Top 10 Notable Challengers to the "Madden Curse"

The "Madden Curse" is an element of NFL/video gaming folklore which adds to the already superstitious world of professional football. Until 1999, John Madden themed football video games featured the c

The "Madden Curse" is an element of NFL/video gaming folklore which adds to the already superstitious world of professional football. Until 1999, John Madden themed football video games featured the coach/color commentator. It was only in 1999 that actual NFL players would grace the cover the game. Since that time there have been numerous examples of such players experiencing a decline in their game after appearing. This has become widely known as the "Madden Curse." While it is true that in many instances, these players regress after gracing the game's cover, far too many commentators like to try to call the Madden Curse an absolute guarantee. Unfortunately, there are some notable exceptions to this idea.

In essence, there are several characteristics that can constitute this curse befalling a player. Many have suffered serious injuries that have led to significant missed playing time, while others have simply stopped demonstrating peak performance and in some cases have completely become non-contenders and caused disastrous seasons for their teams. There is no question that there have been some Madden Curse victims. Vince Young, Donovan McNabb and Shaun Alexander are three of the most notorious, as all of their careers essentially disintegrated after their appearances on the game. A couple of years ago Peyton Hillis graced the cover of a Madden game but has not been heard from since. Daunte Culpepper and Garrison Hearst are other players whose careers experienced disaster after the honor of being on the Madden game cover.

This list will detail 10 NFL players whose "Madden Curse" never actually took place. Some actually had great seasons after their selection to the cover, while others have had some low points in subsequent seasons blown out of proportion. There are several very valid criticisms made against this "curse". One is that football players experience injuries with almost no predictability. Another is that many players are featured on the cover after having amazing seasons. After a stand-out performance one year, every team in the league generally earns to prepare for that player the year after, causing that once-phenomenal player to look normal once again. This article will present several players who simply had great seasons after appearing on the Madden cover or those who had decent seasons but were definitely not suffering from the "curse."

10 Barry Sanders

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The third all-time NFL rusher was the first player to ever be featured on the Madden NFL cover. John Madden was still the focal point of the game cover's design but Sanders was in the background breaking a tackle. He retired however, shortly after the announcement that he would be the game's featured player, prompting many to recall Sanders as the first victim of the Madden Curse.

Unfortunately, a quick 45 seconds of research into the controversy surrounding his retirement shows that his decision was made before his selection to be on the game's cover. He had reached his end with the Detroit Lions due to, in his view, were poor managerial patterns and a refusal to trade him. The idea of the "Madden Curse" may have started with Barry Sanders, but he was not a victim of it by any means.

9 Richard Sherman

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

After his antics during last year's playoffs and to some extent through this year, there is no shortage of NFL fans who would love to see Richard Sherman fall victim to the Madden Curse. He is on the cover of Madden '14, but through the 12 games in which he has appeared for the Seahawks this season, he looks roughly as effective as he has in the past. The fact of the matter is; coaches, teams and analysts still like to wet themselves every time a pass is completed on Sherman's side of the ball.

Despite some teams avoiding throwing to his side of the field altogether, he has managed 33 tackles, three interceptions and seven passes defended. His numbers have dropped, but that's because more often than not he is on his receivers like glue and quarterbacks still have trouble passing against Seattle. Obviously the season is nowhere near over, and on this one I am ready to be proven wrong, but so far, Sherman looks like the same guy he has been since 2012.

8 Eddie George


The Tennessee Titan/Houston Oiler running back around the turn of the century was featured on the cover of Madden 2001. He was drafted in the first round of the 1996 draft and rushed for over 1,200 yards in each of his first four seasons. In 2000 he was selected to be on the cover and in that year, he rushed for 1,509 yards with 14 touchdowns. He mishandled a pass in that postseason and many argue that that was the start of his Madden Curse. This is nonsense to the degree of being called fecal matter of the bovine male. It was one play, after a full season of phenomenal rushing and solid catching. Admittedly, George's yards per carry decreased from 2001 until his retirement in 2004, but his YPC/YPA was never that high to begin with. His average was 3.8 from 1996 until 1999 and after that was 3.4, a notable decrease but not a "curse." Additionally, he rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2002, and 2003, when he was 29 and 30 respectively.

7 Brett Favre


This is a weird one. In the same year in which he was expected to retire (after, you know, announcing his retirement) Brett Favre was placed on the cover of Madden 2009. In the 2008 season he ended up playing with the New York Jets. They went 9-7 on the season, missing the playoffs but not looking like they do now in 2014.

Favre himself threw for a completion percentage of 65.7, the third highest in his career. While many like to point out that he threw 22 interceptions that year, he threw 29 picks back in 2005, when the Packers went 4-12. Finally, the year after that he played for the Minnesota Vikings and threw 33 touchdowns and just seven picks. For those who still think Favre suffered from the "Madden Curse," HE WAS 39 YEARS OLD! I've said enough. On to one of 2014's most controversial figures.

