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The Madden Curse: Actual Curse, or Many Eerie Coincidences?

Updated on September 21, 2011

I’m sure anyone who has been into gaming in the past ten years, regardless if you are into sports games, has heard of the Madden Curse. Basically the curse is whoever is on the cover of the latest Madden game, that person either gets hurt, and is out for a good chunk of the season, or has one of the worst seasons of their careers.

Now, to think of it logically, the reason a player gets the privilege of being on the cover, is because they had a great season the previous year. So, it would make a lot of sense that a player wouldn’t be as good as the previous fantastic season. However, it is not just that they do worse, it is that most of the time, they are injured, and taken out for the season. Let’s take a look at the cover athletes over the years.

Garrison Hearst - Madden 99
Garrison Hearst - Madden 99

1999 - Garrison Hearst (PAL version only)

Before The Cover - In ‘98, Hearst had his best season of his career, running for 1,570 yards and 7 touchdowns, being the third leading rusher in the NFL that season. That seasons performance also broke the 49ers franchise rushing record. He also has 535 yards receiving, and 2 TD’s.

After The Cover - During the playoffs of that same season (January 1999), he broke his leg on the opening play. He had to have surgery six months after the injury, and doctors thought he would never play again. When he did come back a year later, he had a pretty good season in 2001, but he never put up the numbers of 1998. The first cover star, and definitely the first victim of the curse.


Barry Sanders (background) - 2000
Barry Sanders (background) - 2000

2000 - Barry Sanders

Before The Cover - In 1997, he was only the third player in history (at the time) to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season. He did very well in 1998, rushing for just shy of 1,500 yards, and was within one season’s worth of yards from surpassing Walter Payton’s all-time record.

After The Cover - This game came out on August 31st 1999. In July of 1999, Barry Sanders announced his retirement. I guess this wouldn’t necessarily mean he was a victim of the curse, per se, but I can’t categorize it as a win for Sanders either. Although it might be a win, considering he didn’t have to get tackled 30 times a game...


Eddie George - 2001
Eddie George - 2001

2001 - Eddie George

Before The Cover - In his first four seasons, he rushed for an average of 1,300 yards per season, and in 2000, the year this game was released, he had the best season of his career, racking up 1,509 yards, and 14 TD’s.

After The Cover - He did slowly go downhill, and was plagued by injuries, but that was due to the huge workload that was forced on him. He didn’t immediately nosedive, or have a season- or career-ending mishap, he just declined the longer he was in the league. I personally call this a win for the players.


Daunte Culpepper - 2002
Daunte Culpepper - 2002

2002 - Daunte Culpepper

Before The Cover - In 2000, Daunte threw for just shy of 4,000 yards, and 33 touchdowns, and ran for 470 yards and 7 touchdowns, taking the Vikings to the NFC Championship game, where they subsequently lost. Randy Moss said Culpepper was one of the most talented quarterbacks he had ever seen

After The Cover - in 2001, he threw 14 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, until a knee injury caused him to miss the last five games of the season. In 2002, he had his worst season to date, with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He is one of the first people said to have been effected by the curse.


Marshall Faulk - 2003
Marshall Faulk - 2003

2003 - Marshall Faulk

Before The Cover - in 1999, he set a record by gaining 2,429 yards from scrimmage (1,381 rushing and 1,048 receiving yards), and became the second player to total 1,000+ yards in each category in a season. He went on to lead the team to a Super Bowl victory that same year. Three straight years, he won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award.

After The Cover - The 2002 season was the first time Faulk did not get 1,000 yards since 1996, and never hit that mark again in his career. He didn’t have any serious injuries, but in 2006, had to have reconstructive knee surgery, and missed the entire 2006 season. He went back and forth the entire season, but eventually retired in 2007.


Michael Vick - 2004
Michael Vick - 2004

2004 - Michael Vick

Before The Cover - Vick has a phenomenal 2002 season, throwing for just shy of 3,000 yards, and almost 800 yards of rushing, and a combined 24 TD’s. He also took a team with a losing record for the past three years, to a 9-6-1 record, and the Playoffs..

After The Cover - In the first preseason game in 2003, a day after Madden 2004 was released, Vick broke his fibula, and missed the first 11 games of the regular season. He only had 585 yards passing, and 255 yards as a result. Then there was the whole dog fighting thing, but that was his fault, not Madden’s.


Ray Lewis - 2005
Ray Lewis - 2005

2005 - Ray Lewis

Before The Cover - Ray Lewis won the Super Bowl XXXV MVP award, in the 34-7 victory over the NY Giants. In 2003, he had a career-high 6 interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. He has been a huge force on the Ravens defense since he was drafted in 1996 from the Miami Hurricanes.

After The Cover - 2004 was the first season of his NFL career that he did not have an interception, and in 2005, tore his hamstring and missed the last ten games of the season. Since then , he has recovered, and has since got back to form, being arguably the best linebacker in the league.


Donovan Mcnabb - 2006
Donovan Mcnabb - 2006

2006 - Donovan Mcnabb

Before The Cover - Mcnabb led the Eagles to four consecutive NFC East Division championships, and had his best season up to that point in 2004, throwing for 3,875 yards, and 31 TD’s, culminating in a Super Bowl appearance, where they lost by three points.

After The Cover - Donovan was asked about the curse before the start of the season, and he blew it off, saying he didn’t believe in it. In the first game of the season, he suffered a “sports hernia”. It is unknown if he made an apology to the Almighty Madden after that. He continued to play for the next eight games, in pain, but had surgery after the ninth game, and missed the last seven. That year, the Eagles finished last in their division (after winning it four years in a row).


