The Madden Curse: Examining the Last 10 Players to Make the Cover

Ralph Longo@https://twitter.com/RalphLongoAnalyst IIIApril 6, 2012

The Madden Curse: Examining the Last 10 Players to Make the Cover

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    It's commonly known to sports fans that a so-called "Madden Curse" exists for whatever player is chosen to appear on the Madden NFL cover. Many dismiss it as folklore, but does it actually exist?  

    For those who don't know what the curse is, it's said that if a player appears on the cover, then the next season he will either get hurt, see a decrease in his production, his team will have a bad season or sometimes even all three. 

    So, here are the last 10 players to appear on the cover, spanning from 2003-2012. Is the Madden Curse real? By the end, you'll be able to decide for yourself, and while you may be skeptical now, the answer may surprise you.  

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2003 Cover: St. Louis Rams RB Marshall Faulk

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    Marshall Faulk had a monster season in 2001 (Madden games are released after the season, and the Madden "year" is one year ahead of the current year, so Madden 2003 was released in 2002 and Faulk was selected based off 2001's production, same for other players). 

    Faulk had about 2,150 yards from scrimmage, including 83 receptions and 21 total touchdowns. Everything was looking good for Faulk. However, after Faulk appeared on the cover, 2002 wasn't so great. 

    His production dipped significantl; he only had about 1,450 yards from scrimmage and his touchdowns were reduced from 21 to 10. He was hampered by injury all year long, and after appearing on the cover, he never rushed for 1,000 yards in a season again. 

    Verdict: For Marshall Faulk, the Madden Curse definitely existed, his production dropped, he was injured and he was never the same again. 

2004 Cover: Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick

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    Vick was coming off a very solid season in 2002, where he threw for nearly 3,000 yards and added almost 800 more on the ground, with 24 total touchdowns. Vick seemed to finally be coming into his own as a passer in the NFL.

    One day after Madden 2004 being released Vick badly broke his leg in a preseason game. As a result, he was only able to play in five games, and in those starts he was pretty awful, throwing for only four touchdowns and averaging barely 100 yards through the air per game. It was his worst season ever due to the injury. 

    Verdict: Vick has rebounded since, but there's no doubt he was affected by the Madden Curse. I mean, he broke his leg less than 24 hours after the game was released, something definitely curse-y there. 

2005 Cover: Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis

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    Ray Lewis was the first defensive player selected to be on the Madden cover in the new millennium. He had a career year in 2003. After being selected for the cover, his production dipped, but not nearly as much as others on this list. 

    He only had 16 less tackles, and missed a game due to injury and failed to intercept a pass. Besides that, though, he had a good year and was named first team All-Pro, and has been a top NFL player in the years since he appeared on the cover. 

    Verdict: There is not enough evidence to say that the Madden curse affected Ray Lewis. He had a really good year and didn't miss any real significant time due to injury. 

2006 Cover: Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan Mcnabb

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    McNabb was selected based off his 2004 campaign in which he recorded 31 touchdowns against only eight interceptions, threw for nearly 4,000 yards, and had a 104.7 passer rating. He made the Pro Bowl and had an all around great season. 

    However, after appearing on the cover, McNabb missed seven games due to injury. His production fell off a cliff, and he failed to make the Pro Bowl for the first time in five years. He also had a widely publicized off the field feud with Terrell Owens that ripped the team apart.

    Verdict: Donovan McNabb was definitely hurt by the Madden Curse. He was injured significantly and his production dropped, clear evidence that the curse affected him.  

2007 Cover: Seattle Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander

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    Shaun Alexander was the only athlete in this slideshow that I totally forgot was on the cover. He was put on the cover based off of his 2005 campaign, in which he recorded 1,880 yards on the ground and 28 touchdowns. He was the best running back in the league and was named NFL MVP. 

    In 2006, Alexander totally fell off. He missed six games due to a broken foot, failed to rush for 1,000 yards, and had a career high in fumbles despite only playing in 10 games. He only played two more subpar seasons before washing out of the league. 