6 Adrian Peterson

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, AP was the cover athlete for the PS4 and XBOX ONE versions of Madden 25. He did have some minor injury issues last season and did miss two games, but he still managed 1,266 yards, 10 touchdowns and a 4.5 yards per carry average. I mean, the Madden curse did not hit Peterson by any means; he made the Pro Bowl, despite his own team's less than stellar season.

One could make the argument that the curse hit him in 2014, with regard to his current legal issues, but as far as I'm concerned, flogging a four-year-old has nothing to do with football performance. This argument may not be complete however, until after Peterson has actually completed another season in the NFL. He will be 30 at the start of next season and thirty can be a de-facto threshold for running backs. Having to take the 2014 season off could have an impact on the Viking rusher's career at this point. But for now, the Madden curse did not impact Adrian Peterson in 2013.

5 Marshall Faulk

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Faulk had some decent seasons with the Indianapolis Colts followed by three dominant seasons as one of the NFL's best rushers in St. Louis. After his 2000 and 2001 performances, Faulk became the featured player for Madden 2003, which of course, came out in 2002. His 2002 season was admittedly less productive than his previous three, but he still ran for 953 yards, caught for 537 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 2003 season saw another decrease in yardage, but he scored 11 touchdowns.

What's important to remember is that Faulk was an elite back seeing 250-325 rushing attempts per season for eight years. Add to that 50-80 receptions over that same eight year period, and it's no wonder that his career was riddled with small injuries that eventually added up. When his productivity began to dip in 2002, he was 29 years old with a history of injuries. In 2002 and 2003 he was still rushing for 4.5 and 3.9 yards per carry and he simply saw vastly fewer rushing attempts compared to other years.

4 Ray Lewis

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Probably the greatest linebacker of the late 90's and 2000's, Ray Lewis was featured on the cover of Madden 2005, released in 2004. During the 2004 season, he recorded 100 solo tackles along with dozens of assists, and for his efforts, he made the Pro Bowl. He missed 10 games due to injury in 2005, but returned to lead the Ravens to several solid seasons between 2006 and 2012, and did not miss a Pro Bowl until his final season.

He had an undeniably rough season after his Madden year, but it had absolutely no effect on his future performance. Furthermore, his selection to the Pro Bowl in the season directly after his feature on the Madden cover strikes a major blow to the validity of Lewis being a victim of the curse.

3 Larry Fitzgerald

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For Madden '10, Cardinals' receiver Larry Fitzgerald shared the Madden cover with Troy Polamalu. Polamalu had an injury riddled 2009 season but bounced back in 2010 and 2011. Fitzgerald on the other hand, was great in both his Madden cover season and in subsequent years.

In 2009 he scored a career-high 13 touchdowns and caught for over 1,000 yards. The same occurred in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, in which he gained 1,137 and 1,411 yards respectively. He made the Pro Bowl every year since 2007, but looks like he may be overlooked this year as his yardage and touchdowns are down.

2 Drew Brees

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints' quarterback was on the cover of Madden 2011 just a few years ago. Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today and has been for the past decade. He has led the Saints to many successful seasons and a Super Bowl win in 2010. He would appear on the Madden cover going into the next season.

It was undoubtedly not his strongest year, but he was not by any means a victim of any curse. In 2010, he threw 448 completions on 657 attempts. That is a completion rate of 68.1%. He threw for 4,620 yards that season, which was actually higher than his previous Super Bowl winning season total. His 68.1% completion rate is also higher than his career average and finally, the Saints went 11-5 that season before losing in the first round of the playoffs to a 7-9 Seahawks team. If there is any way in which he was cursed that year, it is because he threw a career high 22 interceptions. But again, he still made the Pro Bowl, and since that season he has had three seasons of 5,000+ yards and a minimum of 39 touchdown tosses.

1 Calvin Johnson

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to curse someone called "Megatron". As a Green Bay Packers fan, I curse his name every time the Packers take on the Lions, but the Madden curse is something else. Calvin Johnson is one of the most consistent receivers in the NFL, and his 2012 selection to the cover of Madden 13 clearly involved no curse.

In the 2012 season, Johnson caught 122 catches for a total of 1,964 yards, with five touchdowns. In 2013 he saw slightly lower catch and yardage numbers, with 84 and 1,492, but caught 12 touchdown passes. The 2014 season is looking like it will be his first season in four years in which he will average less than 100 yards per game, though he did miss a few weeks with an injury, but he is on track for just under 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns this year.

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Top 10 Notable Challengers to the "Madden Curse"