Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Madden Curse...

To honor the release of Madden 09 today, I thought I'd address the issue of the curse. A curse so befuddling, you simply cannot help but believe it. Madden is probably hands down the best sports video game of all time. Year in and year out most of the American male population purchases the video game. I know guys over 40 that still play. It's a part of the game of football. It gives all of us guys out there that couldn't cut it in the NFL a chance to win the Super Bowl. It's America's video game. ESPN even made a TV show about a group of guys riding around in an RV just playing each other in Madden. That's pretty serious. It's the craze of the video game nation.

Thanks in part to the great successes of the game, it became a huge honor to make the cover of Madden for football players. If you were on the cover of Madden, you were obviously doing the right things the year before, and expected to have an equally successful upcoming season in the NFL. But as the hype of the game rose, the pressure to live up to the status as Madden cover model equally climbed. Insert: the curse. Since the arrival of Playstation 2, no player on the cover of Madden has lived up to their expectations. The honor has left player after player with ill-fated seasons and careers. Let's break them down.

2001: Eddie George

George was a Heisman trophy winner, the NFL Rookie of the Year, and a 4-time pro-bowler (1997-2000). He also led the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl in 2000. If you notice however, that Madden cover says 2001 under it. After he made the cover, George would go on to average almost 600 yards less a season than he had his first 5 years in the NFL. Injuries would plague him and his career would only last 4 more years. With his successes, went the success of the Titans. George would never make another Pro Bowl and lose all of his prestige.

2002: Daunte Culpepper

In 2001, Culpepper impressively led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game, earning the cover honor. In 2002, Culpepper only managed to start 11 games in which he led the Vikings to a dismal 4-7 record. He missed the last 5 games with a season-ending injury. Daunte also managed to lead the league in interceptions with 23, even though he missed 5 games. Culpepper rebounded in 2003 & 2004, but met more ill-fate with injuries that have caused him to miss 30 games in the last 3 seasons. He's been on 3 different teams in the last 3 years and currently stands teamless.

2003: Marshall Faulk

Going into 2003, Faulk was the best player in the NFL. As the centerfold for the "Greatest Show on Turf", Faulk was practically untouchable. He was coming off four consecutive seasons of 1300+ rushing yards and 2000+ total yards. He had been to the Super Bowl in 2 of his last 3 seasons and won the NFL MVP in 2000. After his appearance on the cover, Faulk became troubled by some injuries and began to age before he healed. He never reached the 1000 yard rushing mark after he made it on the cover.

2004: Michael Vick

Vick is perhaps the biggest victim to the curse. Michael was the former #1 pick overall in the 2001 NFL Draft, but since has fallen quite a long way. He is far and away the most athletic quarterback to ever play the position. The man is unstoppable in the open field. When he turns on the jets, there is no defender that can catch him. However the Madden curse was somehow able to. Vick was always one to put his body on the line for the extra yard. A devotion coaches and fans thought might have more risk than reward. Just a few months after Vick took a previously under .500 Falcons team to the playoffs and past the Packers (GB's first career playoff loss at Lambeau),Vick found himself sidelined for 11 weeks with a broken leg. The break came one day after Madden 2004 had been released in stores. Since the injury, Vick has been good, but not great. On the field, his Falcons have fallen out of playoff contention the last few years and off the field, the Falcons woes are the least of Vick's worries. After pleading guilty to allegations of involvement in dogfighting, Vick finds himself in prison until 2009. He can only pray he gets reinstated to the NFL.

2005: Ray Lewis

In an attempt to end the curse, Madden decided to give the honor to the unbreakable Ray Lewis. Lewis was the most fearsome player in the NFL and considered indestructible at that time. But not even those credentials could save him from the curse. In 2004, Lewis' numbers dropped substantially. In 2005, the unbreakable Lewis tore his right hamstring and was forced to miss the final 10 games of the season. Since then, Lewis' play has declined and the Ravens defense is beginning to show signs of age and weakness.

2006: Donovan McNabb

Prior to his appearance on the cover of Madden, McNabb had it all. He had been selected to the Pro Bowl 5 consecutive years and had led the Eagles to the NFC Conference Championship 4 years in a row. He also had a near Super Bowl victory under his belt. But the man that had turned the Eagles franchise around fell victim to the curse as well. In 2005, fresh off his appearance on the cover, McNabb, a non-believer in the Madden curse, went down with a sports hernia in week 1. After fighting through the pain for 9 games, McNabb re-injured himself and finally decided it was best to take the safe route, opting for season-ending surgery. Culminate the injuries, with all the TO problems and Philadelphia's newfound lack of appreciation for their quarterback, and it is easy to see just how badly the curse hit Donovan.

2007: Shaun Alexander

Fresh off a season in which Alexander led the NFL in rushing (1880), set the record for most TDs in a single season (28), and made it to the Super Bowl, Shaun found himself on the cover of Madden. Shaun helped the curse stay true to form, breaking his leg in just the third week of the season. He missed 6 weeks and failed to rush for 1000 yards for the first time in 6 years. Since the injury, Alexander's skills have faded and he is currently left without a team to play for.

2008: Vince Young

Madden turned the tables again in '08, going with an elusive young quarterback for the cover. Known for his toughness, Young never missed a game due to an injury in high school, college, or the pros. But Madden caught up to the durable Young and sidelined him for a week in '07. Where the curse really hit Young the hardest though, was in his play. Vince threw only 9 TDs as oppposed to his 17 INTs. The Titans were also easily exited from the playoffs in the first round.

So yeah, it's been a rough road for the Madden cover models. Now Madden opens it's door to Brett Favre. Why do you ask? Because he was retired. There it was. The perfect answer to the curse. With Brett on the cover, the curse would be over. So what does Brett do? He un-retires from football. So far on the cover Brett has already tainted his career, ruined the prestige and respect he left with, and been turned down to play for the city that loved him dearly for so many years. And get this, now he's a Jet. The curse is laughing right now, because it knows this couldn't get any easier. Favre has really set himself up to keep the curse alive. Oh well EA Sports, maybe next year. I'd say put John Madden on the cover, but I fear something fatal might happen to him.

Images taken from Google Images

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