The Case of the Madden Curse

Alex Kratman

Since 2000 there has been a popular belief that the popular Madden NFL games have placed a curse on the players who appear on the cover. The popular video game series is named after former Oakland Raiders head coach and retired TV football analyst John Madden. First produced in 1989 as John Madden Football, it was renamed Madden NFL when the developers signed a licensing deal with the NFL in 1993. New versions of the game are released annually to incorporate new features and current NFL team rosters. For the first 11 years, the games packaging just featured john madden, but starting with the 2001 version and continuing for the next several years, the cover featured popular NFL players from the previous year. Based on the superstition and pattern that has occurred over the past few years, the player who signs a deal to appear on the cover of the next version on the game will suffer a serious injury or stroke of bad luck in the following season

The 2000 edition of Madden NFL was a gentle introduction of the madden curse. This edition was the last version to feature John Madden on the front and Detroit Lions star running back Barry Sanders. He ended up not playing during the 1999-2000 season and abruptly announced his retirement. Since Sanders quit before the 1999 season, EA sports had enough time to substitute a different graphic. The new cover featured Green Bay Packers running back Dorsey Levens who lead the packers to two titles and two super bowels. Although Levens performed well in the 1999 season, he re-injured his knee which kept him out of the play off season that year

The 2001 cover of Madden featured Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George, who led the Titans to the super bowl the previous season. Although he had a great 2000 season he bobbled a pass in the Titans season ending divisional play off game against the Baltimore Ravens and the following season, hampered by injuries, he saw his rushing numbers sink. The 2002 cover featured Minnesota Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper; the Vikings struggled and Culpepper suffered a season ending knee injury, which took him out of the rest of the season.

The 2003 cover featured St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk, who helped the rams reach the super bowl twice in the previous three years. But he was plagued by an injured ankle the entire 2002 season, and his rushing yards dropped below career low levels. The rams ended up missing the play offs and a loosing record. The 2004 cover of Madden NFL featured Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick, who in 2002 turned the Falcons around to a respectable record. In 2003, Vick suffered a right fibula break in a preseason game, one-day after Madden NFL 2004 hit store shelves. He only played five games during the 2003 season as the falcons sank to a losing record.

The 2005 cover of Madden NFL featured Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb. McNabb lead the eagles to numerous title games and a run at a super bowl. When he was selected to be on the cover, he publicly stated that the curse was just a bunch of crap. However, McNabb suffered a sports hernia in the first game of the 2005 season. Even though he played thorough the injury, he got injured again and went for season ending surgery.

The 2007 cover featured Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander. Alexander was their best pass rusher, and helped lead them to a super bowl appearance. The third week into the 2006 season he broke his left foot and missed the next six games

These are just a few of the examples of the Madden curse. In sports, there are many superstitions that people believe. From baseball to football, depending on where you live, you have heard some forms. The Madden curse is no different from all the others. It’s alive and well…just look at the stats. Good luck to Larry Fitzgerald, who is splitting the cover this year with Troy Polamalu. Troy is already gone: are you next?