Top 10 Madden Curses That Destroyed Careers of NFL Superstars

Tags: #MaddenNFL ,   #EASports ,   #AntonioBrown ,   #MaddenCurse

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-05-12 18:00:05

Since its inception in 1988, Madden NFL has been one of the best-selling video game series. Starting with Madden NFL 99, star athletes have been featured on the cover. However, it was soon evident that many cover stars fell victim to the so-called "Madden Curse'' that left their seasons or careers in shambles. Belief in the curse is so powerful that many fans vote against having their favorite players on the Madden covers, fearing that it will negatively impact their careers. Here are the top ten worst cases of the Madden Curse to prove their point!

10. Barry Sanders (Madden NFL 2000) 

Madden 2000 PlayStation cover art with John Madden and Barry Sanders
Madden 2000 cover was the first one to feature NFL athletes

Barry Sanders had an all-star career, but his case of the Madden Curse is the weirdest. Although the late John Madden dominates the Madden 2000 cover, you can clearly see Barry Sanders doing his thing in the background. However, only a few weeks after Electronic Arts revealed this cover, the Detroit Lions running back shocked the world, announcing his retirement! At the time, Sanders was only 31, had a strong last season, and was healthy.

No one knew the reason for his departure, which only helped spread the various rumors. Three years later, Sanders published his autobiography, revealing that he left the team frustrated by the lack of proper management. However, he patched things up with the Lions, becoming their ambassador in 2017.

9. Drew Brees (Madden NFL 11)

Madden NFL 11 cover art for Wii with Drew Brees
2011 was not a great year for Madden 11 cover star Drew Brees

After being selected as the next face of the Madden NFL, Drew Brees told the press that he is aware of the curse but doesn't believe in it. And would you believe it, he was right! Brees was the leader of the New Orleans Saints, throwing an impressive 33 touchdown passes. His efforts took the team to an excellent 11-5 record - enough to give them home advantage in their wildcard game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks were the biggest underdogs in the history of the NFL playoffs, securing their spot with a negative record. However, that day, the Saints and Brees suffered an embarrassment, as they lost. Brees will remember this season for another reason, as 22 of his passes were intercepted, setting the franchise record.

8. Michael Vick (Madden NFL 2004)

Madden NFL 2004 cover art for PlayStation 2 with Michael Vick
For Madden 2004 cover star Michael Vick, this was a catastrophic season

While some Madden cover stars suffered a Madden Curse deep into the season, Michael Vick was not so lucky. Only a day after Madden NFL 2004 was released, Vick suffered a horrendous fibula injury and missed 11 games. As a result, the Falcons went 5-11. Luckily for him, the curse of Madden ended after this season, and Vick was back at the Pro Bowl level.

Even after his prison stint, he was back, having a few excellent seasons before retiring in 2016. Michael Vick's Madden Curse was the first to be highly publicized, lending him a place on the list.

7. Donovan McNabb (Madden NFL 06)

Madden NFL 06 GameCube cover art with Donovan McNabb
After being on Madden 06, Donovan McNabb's career went downhill

What was the worst season in Donovan McNabb's career? The one where he was featured on the cover of Madden, of course! As one of the best QBs at the time, McNabb took the Eagles to the playoff almost every season. Nonetheless, in 2005, that was but a distant dream. As he was injured in the first game of the season, he missed nearly half the season, and the Eagles finished last in their division. To make matters worse, McNabb started clashing with his star teammate Terrell Owens.

Unfortunately for McNabb, it all went downhill from there, as he even became the third choice while playing for Washington. He was a Pro Bowler five times before being featured on Madden NFL cover. But once the Madden Curse struck, he was done.

6. Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald (Madden NFL 10)

Madden NFL 10 Xbox 360 cover art with Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald
Madden 10 cover stars Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald both suffered serious injuries

By 2009, the Madden Curse was in full effect, so EA Sports tried to break it by changing the rules. Two athletes were on the cover for the first time ‚Äď Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald. It looks like the company hoped that at least one of them would have a great season and break the curse. At the moment, Polamalu was one of the best defensive players in the league. At the same time, Fitzgerald was the leading WR in Madden 10.

Soon enough, Polamalu was hit by the curse, as his knee problem meant that he could only play five games during the season. Plus, his Super Bowl-winning team failed to make the playoffs. However, Fitzgerald stayed healthy and was even selected for a Pro Bowl. But once the Curse was done with Polamalu, it hit him hard during the playoffs, leaving him with a season-ending rib injury.

