The Madden Curse has a long and well documented history of being the bane of many a superstar athlete’s existence. There are countless examples of star’s that experienced a sudden downfall in their career ark after being featured on the cover of the popular video game. There are some undeniable cases of rising stars or superstars even that crashed and burned after being featured on the cover of the game. Lets review the ten most significant cases of the Madden Curse working it’s infamous magic.
Madden 1999: Garrison Hearst (49ers)
After being drafted in 1997, Hearst was an up-and-coming rusher on a highly potent offense. After breaking the 49ers total yardage franchise record for a RB in 1998, Hearst was named Madden’s first cover athlete. However, in the second round of the playoffs that year, Hearst suffered a serious broken ankle that resulted in multiple surgeries and missing several years of NFL action. Hearst eventually returned to the league, but was never the superstar player he was prior to being on the cover.
Madden 2000: Barry Sanders (Lions) & Dorsey Levens (Packers)
In one of the biggest blunders of the gaming franchise, Madden named Barry Sanders its second cover athlete. However, the Lions star unexpectedly retired before the season, so Levens was announced as the last second replacement. In all fairness, Dorse the Horse was never a true superstar, so it’s hard to say he was a major Madden bust. His cover-gracing year was also his last as a starter in the NFL as he was pretty mediocre for the rest of his brief career after gracing the cover.
Madden 2002: Daunte Culpepper (Vikings)
After two consecutive seasons of tremendous success (including playing in the NFL Championship and winning the Offensive Player of the Year award), Daunte Culpepper seemed like a no brainer to snap the curse. However, a knee injury ended his season abruptly the year he graced the game’s cover. The following season, Culpepper threw 23 INTs and only 18TDs. A cruise ship voyage later, his career with the Vikings ended in a downwards spiral that didn’t reemerge in Miami.
Madden 2004: Michael Vick (Falcons)
Vick’s rushing ability and athleticism were highly coveted by Madden which pretty much created the greatest video game athlete in their history during this installment. However, in reality Vick missed the majority of the cover season with a broken fibula which he suffered in a preseason game. Although Vick would return to some stellar seasons (including a 1,000 yard rushing season), he would never become the bonafide superstar the game had modeled him to be. Of course some prison time didn’t help matters either.
Madden 2007: Shaun Alexander (Seahawks)
Alexander was a reliable touchdown monster accumulating over 75 TDs in his first five seasons. However, when named the cover boy for Madden, Alexander broke his foot in his third game of action resulting in his first career year below the 1,000 yard rushing mark. After an injury plagued season followed his cursed one, Alexander was released by the Seahawks thus ending his short reign as a premiere rusher.
Madden 2008: Vince Young (Titans)
After LaDainian Tomlinson wisely turned down the cover offer, the Madden team looked to Vince Young to carry the cover torch. Although Young didn’t have a terrible cover season, he did get injured in the final week leading to the eventual starter for the team in Kerry Collins. The following season when announced the Week 1 starter, Young suffered a knee injury and thus began his journey as a shitty backup quarterback.
Madden 2009: Brett Favre (Packers)
Nothing like a tribute cover to an iconic quarterback that hung up the cleats, right? Well when Brett Favre decided to unretire and things got icy in Green Bay, he ended up playing for the New York Jets that season. This was arguably the most entertaining cover in Madden history as the most popular sold version was of Favre in the Packers gear (although some nerds waited until the Jets edition was released at a later date). I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s directly related to the curse, but was highly entertaining to watch unfold considering their tribute cover turned out to be incorrect.
Madden 2010: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) & Troy Polamalu (Steelers)
After a spectacular Super Bowl that featured two elite players (on offense and defense), Madden elected to go with their first ever dual feature cover. The brunt of the curse was focused on only one of these players though. Larry Fitz has obviously had a tremendous career with few hiccups; however, Troy Polamalu suffered a Week 1 injury that limited him to only three games of action for the cover year. The remainder of his career was injury plagued as well.
Madden 2012: Peyton Hillis (Browns)
Hillis was the quintessential one year wonder player that never should have graced the cover. The fullback turned halfback for the Browns put up a fantastic 1,500 plus yard season the year before he was honored, so he was the surprising pick for the cover the following season. However, after being honored with the cover, a barrage of injuries, testy contract dispute, and bizarre escape elopement during the season ended his brief superstardom. Hillis never returned to feature back form and bounced around several teams in the last few years before retiring.
Madden 2017: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots)
For years the Madden curse wasn’t a no brainer until well this year. Rob Gronkowski was the perfect person to grace the cover. Barring injury, Gronk is pretty much a guarantee for 1,000 yards and plus 10 TDs just about every season. However, after being selected for the honor this season, Gronkey Punch surely disappointed thousands of fantasy owners. After starting the year completely ineffective as a blocking tight end with a tight hamstring, the Gronk did explode with a 4 or 5 game stretch of big performances. However, a back injury destroyed this momentum and Gronk was placed on the I.R. with a little over 500 yards receiving this year. Will this cover honor prove costly in the long term like many others before him? Well only time will tell.