The Madden Curse: Is It Real?

Being picked to be the face of a game should be a good thing right?

Jonathan Rios, Journalist

   Football is unpredictable. No one can predict if someone will get injured or if a player’s reputation implodes. These types of freak accidents are a part of sports, but are they being influenced by outside sources?

   Madden is the only and most popular Football game on the market. People consider the release of Madden a fall tradition, and they want to see which player is on the cover that year. Since 1998, the cover of Madden features a “cover athlete” who is one of the best statistical or spectacular players that season. It is so close that the fans have influenced this decision. This should be an honor that players are willing to get.

Photo courtesy of EA sports: Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis on the cover of Madden 12. Hillis rushed for 1177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010 a year before Madden 12 was released. His career took such a dive that most people don’t even know who he is nowadays.

   Since 1998, Madden has had a number of athletes who have appeared on the cover starting with 49ers Running Back Garrison Hearst who was on the cover of Madden ‘99. That season he suffered a knee injury and was out for 2 years.

   From there several rookies, veterans, and legends of football have been affected. The curse has ruined careers of up-and-coming athletes too. Madden 12 featured Cleveland Browns’ running back Peyton Hillis who had a spectacular 2010 season, but after Madden 12 was released in 2011, he had an injury, fell off the map, and would retire a bust.

   The curse rarely lets athletes walk away unscathed. For example, Larry Fitzgerald shared the Madden ‘10 cover with Troy Polomalu. Fitzgerald walked away unscathed, but Polomalu suffered a torn MCL after the 2nd game of the 2009 season. Tom Brady was on the cover of Madden 18 and only lost Super Bowl 52 to the Philadelphia Eagles. People thought the curse was dead after Brady was let off so easily.

Photo courtesy of EA sports: Troy Polomalu (left) and Larry Fitzgerald (right) competed against each other in the Super Bowl a year prior to Madden 10’s release. Polomalu was injured in the 2009 season and Fitzgerald avoided the injury and statistical drop off linked with the curse. This is the only time 2 athletes have been on 1 cover.

   Madden 19 denied this as Antonio Brown had a bunch of disciplinary issues and charges of sexual assault. As a result, he was cut by the Raiders and the Patriots, and his reputation imploded. Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs’ QB, could not even escape the curse and was injured in a Week 7 game against the Denver Broncos this season. 

The Madden Curse finds a way to ruin the best of athletes, but what do those “unaffected” athletes have in common? They are 4 athletes that have not been affected. Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson, Richard Sherman, and Larry Fitzgerald.

    They are all offensive players and two of them are receivers. Richard Sherman breaks this trend being the only defensive player to be unaffected by the curse. Fitzgerald shared the cover with Polomalu as mentioned earlier, so it seems as if the curse affects only one athlete at a time There is no real correlation, but the curse, much like the NFL, favors the offensive side of the ball.

   Cursed athletes have commented about the curse in the past. Donovan McNabb said that he did not believe in the curse when he was on the cover of Madden ‘06, and the curse got to him when he tore his MCL during the 2005 season

After being selected to be on the cover of Madden ‘11, Saints Quarterback Drew Brees said, “The Madden Curse has really taken on a life of its own. People just love talking about it, and it is what it is, but I look at it as a challenge.”

Brees was not affected during the 2010 season, but the team had many coaches suspended after the Saints were punished for Bountygate, a program run by the Saints’ defensive coordinators that gave players an incentive to injure other players.

   The curse caught up with Brees in the 2019 season when he broke his thumb in a week 2 game against the Los Angeles Rams. This injury put him out for 6 weeks, the longest he has been out in his career since a right shoulder dislocation in 2005.

   The jury is still out on whether or not the Madden Curse is real. Since the 2000s the curse has slowed down a bit, but still continues to stump careers of amazing athletes. Mahomes showed us this year that the curse is not done yet.