As the 2012 NFL regular season winds down, it’s time to visit the inevitable phenomena known as “the Madden Curse”. In 1988 Electronic Arts released the first installment of John Madden Football for PC and again for Sega Genesis in 1990. Fast forward to 1998 when ‘Franchise Mode’ was installed and 2004 when all other football games became obsolete. Since its inception, Madden Football had featured its namesake, former NFL player and coach John Madden, on its cover. In 2001 however the trend of placing a rising star on the cover had begun, and so did the “Madden Curse”. The curse is said to affect the current cover star with either an injury or a severe lack of production compared to previous seasons. In the following article I’ll take you through the details of each player featured and the misfortunes they’ve experienced.
Eddie George was a senior at Ohio State University in 1995, he finished his college career with 4284 all purpose yards and 45 touchdowns with a 5.5 yards per carry average. He won several awards including the prestigious Heisman trophy. He would be selected 14th overall in the NFL draft by the then Houston Oilers. As a rookie in the NFL he ran for 1300 yards and 8 touchdowns, winning the rookie of the year in 1996. In 1999 George would lead the now Tennessee Titans (13-3) to a Super Bowl match up against the St Louis Rams but would lose 23-16. The Titans would be back in the playoffs in 2000 (again 13-3) with Eddie George having the best statistical season of his career amassing 1500 yards and 14 touchdowns but would lose in the second round to the 2000 champion Baltimore Ravens. However this performance earned him the right to grace the first player cover of Madden Football 2001.
In unexplainable, supernatural circumstances the Madden Curse had begun. After having his best season in 2000, George would go on to have his worst comparable season in 2001 after appearing on the cover. The Tennessee Titans would miss the playoffs with a less than stellar 7-9 record and George only gaining 939 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Madden 2002 would bring on Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Daunte Culpepper. Culpepper, drafted 11th overall in the 1999 NFL draft would throw for 6500 yards and 47 touchdowns in his first 2 seasons as a starter (did not start his rookie season). In 2002 Daunte would throw for 3800 yards and 18 touchdowns but he would also throw 23 interceptions (the most of his career) and break the NFL record for fumbles. The Vikings would finish 6-10. In 2004 Daunte Culpepper would throw for a career best 4700 yards and 39 touchdowns but would blow out both of his knees in the following 2 seasons. He would never be the same again.
Madden 2003. When the St. Louis Rams acquired Marshall Faulk via trade with the Indianapolis Colts in 1999, they went from a 4-12 team to Super Bowl Champions instantly. Winning the Super Bowl in ’99 and appearing again in ’01, the Rams were a force in the NFL. Marshall Faulk would average 1268 yards and 11 touchdowns each year for 4 years prior to 2003 when he was the cover boy. The Rams would finish 12-4 and go on to lose in the playoffs in 2003 but would never eclipse an 8-8 record again. Marshall Faulk would only play in 11 games and only rush for 818 yards. He would decline for the next 2 seasons and retire in 2005 after reconstructive knee surgery.
Madden 2004. In 2001 the Atlanta Falcons had the first pick in the draft, choosing quarterback Michael Vick, they had their franchise quarterback for years to come. Vick would bring a passing and rushing attack to the NFL that is very rare for pro quarterbacks. In 2004 after getting his image on the cover Michael Vick would break his leg in a preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens and the Falcons would go on to finish the year 5-11. Just a year later Vick was indicted on dog fighting charges and sent to prison. I’m still holding out hope that the curse continues someday for Vick in having his throat torn out by a stray pit-bull in the streets of Philadelphia.
Madden 2005. Ray Lewis, by 2005 the former first round draft pick would earn 7 Pro Bowl appearances, a Super Bowl title, Super Bowl MVP, and two NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards. The NFL had not seen a dominate force at linebacker in over a decade. In 2005 Lewis would not finish the season due to a wrist injury. He would only play six games the following season as his Ravens would fall to 6-10.
Madden 2006. Donovan McNabb would lead the Philadelphia Eagles to 4 conference championship games and 1 Super Bowl appearance in his first 5 seasons. He would earn 5 Pro Bowl bids and and Offensive Player of the Year award before 2006. Once he donned the cover of Madden 2006 he would suffer a sports hernia in the first game of the season and tear an ACL and meniscus in his right knee a few games later. The Eagles would finish 6-10. Let’s be honest here, the Eagles don’t need any more bad luck than they already have, 5 conference championship games and only came out on top once? The only thing worse than that is the Buffalo Bills losing 4 straight Super Bowls.
