The Madden Curse

With the exceptions of the “FIFA” franchise as well as the “Mario Brothers” Empire, “Madden” may be the most popular video game in the world. Hence, it would be an honor to be on the cover of it. And while it’s nice to be on the cover, there is a certain “curse” per say which follows it.

Which is why Lions fans are probably fretting over the season Calvin Johnson is going to have, or the fact that he’s probably being taken way too late in fantasy football drafts around the country.

And rightfully so, people have a right to be hesitant.

Dating back to 2001, when a single athlete graces the cover, it tends to impact their performance the next season. A lot of those declines are due to injury, however not all of them are.

The exception is Drew Brees, who after appearing on the ’11 cover, came back from a strong 2010 year to improve his numbers drastically in almost every single statistical category.

(Side note:  the athletes get on the cover due to their accomplishments during the previous year. Brees got on the ’11 cover for his work in the previous season.)

Perhaps I over exaggerated a bit about Brees being the only exception. Ray Lewis regressed, but still had 146 tackles and made the Pro Bowl in 2004 after being the 2003 cover-athlete.

Let’s start with the 2002 edition. The athlete on the cover was Daunte Culpepper after he threw 33 touchdowns and nearly 4000 yards while also carrying the ball for an astounding 470 yards and 7 touchdowns in 16 games.

The next year he only played in 11 games and threw only 14 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. The rushing numbers were still there, but the passing numbers dropped. Significantly.

Madden 2003 had Marshall Faulk as its cover boy. Faulk earned the right with almost 1,400 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns on the ground and another 765 yards and 9 touchdowns catching the ball for the Rams.

The following year he failed to reach 1000 rushing yards for the first time in five years (953 yards to be exact) and had only 10 total touchdowns. Thus starts a trending theme of athletes whose careers took a downward turn after being on Madden.

Mike Vick was the Madden cover athlete in 2003 after running for nearly 800 yards and throwing for another 3,000 in 15 games.

The next year he only got into 5 games and didn’t do anything noteworthy.

And the list goes on…

2005 Cover Athlete:  Ray Lewis.

As stated, tackling numbers regressed by about 15, but that’s okay when it goes from 161 to 146.

2006 Cover Athlete:  Donovan McNabb.

Pre Madden Season:

15 games played 3,216 total passing yards and 220 rushing, 31 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, 39 total touchdowns.

Post Madden Season:

9 games played,  2507 passing yards, 55 rushing, 16 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 17 total touchdowns.

2007 Cover Athlete:  Shaun Alexander.

Pre Madden Season:

NFL Leading 370 rushing attempts, 1880 rushing yards, 117.5 yards a game and a then-NFL record 27 touchdowns. 16 games played.

Post Madden Season:

252 rushing attempts, 896 yards, 89.6 yards a game and 7 touchdowns. 10 games played.

2008 Cover Athlete:  Vince Young*

Pre Madden Season:

15 games played, 2199 passing yards and 552 rushing, 12 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 19 total touchdowns.

Post Madden Season:

15 games played, 2546 yards and 395 rushing, 9 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, 12 total touchdowns.

(* denotes rookie)

2009 Cover Athlete:  Brett Favre

Pre Madden Season:

16 games played, 4,155 passing yards, 12 rushing yards, 28 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 28 total touchdowns.

Post Madden Season:

16 games played, 3,472 passing yards, 43 rushing yards, 22 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, 23 total touchdowns.

2011 Cover Athlete: Drew Brees

Here are your exceptions:

Pre Madden Season:

16 games played, 4,620 passing yards, -3 rushing yards, 33 touchdowns, 22 interceptions, 33 total touchdowns.

Post Madden Season:

16 games played, 5,476 passing yards, 86 rushing yards, 46 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 47 total rushing touchdowns.

2012 Cover Athlete: Peyton Hillis

Pre Madden Season:

270 rushing attempts, 1177 rushing yards, 73.6 yards a game and 11 touchdowns, 61 receptions, 477 yards receiving and 13 total touchdowns. 16 games played.

Post Madden Season:

161 rushing attempts, 587 yards, 58.7 yards a game, 3 touchdowns, 22 receptions, 130 receiving yards and 3 total touchdowns. 10 games played.

So basically unless your name is Drew Brees or Ray Lewis, you are probably going to struggle after being on the cover of Madden. I also didn’t forget how to count. I didn’t include the 2010 issue because Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald were on the cover.

I don’t think Calvin Johnson will regress as much as Hillis, who by the way isn’t with the Browns, the team he had the monster season with. He’s in Kansas City as a backup. I think Johnson might regress some, but it will probably be in the neighborhood of Lewis’ slight fall off. He’ll still be a star player, just with slightly less padded numbers.

At the end of the day, or season rather, Johnson is probably going to be the best receiver in football. Just don’t expect  ridiculous numbers. The curse won’t impact him that much.

2 thoughts on “The Madden Curse

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