“The Madden Curse” started as somewhat of a joke but, in more recent years, people seem to start believing it. The “curse” originally started from the madden football games and moved on to other games that are made by EA Sports. What is said to happen is if a professional athlete is put on the cover of the game for that year, there career will suffer that year; either due to injury, personal problems or contract disputes.
Madden NFL 99 – Garrison Hearst (San Francisco 49ers)
After being named the first-ever cover athlete for the upcoming edition of Madden NFL, Hearst led the 49ers to the playoffs, only to suffer a horrifying broken ankle in the team’s second-round game against the Atlanta Falcons. Complications from surgery caused a bone in his foot to die, and early prognosis indicated that he might never play football again. Hearst missed the next two seasons rehabilitating from the injury.
Madden NFL 2000 – Barry Sanders (Detroit Lions) Dorsey Levens (Green Bay Packers)
Not too long after he was named the cover athlete for Madden NFL 2000, Barry Sanders announced his retirement from the NFL in a surprise move that left fans – and the league, by most accounts – reeling. While it’s not the most obvious evidence of a “curse,” Sanders’ unexpected exit from the league left a huge void in the Detroit roster, and there still remains quite a bit of controversy (and mystery) surrounding the scenario that ended the career of one of the league’s greatest players. With Sanders’ abrupt exit, EA Sports quickly put together another cover featuring up-and-coming star Levens, who had helped lead the Green Bay Packers to several playoff runs in recent years. The season after appearing on the cover would end up being on his last on the starting roster, however, as a nagging injury limited him in 1999 and Green Bay posted their worst record since Brett Favre became the team’s quarterback in 1992. Levens would be released by the Packers in 2001.
Madden NFL 2001 – Eddie George (Tennessee Titans)
The ever-reliable George seemed like a safe bet to break the curse when he was named the Madden NFL 2001 cover athlete, and the jinx seemed destined to end when the Titans entered the playoffs as one of the most dominant teams in the NFL with George in the midst of a record-breaking season.
Nevertheless, a rare bobbled pass by George late in the fourth quarter of a playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens led to an interception and a touchdown that ended the Titans’ otherwise stellar season. While George would remain in the NFL for four more seasons, he never ran for more than 1,200 yards in a season again, and averaged less than 3.4 yards per carry for the remainder of his career.
Madden NFL 2002 – Daunte Culpepper (Minnesota Vikings)
Just a few months after being named the Madden NFL cover athlete, Culpepper suffered a knee injury during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and had to miss the rest of the 2001 season. His performance deteriorated the following season, when he threw 23 interceptions to only 18 touchdowns.
Madden NFL 2003 – Marshall Faulk (St. Louis Rams)
The season that unfolded after Faulk appeared on the Madden NFL cover would prove to be the beginning of the decline for one of the NFL’s most prolific running backs. The 2002 season would end up being the first he was unable to rush for more than 1,000 yards, and his yardage totals continued to decline in subsequent seasons. He eventually missed the entire 2006 season due to surgery on his knee, and never returned to the league.
Madden NFL 2004 – Michael Vick (Atlanta Falcons)
Just a short time after it was announced that Vick would be the cover athlete for Madden NFL 2004, Vick fractured his right fibula during a preseason game. The injury forced him to miss the first 11 games of the season. Years later, Vick would also be linked and indicted on an illegal dog fighting ring, furthering his bad luck.
Madden NFL 2005 – Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens)
While Lewis’ season following his debut as the Madden NFL 2005 cover athlete wasn’t exactly terrible, the usually reliable linebacker failed to record a single interception in the 2004 season – the first time that had ever happened in his long career. The Ravens also failed to make the playoffs for the first time in several years, and in Week 6 of the following season, Lewis tore his right hamstring, forcing him to end his season abruptly.
Madden NFL 2006 – Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles)
McNabb was on track for a huge year in 2005 when his season was derailed by a groin injury that sent him to the injured reserve list for the remainder of the season. He never quite recovered the following season, and in Week 11, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus in his right knee and was once again sidelined for the remainder of the season. The remainder of his time in the NFL would be marked by inconsistent performances and turmoil on and off the field, culminating in the end of his football career in 2011.
Madden NFL 2007 – Shaun Alexander (Seattle Seahawks)
Seemingly indicating that the effect of the Madden Curse might be in direct proportion to your accomplishments, Alexander’s 2006 season was derailed by a broken foot in Week 3 – just a few months after being named the Madden NFL cover athlete. The season would become his first without 1,000 yards rushing since he became a starter for the Seahawks. Alexander’s abbreviated 2006 season was followed by an injury plagued 2007 season that had him suffer a fractured wrist, sprained knee, and sprained ankle. The result was an even worse season, and Alexander was cut from the team’s roster in 2008. In the wake of all the injuries following his cover appearance, Alexander even addressed the Madden Curse, saying in a 2007 interview: “Do you want to be hurt and on the cover, or just hurt?”
