As we all know, and if you haven't figured it out yet, our very own Larry Fitzgerald and Steeler's safety Troy Polamalu will appear on next year's cover of Madden 2010. The most common criticism has been known as the "Madden Curse", so what does this mean for Fitzgerald (errr..and Troy)? If you're new to the game, or have only been playing it for the last couple years, the popular NFL game known as Madden originally began back in 1989. It started off as John Madden Football, then in 1993, it transitioned to Madden NFL. For the first 11 years of the game's existence, it featured a picture of John Madden on the cover. Then it all began in 2001 as the game began featuring pictures of the players. And that's where we begin.
This year technically featured Madden on the cover, but it also contained a background image of Barry Sanders. You could call this the transition year, in which they eased the player on the cover. This is also the year the 'curse' began. As noted earlier, the cover featured Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders in the background, and that year, he retired from football just before the 1999-2000 season not ever playing a snap. The Madden company quickly replaced him on the cover in later releases of the game for other running back, Dorsey Levens of the Green Bay Packers. While Levens had a productive year, he also aggravated a knee injury that occurred the year before. The Packers also failed to make the playoffs finishing 8-8. Levens was later reduced to a reserve and was released by the Packers the following year.
This year featured another running back in the Titans Eddie George. Prior to the 2000 season, George was one of the main reasons for the Titans making the Super Bowl the year before. He did have one of the best rushing years of his that year and he also did in 2000, but he did bobble a pass that turned into a pick-six in a divisional playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. After that year, his numbers dwindled until he was later released in a few years.
Daunte Culpepper was the featured player this year, being the 1st ever quarterback on the cover. The year before he led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game. This year however, the Vikings wound up 4-7 before Culpepper suffered a season-ending knee injury and missing the last 5 games. Although he rebounded a couple years later, he's since then played for Dolphins, Raiders, retired, and then came back to play for the 0-16 Lions last year.
In 2003, yet another running back graced the cover of the Madden game in Marshall Faulk. Faulk had previously had 4 straight seasons of over 1300+ yards but saw his numbers decrease to under 1,000 yards due to a nagging ankle injury in '02. He had also led the Rams to two Super Bowls in the last 3 years, but the Rams finished 7-9 that year, failing to make the playoffs.
Michael Vick was the featured man on the cover of Madden 2004. The previous year he led the Falcons to a 9-6-1 record and a wild card playoff birth. In 2004 however, he suffered a fractured right fibula the day after the game hit shelves. That year the Falcons went 5-11 as Vick was only able to play in five games. Vick's career has since then ended up in jail where he hopes to be back in the NFL one day.
The first defense player to be on the cover was in 2005 with Ray Lewis. Lewis and the Ravens had previously made the playoffs 3 out of the last 4 years and in 2003, Lewis intercepted 6 passes. For the 2004 season, Lewis didn't pick off one pass and missed the last game of the season. The Ravens also wound up 9-7 and missed the playoffs that year, as well as the following year going 6-10.
In 2006, Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb appeared on the cover and immediately doubted there was a Madden curse saying it could be a trend. In the first game of the '05 season, McNabb suffered a sports hernia. He played through it for 8 games that year before re-injuring it and being forced to miss the rest of the season. As a result, the Eagles failed to make the playoffs and finished last in the NFC East. Previously, the Eagles had made five straight playoff appearances.
2007 may make the biggest case for a curse as former MVP running back Shaun Alexander was the cover man. In 2005, Alexander was the MVP and led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl. After three weeks of the season, Alexander broke his left foot and was forced to miss the next six weeks of the season. Even though the Seahawks made the playoffs, they lost to the Bears in the second round of the playoffs. Alexander was since released by the Seahawks and was never the same. Last year, it took an injury to Redskins running back Clinton Portis for Alexander to be signed. He didn't do much for the team and was later let go.
In '08 Titans rookie quarterback Vince Young appeared on the cover of Madden. That year, Young injured his quadriceps muscle in his right leg in the fifth game of the season. The next week he missed a game to the Texans, which was the first time in his football career that an injury forced him to miss a game. In '08, Young didn't have a bad year but he's lost his job since then and didn't play in most of 2009.
2009 - Last year, quarterback Brett Favre was on the cover of Madden '09. Favre started off the year in great fashion, throwing for six touchdowns in one game(sorry I brought that memory back). The main issue Favre had in '09 was the way he finished. The Jets went from possibly being locks for the playoffs, to falling apart terribly. The main reason was the play of Favre as he threw for more interceptions then touchdowns and the Jets failed to make the playoffs.
So what does all this mean? It means that the majority of the cover players that have appeared on Madden suffered from injuries, poor play, their teams failing to make the playoffs, or wound up out of the NFL. It could be a case of a series of unfortunate events, or it could truly be a curse. Football is a contact sport and injuries do happen to everybody. Only one team wins the Super Bowl so you could also make the case that 31 teams were "cursed" as well. The bottom line is Larry Fitzgerald will be on the cover and we can only hope that the "trend" ends this year. What are your thoughts on the curse? Is it real or just coincidences?