Box art sport stars that went wrong...

The infamous 'Madden Curse' has been crippling EA's cover stars consistently since John Madden himself stopped appearing on them. The curse goes like this: all is going well for you in the world of your sports - then suddenly something bad happens after you appear on the front of a game box.

Call it coincidence, call it an ancient ju-ju, whatever: the evidence is undeniable. Don't believe us? Then check out the poor saps below and then tell us it's all BS. Oh, and for those of you who aren't fans of Madden NFL football, we've even dug a little deeper into other game franchises (including non-EA series) and picked out some beauties. What have we missed? Let us know in the comments.

First up - those Madden curses

Madden NFL 99 - 1998

Curse victim... Garrison Hearst, San Francisco 49ers
Knacked his ankle on the first play of the divisional play-offs (Footie fans read: quarter final stage), missed the rest of the game, and the 49ers crashed out. He didn’t recover until 2001.

Madden NFL 2000 - 1999

Curse victim... Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions
Although technically not the main cover star (he’s just over John Madden’s shoulder in the background) Sanders still succumbed to the curse. He abruptly announced his retirement via a fax to a local newspaper, and it would later turn out he was completely disillusioned with the losing mentality of the Lions. Detroit didn’t think this was an adequate excuse for walking out on his recently signed multi-million dollar contract and hauled his ass to court to recoup $5.5M from him. However, since the start of the 00-01 season, the Lions are a collective 40-104, including posting the NFL's first ever 0-16 season last year. So the curse seems to have hit the entire team and not just Sanders.

Madden NFL 2001 - 2000

Curse victim... Eddie George, Tennessee Titans
A nagging toe injury limited the once prolific running back to a career low of 3 yards per carry and only 5 touchdowns in 2001. The injury blighted the rest of his career and held him to a measly average of 3.4 yards until he eventually retired.

Madden NFL 2002 - 2001


Curse victim... Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota Vikings
During the 2000 season, the Viking’s quarterback was in formidable form. He threw almost 4000 yards and 33 touchdowns and rushed 470 scoring 7 himself. After appearing on the cover, Culpepper struggled with turnovers, throwing 13 interceptions and only 14 touchdowns in a season that was ended by a back injury after only 11 games.

Madden NFL 2003 - 2002


Curse victim... Marshall Faulk, St Louis Rams
Faulk suffered a nasty ankle injury in 2002 and missed five games. Although the 1600 yards and 10 touchdowns he achieved is not to be sniffed at, his injury started a steady decline in his rushing skills and he never broke the 1000 yards per season barrier again.

Madden NFL 2004 - 2003

Curse victim... Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons
It only took five days from the game’s release for the Madden Curse to get a grip on Michael Vick, and once it did it refused to let go. The star quarterback of the Falcons fractured his right leg, limiting him to only the last five games of the regular season. The bad news doesn’t end here for Vick either. In 2008 he was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in an organised dog fighting ring, though this was probably less to do with a curse than him being a complete fool.

Madden NFL 2005 - 2004


Curse victim... Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens
EA changed tact in 2005 and featured a defensive player for the first time ever as its cover star. After a wonderful career-defining six interceptions in the previous season, Lewis couldn’t catch a cold in this one. To add insult to injury, or vice-versa, he would badly injure his hand in the final game of the regular season.

Madden NFL 06 - 2005


Curse victim... Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles
Despite a hernia bursting out of his body, McNabb decided to put off surgery and be a hero to his team. Sadly, McNabb was hammered to the ground during an interception return that aggravated his condition further. He then needed a season-ending surgery to correct it.

Madden NFL 07


Curse victim... Shaun Alexander, Seattle Seahawks
After only missing one game in 64 outings, Shaun Alexander fractured the dreaded metatarsal in his foot. He then missed six games before returning to action despite the fractured appendage and played the rest of the season running on a cracked bone. The next season, he fractured a wrist in the first game and followed that up with an injury to a knee and ankle in week 9. The Seattle Seahawks released him at the end of the season, and the Washington Redskins picked him up only to also drop him shortly afterward.

Madden NFL 08 - 2007

Curse victim... Vince Young, Tennessee Titans
Wrecked his quadriceps in week 6, though he recovered. However, the following season, he injured his leg in the first game and was replaced by backup Kerry Collins. Young didn’t start another game for the rest of the season.