Shaun Alexander - 2007
Shaun Alexander - 2007

2007 - Shaun Alexander

Before The Cover - Alexander had five straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons with the Seahawks, leading to the career high 2005 season, with 1,880 yards, and 27 touchdowns. He was named the leagues MVP, on the way to Super Bowl XL, where they lost to the Steelers.

After The Cover - In week three of the 2006 season, Shaun broke his foot, and missed six games. The team did go to the playoffs, but lost to the Bears in the second round. In 2007, he suffered a broken wrist in week 1, and in week 9, sprained his knee and ankle in the same game. He played a few times in 2008, and since 2009, has not played, although he is not technically “retired”.


Vince Young - 2008
Vince Young - 2008

2008 - Vince Young

Before The Cover - Vince young had an amazing rookie year. He threw for 2,200 yards, and 12 touchdowns, and ran for 550 yards and 7 touchdowns. He was selected to be in the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, and was named the NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the 2006 Rookie of the Year.

After The Cover - In 2007, he actually did better than the first season. However, in 2008, Young injured his knee in the first game, and soon after, lost his starting job for the Titans. He only threw for 219 yards and 1 touchdown, and only ran for 27 yards. He did have a comeback in the later seasons, but had a falling out with Coach Fisher, and the Titans organization. He was released, and has been signed for the 2011-12 season with the Eagles.


Brett Favre - 2009
Brett Favre - 2009

2009 Brett Favre

Before The Cover - Brett Favre has had a historic career. He has almost every record a quarterback can have, including the ones that are bad. In the 16 years at Green Bay, he threw for over 60,000 yards, and 442 touchdowns. He won the NFL MVP Award for 3 straight years (1995-7), and has one Super Bowl ring.

After The Cover - Favre had retired at the end of the 2007 season. Since it was the 20 anniversary of the game, they decided to put a legend on the cover, that wasn’t in the league anymore. Five days before the release of Madden ‘09, however, he unretired (for the first time, of many), and was traded to the Jets. They released a cover later of Favre in his new uniform. He honestly didn’t do too bad after that, however, the retiring-unretiring, the crying, and the other scandals, it hasn’t been great. Even though I hate Favre with a passion (that burns hotter than a thousand suns), I honestly don’t believe he is a victim of the Curse.


Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald - 2010
Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald - 2010

2010 Troy Polamalu & Larry Fitzgerald

Before The Cover - Both Polamalu and Fitzgerald appeared in Super Bowl XLIII,and they were both very important players for their respective teams. Polamalu was a monster on defense, having 54 tackles, and 7 interceptions over the course of the season, including one that ultimately sealed the deal on the Steelers Super Bowl win. Fitzgerald had the best season of his career, with 1,431 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns. He tied a record with three touchdown receptions in a playoff game, and in the postseason, broke Jerry Rice’s records, recording 546 receiving yards, 30 receptions, and 7 touchdowns. He and the Cardinals unfortunately lost the the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

After The Cover - In the first game of the 2009 season, Polamalu sprained a ligament in his knee, causing him to miss four games. Later in the season, he was injured in the game against the Bengals. He only recorded 18 tackles, although he did get 3 interceptions. he only played 5 games in the entire season. Fitzgerald’s stats did drop a little the next season, but he still had a pretty good season. He had a personal best of 13 touchdowns, and had a little over 1,000 yards receiving. I believe Fitzgerald had a pretty decent season, but Polamalu was definitely a victim of Old Man Madden.


Drew Brees - 2011
Drew Brees - 2011

2011 Drew Brees

Before The Cover - Brees had a fantastic season. He threw for 4,388 yards and 34 touchdowns, while taking his team to Super Bowl XLIV, and beat the heavily favored Colts. He also won the Super Bowl MVP . He has had a great career, with a little over 30,000 yards passing, and 200 touchdowns.

After The Cover - The next season, Brees actually threw for 200 more yards than the previous season, and has one less touchdown, with 33. He has to be the Madden cover athlete with the best season afterwards. He did have twice as many interceptions as the previous season, (22 as opposed to 11) but that by no means is a victim of the Curse.


Peyton Hillis - 2012
Peyton Hillis - 2012

2012 Peyton Hillis

Before The Cover - Peyton Hillis is a beast. He ran for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Browns, becoming the first white running back to have over 1,000 rushing yards in a season, since Craig James did it in 1985. He also won the AFC Offensive Player Of The Week for Week 9, the first Browns player to receive that since Eric Metcalf in 1992. He was a very big part of the Browns team last season. Oh, by the way, I’m a Browns fan.

After The Cover - The season had not started yet, so we don't know how well he will do. The Browns have been really boosting their roster, and I think the whole team may surprise you this year. Maybe not Super-Bowl-Surprise, but Winning-Season-Surprise. If Hillis is utilized the way he deserves to be, he should be a powerhouse again this year.


Recently, the Madden curse has been wearing off, with three players (out of four) in the last three years doing pretty well the next season. Also, a guy I work with (shauneagle, check him out) brought up this point: Last year was the first year fans got to vote on who was on the cover. Maybe the curse only happens when the "Dark Overlord" John Madden points his wizened old hand at the unlucky player, before he brings out his voodoo dolls. Maybe, the curse is negated when the fans voted.

Which brings me to my other question: Why do you think Peyton Hillis was voted as the cover artist: Because people thought he was that good, and he deserved it? Or, they didn't want the curse to get to a good player, so they used him as a sacrifice?

Anyway, that's all I got. Tel me what you think below, about the curse, the reasoning for Hillis, the fan voted things, politics, religion, anything. Except politics or religion.


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    • thebeast02 profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana

      Very nice article, and Go Saints! So glad Brees avoided that dang curse.

    • shauneagle profile image


      7 years ago from Westerville, OH

      Awesome article! Am I right about the fan vote thing, kinda makes sense...


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