Madden NFL 2008 – Vince Young (Tennessee Titans) Luis Castillo (San Diego Chargers)
Prior to either Young or Castillo being named as the cover athlete for Madden NFL, San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson was approached to be on the game’s cover. After a contingent of vocal Chargers fans initiated a campaign to keep him off the cover due to their fear of the Madden Curse, Tomlinson declined the offer from EA Sports, citing failed contract negotiations for his likeness. The developer than approached Young and Castillo.
After scoffing at the Madden Curse when he made the announcement on late-night television, Young had a slow start to the 2007 season, only to injure his quadricep in Week 6. He would miss the following week’s game – the first time he had ever missed a game due to injury. He would return later in the season only to reinjure himself in the final game of the season, opening the door for backup Kerry Collins to take the reins. Young’s transition to a backup role was cemented the following season when he injured his knee in the first game of the 2008 season and Collins was named the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. Proving that even the alternate versions of the game are subject to the Madden Curse, Castillo missed a significant portion of the 2007 season several months after being named the Madden NFL cover athlete. Sidelined by a knee injury, he only played in 10 games that season.
Madden NFL 2009 – Brett Favre (Green Bay Packers)
No sooner had the Madden NFL cover debuted with Brett Favre in his Green Bay jersey than the quarterback suddenly decided that he wasn’t done with the league after all. Favre eventually signed with the New York Jets and had a relatively decent season – marred by off-field issues more than anything on the field – only to sustain an injury to his right shoulder late in the season that would plague him for the remaining three seasons leading up to his retirement (again) in 2011.
Madden NFL 2010 – Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals) Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Fitzgerald is one of the first clear-cut examples of the Madden Curse generally missing its mark, as the wide receiver set several personal records over the course of the 2009 season. He had a slight letdown in 2010 (due to the exit of longtime quarterback Kurt Warner), but still managed to put up impressive numbers both seasons. If there’s any effect of the curse to be seen, it’s that Fitzgerald was unable to play in the 2010 Pro Bowl due to a rib injury. On the other hand, Polamalu seemed to take the full brunt of the Madden Curse. The defensive all-star sprained his medial collateral ligament (MCL) in the first half of Week 1 of the 2009 season, and was forced to miss the next four games. He then played in three more games later that season, only to injure his posterior cruciate ligament in November. The Steelers would miss the playoffs that year and finish an unusual 9-7.
Madden NFL 2011 – Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
While the 2010 season wasn’t a terrible disappointment overall, Brees had one of his worst seasons to date. The usually accurate passer threw twice as many interceptions as he had in previous years, and the team’s generally lackluster performance led to a playoff defeat in the first week of the postseason. The loss was especially disappointing given that New Orleans lost to Seattle, the first team in NFL history to make it into the playoffs with a losing record.
Madden NFL 2012 – Peyton Hillis (Cleveland Browns)
Hillis’ troubles began well before the 2011 season, with heated contract disputes leading to trouble in the Cleveland clubhouse, then physical troubles that included a bout with strep throat and an injured hamstring that had him missing games all season and generally failing to get in sync with the team. He ended up playing only 10 games that season, accumulating just 587 yards rushing in a significant letdown from his highlight-filled 2010 performance. The Browns declined to resign him following the season and he left the team as a free agent.
Madden NFL 2013 – Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions)
Probably the best case against the Madden Curse, Johnson’s 2012 season was one of his best overall, and featured countless records falling by the wayside as he went on to record 1,964 yards receiving over the course of the season – a new NFL record that beats the previous record held by Jerry Rice. Johnson also set or tied NFL records for 100-yard games and receptions during 2012, proving that not even an appearance on the cover of Madden NFL 2013 can stop him from being one of the best wide receivers ever to play the game.
Madden NFL 25 – Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
While Peterson’s start to the 2013 season looked good with a 78-yard rushing touchdown on the first carry of the game, he struggled for the first half of the season with a nagging foot injury. He ended up playing only 14 games, and the team’s record dropped back down to 5-10-1 after he was declared done for the season in December due to the same, aggravated foot injury.
Madden NFL 2015 – Richard Sherman (Seattle Seahawks)
Sherman may have been the breaker of this curse having an amazing season, larger contract, winning several awards and making it to the Super Bowl. However, he did have to get Tommy John Surgery later in the season, which hopefully won’t lead to issues in his future.
EA Sports UFC 2 – Rhonda Rousey and Conor McGregor
Rhonda Rousey was the undefeated UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion and the last Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champion, winning eleven fights in a row (nin by armbar). She even went on to win a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. However, she was knocked out while fighting Holly Holm at UFC 193, losing her Bantamweight championship title. Conor McGregor is the UFC Featherweight division champion who lost his 19-2 season at his welterweight debut to Nate Diaz, by submission.