Ranking Every Madden Cover Athlete

Today is Madden Day. The annual celebration for the release of one of the longest running and most popular video game franchises.


Started in 1988, the game bears the stamp of Pro Football Hall of Fame coach John Madden. Since 1991 a new version of the game has been released annually. 2001 marked the first year that current NFL stars were featured on the cover. The honor of being a cover athlete came with a price though, the infamous “Madden Curse”. Is the curse real or just bad luck?

Here is my ranking of Madden NFL cover athletes and the effect the curse has had on them.

  1. Brett Favre: Heart of the Green Bay Packers. One of the best quarterbacks of all time.
    • Cursed?: The video game franchise put Favre on the cover to honor his retirement. He then quickly unretired and played a few more decent NFL seasons before calling it quits. Favre was enshrined into the NFL Hall of Fame this year. He did sent some unsolicted dick pics after being on the cover though. Slightly cursed.
    • madden_nfl_09_coverart
  2. Calvin Johnson: One of the best wide receivers to every play. Put up staggering offensive numbers for the Detroit Lions during his career there.
    • Cursed?: Much like fellow Lion susperstar Barry Sanders, Johnson too hung up the cleats at the peak of his career. He will go down as one of the best and be a reminder to never root for the Lions unless you want your heart broken. City cursed.
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  3. Ray Lewis: Everything you want in your football player. The scariest and hardest working linebacker.
    • Cursed?: Two Superbowl victories and endless terrible fedoras. Oh, and also (maybe) a murderer. Still a legend. Not cursed but probably should have been.
    • madden2005
  4. Larry Fitzgerald/Troy Polamalu: This one is kind of cheating since there were two athletes on the cover. Both were at the peak of their positions and were the faces of their franchises.
    • Cursed?: Polamalu is multiple Superbowl champion and has the best hair in NFL history. Larry is still chugging along and showing no signs of slowing down. Not cursed.
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  5. Gronk: The current Madden poster boy. Redefining the tight end position and crushing every dance floor in America.
    • Cursed?: His quarterback is suspended for the first four games of the regular season because of air in footballs. Whenever Gronk scores a touchdown he spikes the football as hard as he can. Probably doesn’t help the air pressure in the ball. Did he frame Brady? Makes you think. Not cursed yet.
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  6. Marshall Faulk: One of the most underrated athletes on the list. The centerpiece of “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
    • Cursed?: Never was able to win another ring and injuries forced him out of the league by 2006. Not exactly a curse and more of just the life of a running back in the league. Slightly cursed.
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  7. Drew Brees: The quarterback that led the Saints to a Superbowl in the wake of Hurrican Katrina.
    • Cursed?: Another example of the team suffering more after the cover than the athlete. Brees is still an elite quarterback while the Saints still seem to have not recovered from Bountygate. Cursed by association.
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  8. Richard Sherman: The star corner of the Seahawks who can shut down anything except his mouth.
    • Cursed?: He is probably too low on the list but he is arguably not even a top 3 cornerback in the league anymore. The Seahawks suffered the worst Superbowl loss in history and Sherman’s reaction face became a meme. Probably cursed.
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  9. Eddie George: The workhorse running-back of the Tennessee Titans.
    • Cursed?: Another underrated player mostly because of his failure to win a Superbowl. After being on the cover he had a rare miscue that lead to a interception in a playoff game and was never able to fully recover to his glory days. Slightly cursed.
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  10. Donovan McNabb: One of the most talented quarterbacks who could never come through in the clutch.
    • Cursed?: McNabb had the difficulty of playing in one of the most difficult sport crazy cities. Could never get less talented team to make the final push and puked when it mattered most himself. Cursed.
    • madden2006
  11. Michael Vick: The most electrifying quarterbacks of all time and the greatest video game athlete.
    • Cursed?: I mean it’s not a curse if you are just a horrible person in real life. He’s done his time but still scum of the earth. Cursed and rightfully so.
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  12. Odell Beckham: Great a catching balls and even better at dancing.
    • Cursed?: He is the next athlete poised to be the face of the NFL. Has become quickly embraced by fans and hairstylists. Everything has been smooth sailing so far for him so he’s destined to crash and burn. Curse imminent.
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  13. Shaun Alexander: Dominant and MVP winning running back for the Seahawks.
    • Cursed?: Alexander has the unfortunate title of being the second most famous Seattle running back. Broke his foot in 2006 and was cut by the team in 2008. Still a great but now overshadowed career. Not too cursed.
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  14. Dante Culpepper: The talented quarterback for the Vikings in the early 2000s.
    • Cursed?: Nabbed the Madden cover after an impressive rookie season. Never was able to repeat his early success. Not cursed, just not very good.
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  15. Vince Young: Heisman trophy winner and that’s about it.
    • Cursed?: When people think of the Madden curse they think about these next two athletes. Similar to Culpepper, Young was chosen after a stellar rookie campaign. Injured in 2008, Young found himself in a backup role and was never able to escape. Definitely cursed.
    • madden_nfl_08_coverart
  16. Peyton Hillis: A running back who once played for the Browns.
    • Cursed?: A winner of the fan vote cover edition was one of the victories for Cleveland in a very long time. Didn’t deserve the cover in the first place and proved it by being a terrible football player for the years after. CURSED.
    • madden-12-xbox360-209x300


The biggest and least talked about curse has to be John Madden himself. How is he cursed you might ask? Forever being associated with Frank Caleindo.



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