and his teammates didn't respect him. He was released from the Titans and is now a backup for the Eagles.  

    What happened to this heralded talent? The Madden Curse. 

2009: Brett Favre

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    I know most of you are tired of hearing anything that has to do with Brett Favre, and maybe being on the cover of Madden messed with his mind a little.  

    Anyways, Favre feuded with the Packers in the 2008 season, contemplated retirement and was eventually traded to the New York Jets.  

    EA Sports knew that being on the cover had a certain curse to it, so perhaps they figured that putting an aging, soon-to-be-retired Brett Favre on the cover would break the curse.  

    Of course, Favre didn't retire and played with an injured bicep down the stretch, losing four of the last five games.

2010: Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald

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    EA Sports continued their quest on breaking the Madden Curse by placing two players on the cover.

    Were they trying to confuse the curse?  

    Troy Polamalu is a defensive stalwart for the Steelers, and Larry Fitzgerald is arguably the best wide receiver in the game.  

    Well, the curse continued with both of theses players.  

    Polamalu only played in five games because of numerous knee injuries, and the Steelers did not make the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl.

    Fitzgerald wasn't affected by the curse during the regular season by being selected to the Pro Bowl. When the playoffs rolled around though, he suffered a rib injury that kept him out of the postseason.

    The curse was not confused and did some damage to both players.

2011: Drew Brees

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    In an interview, Drew Brees said he was honored to be on the cover of Madden, and he did not believe in the curse.  

    If you remember, Brees had an awesome season and led the Saints to a Wild Card spot against the Seahawks. Seattle is the only team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record and were giant underdogs.

    Brees threw for more than 4,000 yards, led his Saints into the playoffs and did not suffer an injury.  

    So you're thinking the curse is over, right?  Not so fast.  

    New Orleans was the biggest favorite in playoff history against the Seahawks and lost.  

    Now that's embarrassing.

    The Madden Curse works in mysterious ways. All I have to say is good luck to the new cover guy, Peyton Hillis. Have a great and safe season man, and watch out for the Madden Curse. 

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