BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Wednesday, Bills QB Josh Allen got one of the biggest off-the-field honors one can garner in the NFL, being named as the cover athlete for Madden NFL 24.
However, a drawback can come with being on the cover. Either by voodoo magic or bad luck, several NFL stars who have been featured on the cover of the game have suffered injuries or a drop in production in the season they are on the cover of the game.
This has become known as the “Madden Curse.”
The beginning of the curse is typically attributed to former San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst. Hearst was the first-ever athlete to be featured in the game, on the cover of the international edition of Madden NFL 99.
Hearst led his 49ers to the playoffs, but suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the playoffs and had to sit out for two full years before returning in 2001.
The next year, the curse struck in a different way. Barry Sanders was named the cover athlete for Madden NFL 2000, but announced his retirement shortly after getting the honors.
In 2001, Minnesota Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper missed five games after suffering a season-ending knee injury. Michael Vick suffered a fibula fracture in a preseason game that forced him to miss the first 11 games of the 2003 season after gracing the cover of Madden NFL 2004.
Donovan McNabb (Madden 06), Shaun Alexander (Madden 07), Troy Polamalu (Madden 10) and Rob Gronkowski (Madden 17) also all suffered injuries and missed various amounts of time the year they were on the cover.
Meanwhile, some saw drops in production. Marshall Faulk (Madden 03), Ray Lewis (Madden 05) and Drew Brees (Madden 11) didn’t miss time when they were on the cover, but saw serious dips in production. Adrian Peterson (Madden 25) did miss two games, but also had a drop in rushing yards.
Some, however, don’t suffer from the curse. There is no greater example of that than Patrick Mahomes (Madden 20), who led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl win in the season he graced the cover. Tom Brady (Madden 18) led the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 2019, but lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. Richard Sherman (Madden 15) led the Seattle Seahawks defense to the Super Bowl, but lost to the Patriots.
Calvin Johnson (Madden 13) is also a great example of breaking the curse, who broke the single-season receiving record, finishing the season with 1,964 yards. Larry Fitzgerald (Madden 10) set new career highs in several categories the year he was on the cover with Polamalu.
So, it can be said that the Madden Curse used to be very real, but has potentially subsided a bit in recent years. We will have to wait and see if Allen suffers from the Madden Curse this season or not.
Full list of cover athletes
- Madden NFL 99: Garrison Hearst (San Francisco 49ers) PAL version
- Madden NFL 2000: Barry Sanders (Detroit Lions)
- Madden NFL 2001: Eddie George (Tennessee Titans)
- Madden NFL 2002: Daunte Culpepper (Minnesota Vikings)
- Madden NFL 2003: Marshall Faulk (St. Louis Rams)
- Madden NFL 2004: Michael Vick (Atlanta Falcons)
- Madden NFL 2005: Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens)
- Madden NFL 06: Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles)
- Madden NFL 07: Shaun Alexander (Seattle Seahawks)
- Madden NFL 08: Vince Young (Tennessee Titans)
- Madden NFL 09: Brett Favre (Green Bay Packers/New York Jets)
- Madden NFL 10: Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals)
- Madden NFL 11: Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)
- Madden NFL 12: Peyton Hillis (Cleveland Browns)
- Madden NFL 13: Calvin Johnson (Detroit Lions)
- Madden 25: Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)
- Madden NFL 15: Richard Sherman (Seattle Seahawks)
- Madden NFL 16: Odell Beckham, Jr. (New York Giants)
- Madden NFL 17: Rob Gronkowski (New England Patriots)
- Madden NFL 18: Tom Brady (New England Patriots)
- Madden NFL 19: Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers)
- Madden NFL 20: Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)
- Madden NFL 21: Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)
- Madden NFL 22: Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)
- Madden NFL 23: John Madden
- Madden NFL 24: Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)
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Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.