Madden NFL 09

Curse victim... Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers
The curse became confused in 2008 and turned on itself. Veteran quarterback Brett Favre was photographed in Green Bay Packer’s kit for the box, but he retired and left the team. However, Favre rescinded his retirement plans and announced he was signing for the New York Jets instead, deeming all promotional content null and void. EA quickly rallied and provided this neat alternative boxart for OCD fans…

Above: The 'corrected' Madden NFL 09 box art

However, the curse wasn't done yet. Favre sustained an arm injury late in the season, which could be largely blamed for the Jets losing four of their last five games. The team ultimately squandered an 8-3 start by posting a final record of 9-7 and missed the playoffs.

For non-Madden curses click to the next page...


  • St. Patrick - February 18, 2009 11:29 p.m.

    Ah, that is much better, you even expanded the old parts
  • - February 17, 2009 12:24 a.m.

    So far NHL 09 seems to be carrying a curse on Dion Phaneuf....
  • oryandymackie - February 16, 2009 10:54 p.m.

    kind of agree with you lava lamp (there's something I thought I'd never say). Bit of a waste GR, but mind you who am I to speak? Anyways I'm British and not a great lover of sport/sport games anyway so I don't know what I'm doing here
  • kicking222 - February 16, 2009 9:57 p.m.

    Somebody beat me to the Dany Heatley punch, but... it's one thing to miss the majority of the season; it's another to miss the majority of the season and KILL A TEAMMATE.
  • RealTerry - February 16, 2009 9:53 p.m.

    Great article Gr but it was a bit too sloppy no?
  • Johnny6Gun - February 16, 2009 9:33 p.m.

    Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, anyone?
  • lava_lamp - February 16, 2009 9:29 p.m.

    no offense but that article was so much of a bore fest i couldn't even finish it
  • AMayer - February 16, 2009 7:45 p.m.

    Donovan McNabb never played for the Dallas Cowboys, he played for the Phillipalphia Eagles. They're kinda rivals.
  • manaconda - February 16, 2009 7:21 p.m.

    a good one for the list would have been danny heatley the cover star for NHL 2004, durring that season he crashed his ferrari breaking his leg(s?) and killing the passenger, teammate daniel snyder. he was replaced on the covers after the accident by joe sakic.
  • Corsair89 - February 16, 2009 7:20 p.m.

    Umm... You guys said that Madden '02 curse victum was Eddie George again, but that's Dante Culpepper, Vikings QB.
  • titansfan - July 30, 2009 7:50 a.m.

    I think that Vince Young getting hurt was the best thing that happend to the Titans cause if he was the starting quarterback the Titans would have sucked worse then the lions
  • BLACKICE - February 19, 2009 12:05 a.m.

  • EricBratcher - February 17, 2009 11:18 p.m.

    Argh. I can't believe we missed Heatley. Sorry about all the typos and broken grammar and factual squip-ups. We're fixing them now. On the plus side, it's nice to see someone besides me showing an interest in the NFL. Go Bears!
  • And_ROOS - February 17, 2009 11:15 a.m.

    I call shenanigans, Messi was injured before he was on the cover, and Michael Owen was sh*t a loooooong time before he was on the Pro Evo cover.
  • St. Patrick - February 17, 2009 5:19 a.m.

    You took 2 different years and combined them for the Vince Young part. He tore his quad in the season the game was released, and then lost his starting job the next year. On top of all the other stuff, quite a sloppy article.
  • FancyRat - February 17, 2009 1:51 a.m.

    @RealTerry - Indeed, the article is rife with typos and grammar issues. Was this put together as fast as it seems it was? I did enjoy it though. Wish you'd point out instances of the curse skipping people, though I suppose that'd make for a boring article.
  • theturbolemming - February 16, 2009 9:42 p.m.

    Good thing I don't play sports games..
  • hardcore_gamer1990 - February 16, 2009 8:46 p.m.

    I've spotted a typo.... you accidentally put "abruptyl" instead of "abruptly" =) ME: 1 YOU : Amount of article that you've done without any spelling mistakes xD Good article, even though I'm not interested in any sports apart from good ol' English rugby and some japanophile-esque kara-TE! lol but seriously, i don't even know who Michael Owen is, and I'm English =| lol - My ReCaptcha was "1970 maybe" which is what I'd answer if someone asked me what year England won the world cup xD
  • Awesomeitude1523 - February 16, 2009 7:30 p.m.

    Woooh. Poor football players, bth American and the REAL football. I feel bad fr them. Recaptcha: Drawing Darlings (Coincidence?)

Showing 1-19 of 19 comments

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