Madden 2007. First round draft pick Shaun Alexander would be the league’s MVP in 2006 gaining 1880 yards and a record setting 27 rushing touchdowns. 5 of his first 6 seasons he would eclipse the 1000 yard mark and be in double digits in touchdowns. He had yet to miss a game since he entered the NFL. After gracing the cover in 2007 Alexander would miss 6 games due to injury, gain only 896 yards and score just 7 times. The Seattle Seahawks would go from a 10-6 playoff team to 4-12 and Alexander would never match that seasons numbers again.
Madden 2008. In 2007 LaDainian Tomlinson was set to take the Madden cover for that year’s upcoming video game. Charger fans created a website strongly opposing the decision to put their star playing on the cover of the cursed game. Ultimately Tomlinson would decline the offer, stating “contract negotiations”. The “prize” cover would go to Titans quarterback Vince Young. Vince would appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to announce his appearance on Madden 2008 and go on to say he didn’t believe in the curse. Young would go on to have a decent season in the year he would be on the cover but the following year would be his undoing. In 2009 Vince would lose his starting job to the veteran Kerry Collins after having a mental breakdown when fans booed him during a game. Young refused to go back onto the field but after coach Jeff Fisher persuaded him to do so he injured his knee four plays later. The day after the game Vince disappeared and could not be found or contacted for hours. Reports circulated about depression and suicide. In 2010 he regained his starting job back but in week 10 of the season after injuring the thumb on his throwing hand he sat out the rest of the game. Heading back to the locker room after the game Vince threw his shoulder pads into the crowd, proceeded to have an altercation with his head coach and was released from the team at seasons end.
Madden 2009. The infamous Brett Favre, he’s retired, he’s back, he’s retired, he’s back again. Mostly famous for being a Green Bay Packer, which is how he appeared on the cover, he was a New York Jet in the game after being traded before the season began. Favre suffered a torn bicep during the season and led the league in interceptions thrown with 22, 9 in his last 5 games. The 11 time Pro Bowl quarterback and future Hall-of-Famer would retire again at the end of the season. But alas Favre would return as a Minnesota Viking the very next season. After having an amazing season in 2010 he would suffer a concussion and ultimately retire for the third time at the end of his second season as a Viking. Brett would also get caught up in a sexting scandal with a model that worked for the Jets during his tenure there. On the plus side, this scandal would also spawn one of the best Saturday Night Live skits in recent years!
Madden 10. This would be the year of firsts. The first year that a player would not fall victim to the curse but also the first year the cover would don 2 superstars. Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu. Arizona Cardinal Larry Fitzgerald would make it out unscathed but the 7 time Pro Bowler Troy would miss more games than he would play in. Spraining his mcl in the first 30 minutes of the season he would miss the next 4 games. After returning for 3 games, Polamalu would injure his posterior cruciate ligament and miss more games. The reigning Super Bowl champion Steelers would miss the playoffs.
Madden 11. The 2010 Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees would appear of the cover of Madden 11. After his Saints won the Super Bowl the previous season, they were poised for another good year. However the curse had other plans. Brees threw 22 interceptions, twice as many as the previous year and the Saints would lose in the first round of the playoffs to a 7-9 Seattle Seahawks.
Madden 12. Madden 12 was set to bring about the return of a former cover man Michael Vick however an unlikely player emerged. Peyton Hillis the Cleveland Browns running back had 1500 all purpose yards and 13 touchdowns in 2011. He was the star on an otherwise terrible team. After receiving word of his cover fame, Hillis was quoted as saying “the madden curse is a bunch of bs”. The 2012 season began without an off-season, due to the NFL lockout. Peyton Hillis would play in the first 2 games before being stricken with flu-like symptoms and missing week 3. After playing the next 2 games he would miss 5 more games due to illness and injury. In the last week of the season Hillis is just over 700 yards and has a mere 3 touchdowns. Throughout the season there has been contract disputes and general locker room distractions from Hillis. Peyton Hillis was recently quoted on an ESPN blog as saying “No doubt about it, things haven’t worked in my favor this season. There’s a few things that have happened that made me believe in curses. Ain’t no doubt about it.”
I know not everyone believes in curses but that’s a whole lot of mumbo-jumbo going on in the Madden franchise. I don’t have a clue what may have caused this trail of destruction or what it will take to put and end to it but I for one believe that throughout the years Madden cover stars have downplayed their misfortunes but the current admissions of Peyton Hillis may change that. Next year is another year, there is no stopping the Madden franchise from putting out games year after year so the only unforeseeable end to this curse is the apocalypse. Good luck to the young man that decides to grace the cover for fame and fortune in 2013.
Justin Parmer is a freelance writer and Lancaster County’s unofficial celebrity golf champion. He has been lurking GeekTraffik.com since its inception.