5. Vince Young (Madden NFL 08)

Madden NFL 08 with Vince Young on cover art
Vince Young on cover of Madden 08 is still one of the worst decisions EA made

In 2007, LaDainian Tomlinson refused the offer to be the cover star of Madden NFL 08, which was quickly connected with his fear of the Madden Curse. Tomlinson never spoke about this, only adding fuel to the fire. Nevertheless, the Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young happily took his place, cashing in $200,000. At the time, Young was a tremendous talent with an excellent college football career and a Pro Bowler in his first season.

Once he signed the deal to become a cover star, the curse started even before the season. Young was benched in the Titans' first preseason game, although he quickly returned to the starting QB role. However, his performance was disappointing, as he had 17 interceptions while throwing only nine touchdowns. It all went downhill from there, as Young struggled on and off the field and filed for bankruptcy.

4. Brett Favre (Madden NFL 09)

Madden NFL 09 with Brett Favre on cover art
Madden 09 cover star Brett Favre had a very strange year

Early in 2008, Brett Favre announced his retirement from the NFL, so EA Sports must have thought that having him on the Madden NFL 09 was the perfect way to break the curse. After all, a retired player can't have a bad season! Nonetheless, just before the game's release, Favre had a change of heart as he tried to get back into the team.

His strong relationship with the Packers was quickly destroyed as Aaron Rodgers took his place. To make things worse, the team refused to release him, finally letting him go only before the start of the preseason. Favre signed with the Jets and had a frustrating season in New York, where he failed to make the playoffs while suffering an arm injury. He decided to leave only six months after joining the team, once again announcing his retirement.

3. Daunte Culpepper (Madden NFL 2002)

Madden NFL 2002 for PlayStation with Dante Culppeper on cover art
After featuring on Madden 2002 cover, Dante Culpepper was never the same

The Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper has a strong season, leading his team to an excellent 11-5 record. Already a pro bowler, the 2001 season looked very promising, so no wonder he was gracing Madden's cover. But once the season began, it was evident that something was wrong. His numbers were slightly down, but the bigger problem was that his team lost seven of their first 11 games. His season was over after a severe knee injury in December.

The following season was even worse, as he threw a record-breaking 23 interceptions and led the Vikings to a disappointing 6-10 score. Even though he played until 2009, Culpepper was never the same. Every single team he played for suffered a losing season.

2. Shaun Alexander (Madden NFL 07)

Madden NFL 2007 for PlayStation 2 with Shaun Alexander on the cover
Madden 07 cover star Shaun Alexander had his whole career cursed

In the 2005 season, Shaun Alexander was on top of his game. His numbers that year were some of the best for RB in the league's history. When he was chosen as the MVP of the season, no one was surprised. Thanks mainly to his efforts, the Seahawks had a deep playoff run before they lost Super Bowl XL against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But once he was selected as a cover star for Madden NFL 07, things immediately took a reverse turn. Even before the season started, a key offensive guard Steve Hutchinson left the team, leaving Alexander little to no space for massive runs. In week three, he broke his foot, and although he returned later that season, his performance steadily declined. He was cut from the team two seasons later before a horrible stint with Washington that lasted only four games.

1. Antonio Brown (Madden NFL 19)

Madden NFL 19 with Antonio Brown on the cover
Antonio Brown on Madden 19 cover looked like a perfect choice

Antonio Brown was voted the second-best NFL player and had the most receiving yards in the league before being introduced as the new Madden cover face. With a strong contract, the future looked so bright for the young man in the Steelers. But things soon took a dark turn. Brown managed to get himself deactivated after a colossal conflict with Ben Roethlisberger!

After numerous incidents, including violent behavior, dangerous driving, and sexual misconduct, he played only a single match for the Patriots in 2019 before being released. While he got another chance with the Buccaneers and won Super Bowl LV, Brown made another bizarre incident that took him out of the team. Next to him, even Richie Incognito looks tame!

Almost 75% of Madden NFL cover stars were hit by the Madden Curse, which is astonishing even when we know that injuries are common in the league. However, it seems that players don't care about it. Since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2007, no one refused to be placed on the cover. 

Have we missed someone on this top ten list? What are your top three Madden Curses? Leave us a comment below!

Cover photo: Electronic Arts



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Neville Says:

Well, at least we can be sure that Madden Cover Curse won't happen this year.

September 02 at 09:36:01 AM

DecentTerminator Says:

Surely it's going to be hard to ever top Antonio Brown

July 29 at 09:42:00 AM

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