The Madden curse revisited

While recently it’s been hit or miss, when the curse rears it’s ugly head it can ruin a player’s season | Photo Courtesy
Peyton Hillis shined bright, but he might have flown too close to the sun.

The NFL video game known as ‘Madden’ has become synonymous with the “Madden Curse.” The Madden Curse is when the cover athlete for that year’s Madden experiences a down season. This could be due to the player’s own underperformance or because of injury.

The first ever athlete to be featured on the cover of Madden was San Fransisco 49er’s running back Garrison Hearst. Hearst was coming off a historic season, and while he didn’t immediately experience regression the following season, he broke his ankle in the playoffs against the Falcons. This led to him missing the following two seasons while he was recovering from the injury.

The following year, one of the greatest running backs of all time, Barry Sanders, was selected to be the next cover athlete. Unfortunately, shortly after being announced as the cover athlete, Sanders unexpectedly announced his retirement from football.

Marshall Faulk was named the cover athlete for Madden NFL 2003. This would be the beginning of Faulk’s decline as it was the first season that he would fail to rush for more than 1,000 yards. His rushing totals would continue to decline the following seasons before having to retire in 2006 due to a knee injury.

Coming off an MVP season in 2005, Shaun Alexander was rewarded with being on the cover of Madden. A few months after being chosen for the cover, Alexander broke his foot, making it the first season where he didn’t rush for 1,000 yards since becoming a starter. His 2007 season was riddled with even more injuries, and then in 2008 he was cut by the Seahawks.

Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis came out of nowhere in 2010 and was chosen for the cover of Madden ’12. He played just 10 games that season, rushing for just 587 yards. This ended his tenure in Cleveland, along with his relevance in the league.

Arguably the biggest recent evidence of the Madden curse comes from the Madden ’19 cover athlete Antonio Brown. While the curse didn’t set in right away, it didn’t take too long for it to strike. After having a good 2018 season, Brown requested a trade from the Steelers in the offseason.

This is where the curse hits, as he was traded to the Raiders where nothing went right. After a cryotherapy treatment, Brown developed frostbite on his feet. Additionally, the NFL had banned the helmet that Brown had worn his entire career. This led to him threatening to retire if the NFL didn’t let him wear it. Finally, some off-the-field issues and verbal confrontations with Raiders’s General Manager Mike Mayock, saw Brown traded before he ever played a game for the Raiders. Brown appeared in one game for the Patriots before being released by them as well.

The Madden curse doesn’t strike every year, but when it does, it can be brutal for the athlete that was graced with the privilege of being on the cover.

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