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
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.