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The Madden Curse is a superstition associated with getting on the cover of any Madden NFL game in the series, similar to the Campbell’s Chunky Soup Curse or the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx. Players who make the cover often times suffer a serious injury, have a decline in performance, and/or their team does poorly the following season(s).
The Madden NFL series, formerly known as John Madden Football, is an American Football video game series developed by Electronic Arts Tiburon that started in 1988. Prior to 1998, John Madden himself was only featured on the cover of each yearly installment of the series. In 1998, John Madden would again be on the cover of Madden NFL 99. However, in the PAL version of the game, San Francisco 49ers’ running back, Garrison Hearst made the cover. After having the best year in his professional career and breaking several franchise records, Hearst twisted his ankle in the Divisional round of the NFL Playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons.
The following year, Barry Sanders, running back of the Detroit Lions, would appear on the cover of Madden NFL 2000 along with John Madden, while Dorsey Levens, running back for the Green Bay Packers, would appear on the cover of the PAL version. Before the 1999 season even began, Barry Sanders abruptly retired, leaving the Lions without their star player, and the Packers would fail to make the playoffs despite Levens running for 1,034 yards.
The suffering of players and teams associated with making the Madden cover has not go unnoticed by the public. They determined that the Madden cover is “cursed”, thus The Madden Curse was born. As the Madden NFL series’ popularity grew to astronomical heights and more players and teams languish after appearing on the Madden cover, The Madden Curse has become a part of video game and sports lore.
In 2007, Electronic Arts decided to feature San Diego Chargers running back, LaDainian Tomlinson, for the cover of Madden NFL 08. This sparked outrage among Chargers and Tomlinson fans to the point they created the site, SaveLTfromMadden.com, to voice their disdain for the decision. Tomlinson would later turn down the offer citing contract negotiations and Tennessee Titans’ quarterback, Vince Young, would make the cover instead.
Madden Cover Vote
Starting in 2010, Electronic Arts allowed fans to vote on who gets to be on the Madden cover, which was won by New Orleans Saints’ quarterback, Drew Brees. The following year, Electronic Arts began running a bracket-style tournament where fans vote on which player makes the cover. Fans would commonly vote against players they like and/or plays for their favorite team to avoid the “curse” while voting for players they didn’t like and/or plays for a rival team.
- Madden NFL 99 (PAL Version), Garrison Hearst of the San Francisco 49ers: The first “victim”, twisted his ankle in the playoffs and missed the following two seasons. He would win NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2001.
- Madden NFL 2000, Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions: Retired before the start of the 1999 season, leaving the Lions without their star player.
- Madden NFL 2000 (PAL Version), Dorsey Levens of the Green Bay Packers: Ran for 1,034 yards. However, his team, the Green Bay Packers, would miss the playoffs. Levens’ role on the team would later diminished and he was eventually released in 2001.
- Madden NFL 2001, Eddie George of the Tennessee Titans: The Titans would lose to the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional round of the 2000–01 NFL playoffs after making it to Super Bowl XXXIV the previous season. George’s numbers steadily declined and the Titans released him in 2003. George would later play for the Dallas Cowboys before retiring the next year.
- Madden NFL 2002, Daunte Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings: Threw 23 interceptions and tied the NFL record for most fumbles in a season. The Vikings finished the season 5-11. After a good 2004 season, Culpepper blew out both his knees in 2005 in a loss to the Carolina Panthers. That same year, he was charged for his involvement in the Minnesota Vikings Boat Party Scandal. The charges were later dropped in 2006. In 2008, Culpepper started 5 games for the infamous 2008 Detroit Lions, the first and so far only team to ever go 0-16 in NFL history.
- Madden NFL 2004, Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons: Broke his fibula in a pre-season game against the Baltimore Ravens. Without their star quarterback for most of the season, the Falcons went 5-11. In 2007, Vick was convicted of operating an illegal dog fighting and served 21 months in prison and two months home confinement.
- Madden NFL 06, Donavon McNabb of the Philadelphia Eagles: Placed on injured reserved after injuring his groin in a Monday night loss to the Dallas Cowboys during the 2005 season. On top of that, McNabb was in the middle of an off-field dispute with wide receiver and teammate, Terrell Owens, that started during the off-season. The T.O. Saga and injuries devastated the Eagles and they finished 2005 6-10 after reaching Super Bowl XXXIX the previous season.
- Madden NFL 07, Shaun Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks: The first player to be featured the cover of NCAA Football (NCAA Football 2001), EA Sports’ other American Football video game series, and Madden NFL. After winning NFL MVP in the previous season, Alexander suffered a foot injury in 2006 and missed six games. He was never the same after the injury and was released by the Seahawks in 2008. Alexander played the 2008 season with the Washington Redskins where he suffered a knee injury was later released.
- Madden NFL 08, Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans: Young missed one game due to a minor injury. Despite that, Young had a good season and the Titans finished 10-6 with a playoff berth. However, more serious injuries in later seasons and his ongoing dispute with head coach, Jeff Fisher, meant the end of Young’s tenure with the Titans. He has only started three games since. The Titans become the first team have multiple players featured on the Madden cover.
- Madden NFL 09, Brett Favre of the New York Jets (after coming out of retirement): Many fans speculated that this would be the end of the “curse” since Favre retired and the Packers were already moving on. However, to everyone’s shock, Favre came out of retirement and was traded to the New York Jets. Because of this, EA Sports released an updated version of the cover where Favre is wearing a Jets uniform instead of the Packers uniform in the original version. Favre had a season plagued with a poor performance on the field and an off-field sexual harassment scandal. The Jets finished the 2008 season 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Farve finished his career with the Minnesota Vikings where he suffered a shoulder injury that finally forced him to retire for good.
- Madden NFL 10, Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals: This marked the first time two players were featured on the cover. Many fans speculated on how the “curse” affect the both of them. Polamalu sprained his MCL in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans and missed the next four games. After returning, he injured his PCL in Week 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Polamalu only played five games and the Steelers finished the 2009 season 9-7 and missed the playoffs. In contrast, despite a rib injury in the latter half of the season, Fitzgerald scored a career-high 13 touchdowns and the Cardinals won the NFC West division with a 10-6 record. Fitzgerald became the second player to make the NCAA Football and Madden NFL covers.
- Madden NFL 13, Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions: Broke several records including the NFL record for most receiving yards in a single season, previously held by Pro Football Hall of Famer, Jerry Rice. Despite this, the Lions finished the 2012 season 4-12 after making the playoffs the previous year.
- Madden NFL 25 (Playstation 4 and Xbox One Versions), Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings: After almost breaking the NFL single-season rushing record, winning the NFL MVP, and leading the Vikings to the playoffs in the previous season, Peterson suffered foot injuries that hindered his performance and only played 14 games. During the season, Peterson’s two-year-old son was assaulted by the mother’s boyfriend and later died from his injuries. The Vikings finished the 2013 season 5-10-1. On September 12, 2014, Peterson was indicted in Montgomery County, Texas for reckless injury to his four-year-old son. Three days later, Peterson is put under investigation for the abuse of another son. With the mounting pressure and outrage facing the franchise, the Minnesota Vikings barred Peterson from all team activities until his child-abuse cases were resolved.
The Chunky Soup Curse – Site dedicated to the Campbell’s Chunky Soup Curse
The Sports Illustrated Curse – Site dedicated to the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx
ProFootballTalk – Adrian Peterson Investigated for Another Abuse Case
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