The votes are in and Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman has reigned supreme as he beat out San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick and others for the cover of Madden 15 on ESPN. Sherman who beat out many star players, now holds bragging rights as EA Sports cover boy. However, there continues to be some superstition involved with the cover of Madden as many players have dealt with either season-ending injuries or one-hit wonder seasons.
Starting in 1999, former San Francisco 49ers RB Garrison Hearst was “cursed” when he was the cover boy (1999) after coming off a career season in which he rushed for 1,570 yards and 7 touchdowns, while gaining an additional 535 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The total yards from scrimmage set a new franchise record, as Hearst supplanted RB Roger Craig (2,066) in 1985.
However, the curse was born as Hearst would break his ankle in the NFC Divisional game against the Atlanta Falcons forcing him to miss the next two seasons due to Avascular Necrosis. In 2000, RB Barry Sanders and RB Dorsey Levens were “cursed” when Sanders abruptly retired due to the Detroit Lions losing ways, while Levens replaced Sanders to only injure his knee while missing the playoffs that season. Levens would be released by the team two years later.
In 2001, Tennessee Titans RB Eddie George was “cursed” when the Titans lost in the AFC Divisional Round due to George bobbling a ball that was then intercepted by future Hall of Fame MLB Ray Lewis who took it to the house, sealing a Ravens victory. In addition, George would never average more than 3.4 yards per carry for the rest of his career.
In 2002, Minnesota Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper was “cursed” as he became a turnover machine by throwing 23 interceptions while tying the record for most fumbles in a single season.
In 2003, St. Louis Rams RB Marshall Faulk was hit by the “curse” when he would never again reach the century mark, while only starting 21 of 32 games from 2002-2003 before suffering knee injuries forcing him to retire in 2005.
In 2004, Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick was “cursed” when he broke his fibula in a pre-season game while discovering years later he was part of a dog fighting ring.
In 2005, Baltimore Ravens MLB Ray Lewis was “cursed” when he had his season cut short due to a wrist injury in Week 15 while not recording a single interception that season (first of his career).
In 2006, Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb tore his ACL and meniscus while suffering a sports hernia in Week 1.
In 2007, Seattle Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander was “cursed” after coming off an MVP season. Alexander would miss six starts due to injury. Alexander admitted that the curse may be true as he said, “Do you want to be hurt and on the cover, or just hurt?”
In 2008, Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young was “cursed” when he only played in five games before suffering a leg injury. The following season Young would miss the majority of the year with a knee injury and never regained his 2007 form.
In 2009, then Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre made the cover despite his retirement. He then un-retired and played for the New York Jets before suffering a torn biceps tendon.
In 2010, EA Sports decided to add two athletes to the cover and featured Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Steelers SS Troy Polamalu. The “curse” continued as Polamalu sprained his MCL in the first half of the season opener missing the next four games while Fitzgerald had another stellar season.
In 2011, New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees was “cursed” as he had a down year by throwing 22 interceptions while playing with a torn MCL.
In 2012, then Cleveland Browns RB Peyton Hillis was “cursed” as he missed five games due to a torn hamstring while missing another due to strep throat. He would be the epitome of a one hit wonder and would never regain form.
The curse has died down since due to the stellar seasons of Detroit Lions WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and Vikings RB Adrian “All Day” Peterson as they both set NFL franchise records during their time as cover boys for Madden.
With superstition and sports going hand-in-hand I do believe there is some truth to it. And while Sherman may have bragging rights to the cover, I can’t help but think if he will have a similar injury or down season as many others before him have declined in one way or the other.