The Madden Cover Curse: Fact or Fiction?


You’ve surely heard of the Madden Cover Curse.  You know, the one where a football player who appears on the cover of the box for the Madden video game is cursed to have a terrible or injury-riddled season the next season?  It sure seems like there’s at the least a very strong correlation between athletes who have appeared on the cover and abysmal seasons, so I decided to take a closer look and see if there really is something to the Madden Cover Curse.  For clarity, the year in a Madden game title refers to the season prior to its release – for example, Madden 2001 was released just prior to the 2000-2001 season.


2001 cover: Eddie George

1999-2000 stats: 1509 yards rushing, 14 TD, 3.7 yards per carry

2000-01 stats: 939 yards rushing, 5 TD, 3.0 yards per carry

Verdict: George definitely had a gigantic dropoff after his appearance on the cover – much to the chagrin of countless fantasy football owners – but I’m pretty sure that had more to do with his outrageous 403 carries in the 1999-2000 than with any curse.  403 carries is just insane; no one can withstand that type of punishment.


2002 cover: Daunte Culpepper

2000-01 stats: 16 games, 3937 passing yards, 33 TD, 16 INT

2001-02 stats: 11 games, 2612 passing yards, 14 TD, 13 INT

Verdict: A knee injury forced Daunte out of the 2001-02 season’s final 5 games, and his TD:INT ratio was atrocious before that point.  Dare I suggest a curse?


2003 cover: Marshall Faulk

2001-02 stats: 14 games, 1382 rushing yards, 12 rush TD, 765 receiving yards, 9 receiving TD

2002-03 stats: 10 games, 953 rushing yards, 8 rush TD, 537 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD

Verdict: Faulk, an all-time top 10 running back, totaled over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and averaged a mind-boggling 5.3 yards per carry prior to appearing on the cover of Madden.  Afterward, he was limited to 4 fewer games and failed to break 1,000 yards rushing for the first time since the 1996-97 season and for only the second time in his career.  Smells like a curse.


2004 cover: Michael Vick

2002-03 stats: 15 games, 2936 passing yards, 16 TD, 8 INT, 777 rushing yards, 8 rushing TD

2003-04 stats: 5 games, 585 passing yards, 4 TD, 3 INT, 255 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD

Verdict: Vick suffered a fractured right fibula in a preseason game that forced him to miss 11 games after appearing on the Madden cover.  Everyone was disappointed at the time – and the injury also shows how silly preseason NFL games are – but if any athlete deserves to suffer the effects of a curse, it’s Ron Mexico.


2005 cover: Ray Lewis

2003-04 stats: 16 games, 6 INT, 121 tackles

2004-05 stats: 15 games, 0 INT, 101 tackles

Verdict: It’s tough to judge a defensive player based on statistics, but Ray Lewis’ 6 interceptions in the season prior to his Madden cover appearance dropped to zero for the season after he appeared on the cover.  Maybe this curse took its time with Ray – he missed 10 games the season after that.  Also, I’m pretty sure he murdered someone.


2006 cover: Donovan McNabb

2004-05 stats: 15 games, 3875 passing yards, 31 TD, 8 INT, completion % of 64.o

2005-06 stats: 9 games, 2507 passing yards, 16 TD, 9 INT, completion % of 59.1

Verdict: A hernia (ouch) and surgery forced McNabb to miss 7 games in the 2005-06 season, but that may have ended up being a good thing: in 9 games, he had surpassed his INT total from the prior season.  Injury and crap play = curse.


2007 cover: Shaun Alexander

2005-06 stats: 16 games, 1880 rushing yards, 27 rush TD

2006-07 stats: 10 games, 896 rushing yards, 7 TD

Verdict: This is starting to become uncanny.  Alexander missed 6 games in the season following his Madden appearance and could not even reach half of his rushing yard total from the season prior.  I’m tempted to say this is certainly the work of a curse, but Alexander is a ginormous vaj, so who knows?

Shaun Alexander : Football :: Vince Carter : Basketball :: Carlos Beltran : Baseball

Double true.


2008 cover: Vince Young

2006-07 stats: 2199 passing yards, 12 TD, 13 INT, 552 rushing yards, 7 rushing TD

2007-08 stats: 2546 passing yards, 9 TD, 17 INT, 395 rushing yards, 3 rushing TD

Verdict: Vince Young’s post-Madden cover TD:INT ratio is one of the worst you’ll ever see from a starting quarterback, and it’s tough to overlook that pretty recently, he’s become suicidal.  I like Vince Young, and I root for him, but I think his problems go well beyond anything to do with a curse.


2009 cover: Brett Favre

2007-08 stats: 4155 passing yards, 28 TD, 15 INT

2008-09 stats: 3472 passing yards, 22 TD, 22 INT

Verdict: Yes, Favre’s numbers took a dip and his TD:INT ratio was disgusting following his Madden appearance, but he also switched teams from the Packers to the Jets and started to show his age.  Tough one to call here.

Final Verdict: I’m not the type of person who believes in curses or superstitions or, uh, religion, but there’s definitely a strange correlation between Madden cover appearances and crappy subsequent seasons.  It will be interesting to see what players make the cover in the future and if the trend continues.  Right now, though, if curses are your thing, you definitely have a strong argument for the existence of the Madden Cover Curse.

  • Steve

    The Madden Cover Curse is up there with the SI Cover Curse. It’s real! It’s real!

  • WhatItIs

    Huh weird Troy Palamalou got injured in his first game and Larry FitzGerald didnt put up huge numbers or anythin (71 yards and 1 TD) but his team lost to the 49ers…. so i dunno its not looking great this year either

  • Madison

    @ WhatItIs

    Funny, my first thought when Palamalou injured his knee was that he was on the cover of Madden. Porry Larry Fitz; he must be looking over his shoulder constantly.

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  • Pepe Veraz

    whoa, since i’m not a big fan of football (just enjoy the playoffs) i didn’t know anything about this but it’s so freaky, A whole decade with tragedies for the players who appeared in this game, that’s for sure a curse.