    Verdict: Before he was on the cover, Alexander was tearing up the NFL. After, he was a shell of his former self and was gone in less than two years. Alexander is definitely a victim of the curse. 

2008 Cover: Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young

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    Vince Young was somewhat of a surprise pick to be on the cover, since he was a rookie and didn't really put up big numbers. However, he made a big splash with many come from behind victories, and he made the Pro Bowl, a big accomplishment for any rookie. 

    However, after being named to the cover, Young went on to throw for only nine touchdowns with 17 interceptions, and his rushing yards dipped by almost 200. However, the Titans did make the playoffs despite Young's poor play, as he did step up in situations when he needed. 

    In the years since, Young has had a lot of off the field issues, and was let go by the Titans due to his personal issues. He's no longer a starter in the NFL, and hasn't played very well in the years since the cover. 

    Verdict: Vince is somewhat of an enigma, but we'll say he's a victim of the curse. His production went down from his rookie year, and he's had a lot of problems since, both on and off the field. 

2009 Cover: Packers/Jets QB Brett Favre

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    Brett Favre had a spectacular season in 2007, the year his selection was based off of. He threw for 4,155 yards and 28 touchdowns and had one of his most efficient seasons ever. 

    However, after being selected, he was the subject of much turmoil with the Packers, in a story we all know well, and ended up becoming a New York Jet in 2008. Favre got off to a good start, but an unreported bicep injury (the Jets were later fined for not recording it on their injury report) hampered his production and the Jets failed to make the playoffs. 

    Favre bounced back for perhaps his best season ever in 2009 with the Vikings, a season in which they should've made the Super Bowl had it not been for a crucial Favre interception against the Saints. 

    He was also the target of the Saints in that NFC title game, which has been chronicled with the New Orleans bounty scandal.

    Verdict: I would have to say Favre was a victim of the curse. His production significantly dipped, he played for a different team, and he would go through a lot of off-the-field issues relating to the season he spent with the Jets.  

2010 Cover: WR Larry Fitzgerald/ Safety Troy Polamalu

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    2010 was a rare edition in which two players, Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald and Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, appeared on the cover. 

    This one is a split, Polamalu only was able to play in five games, due to knee injuries, and his Steelers missed the playoffs a year after they won the Super Bowl. 

    Fitzgerald had a very good season, in which he recorded his career high in touchdowns, caught nearly 100 balls and was injury free. 

    Verdict: So, for Madden 2010, we had a split verdict, with Polamalu being a victim, and Fitzgerald shaking the curse and remaining nearly as productive as he previously was. 

2011 Cover: New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees

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    This one is pretty tough. Drew Brees had an excellent season, nearly matching his Super Bowl-winning cover year totals and was as sharp as he has ever been. 

    However, the year he was selected, the Saints made the playoffs but lost in an absolutely shocking upset to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks, and were embarrassed when Marshawn Lynch tore up the defense and had one of the best runs you'll ever see.   

    Verdict: As previously stated, this one is hard to call, but we'll say that personally Brees wasn't a victim of the curse, but Madden was able to strike at the team as a whole as the Saints lost in the first round to, quite frankly, a team that didn't even belong in the playoffs.  

2012 Cover: Cleveland Browns RB Peyton Hillis

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    Peyton Hillis had a breakout year in 2010, in which he rushed for almost 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns, and added 61 catches for 477 yards. He had a great year in which he had many highlight tape-type runs in which he hurdled opponents, and he really captured the eye of a lot of football fans. 

    However, last season after being selected for the cover, Hillis was hampered by injury all year long, and didn't even hit 600 yards on the ground. He was the subject of trade talk, and had a big dispute with the Browns over his contract.

    Now he's been traded to the Chiefs, where he'll be the backup to Jamaal Charles.

    Verdict: Hillis was absolutely a victim of the curse, as his production was cut in half, he had off the field issues and he suffered injury.