The 'Madden Curse' can be traced back to the '90s, and Patrick Mahomes may have finally broken it with his MVP performance in Super Bowl win

  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was the latest player to challenge the "Madden Curse" by appearing on the cover of the popular video game before the start of the 2019 season.
  • Mahomes and the Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV to successfully avoid the jinx in which many of the previous cover athletes have seen their season derailed by injuries or off-field issues.
  • Below we documented the history of the curse going all the way back to when players first appeared on the cover.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Prior to the 2019 season, EA Sports announced that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes would be on the cover of the latest version of the popular video-game franchise, "Madden 20." 

Much like the popular Sports Illustrated-cover curse, the Madden video game has its own eyebrow-raising history: the "Madden Curse." Ever since athletes began appearing on the cover of Madden in the late '90s, they seem to almost immediately lose significant amounts of playing time because of injuries, run-ins with the law, or other reasons.

Despite an ugly mid-season knee injury, Mahomes and the Chiefs rallied to win the Super Bowl and seemingly put the jinx to rest for one season, at least.

Below we document the long history of the "Madden Curse," with some help from NFL.com and DigitalTrends.com.

Early years of the Madden video-game franchise

Madden 97

EA Sports

In the early years of the Madden franchise, players occasionally appeared on the cover with John Madden, typically in the background. However, more often, Madden appeared on the cover by himself.

Madden 99 — Garrison Hearst

Madden 99

EA Sports

EA Sports tried something new for Madden 99 (released in 1998). While John Madden appeared on covers in North America, Garrison Hearst of the San Francisco 49ers appeared on the cover of the PAL version released in other parts of the world. In 1998, Hearst had his best season as a pro, rushing for 1,570 yards. However, on his first carry of the divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons, he severely broke his ankle, and he would miss the next two seasons. This is considered the beginning of the curse.

Madden 2000 — Barry Sanders

Madden 2000

EA Sports

Barry Sanders is not always considered part of the curse, but we include him here for you to decide. Shortly after it was announced that he would be on the cover (behind John Madden in the background), he announced he was retiring from the NFL and never played again. 

Madden 2001 — Eddie George

Madden 2001

EA Sports

Eddie George is another one that is debated. George had career highs of 1,509 yards and 16 touchdowns during the 2000 season when the game was released. However, he severely injured his toe the following year and only played four more seasons.

Source: SI.com

Madden 2002 — Daunte Culpepper

Madden 2002

EA Sports

Culpepper stormed onto the scene the year before with an NFL-best 33 touchdown passes. But in 2001 (the year the game was released), Culpepper injured his knee and missed the final five games of the season. 

Source: ESPN

Madden 2003 — Marshall Faulk

Madden 2003

EA Sports

Faulk was coming off four straight seasons of at least 1,300 yards rushing and at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage. During the 2002 season, Faulk missed two games with an injury and was limited in several others. He finished with 953 yards rushing and played just three more seasons.

Madden 2004 — Michael Vick

Madden 2004

EA Sports

Vick missed the first 11 games of the 2003 season with a broken leg suffered on a scramble during a preseason game. The Falcons went 5-11 and missed the playoffs.

Source: SI.com

Madden 06 — Donovan McNabb

Madden 06

EA Sports

After the Philadelphia Eagles went to the Super Bowl the season before, McNabb suffered a sports hernia during the 2005 season. He tried to play through it, but eventually needed surgery and missed the final six weeks. The Eagles went 6-10.

Source: ESPN

Madden 07 — Shaun Alexander

Madden 07

EA Sports

In the season before being on the cover, Alexander rushed for 1,880 yards and set an NFL record with 28 touchdowns. However, in the 2006 season, Alexander broke a bone in his foot and missed six games. He rushed for just 896 yards and played only two more seasons.

Source: Washington Post

Madden 08 — Vince Young

Madden 08

EA Sports

In the second season of what was a promising start to his career, Young strained his quadriceps and missed one game. He would only start 22 more games in his career and was out of the NFL five seasons later.

Source: ESPN.com

Madden 09 — Brett Favre

Madden 09

EA Sports

Favre had announced his retirement following the 2007 season. However, he changed his mind. The Packers had already committed to Aaron Rodgers, so Favre was traded to the New York Jets. He didn't miss any time, but he did have to play for the Jets, and the Packers won another Super Bowl two years later.

Source: ESPN.com

Madden 10 — Troy Polamalu

Madden 10

EA Sports

After helping the Steelers win the Super Bowl in 2008, Polamalu missed 11 games because of an injured knee ligament. The Steelers missed the playoffs.

Source: ESPN.com

Madden 11 — Drew Brees

Madden 11

EA Sports

Drew Brees did not miss a game during the 2010 season. However, there were reports that he was hiding a broken bone in his leg. To add insult to injury (literally), the Saints would go on to lose to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs, the first sub-.500 playoff team ever.

Madden 12 — Peyton Hillis

Madden 12

EA Sports

Hillis rushed for nearly 1,200 yards the year before appearing on the cover. He missed six games because of various injuries during the 2011 season and rushed for just 587 yards. He played just three more seasons and rushed for just 671 more yards in his career.

Madden 25 — Adrian Peterson

Madden 25

EA Sports

Peterson played in just one game during the 2014 season after he was charged with abusing his son with a tree branch. After playing the opening weekend, Peterson was ruled ineligible and later suspended by the NFL for the rest of the season.

Madden 17 — Rob Gronkowski

Madden 17

EA Sports

Gronk played in just eight games and missed the final five weeks and the playoffs with a back injury.

Madden 18 — Tom Brady

Madden

Best Buy

Brady may have avoided the jinx, depending on your point of view. The Patriots lost Super Bowl LII to the Eagles, which, for the Patriots, is a disappointing result. Brady did come back the next season and won his sixth Super Bowl ring.

As for Brady, he doesn't believe in curses.

"I'm not one to believe in curses," Brady said after the cover was announced. "So I'm ready to take the challenge head-on like always."

Madden 19 — Antonio Brown

Madden 19 Antonio Brown

EA Sports

Brown's season was going well until the final week when the Steelers deactivated the receiver for the team's must-win, Week 17 game. Reports said Brown had a rift with Ben Roethlisberger and was upset about not being named team MVP. AB's life off the field has spiraled ever since. He briefly spent time with the Raiders and the Patriots but is now out of the NFL and may never make it back thanks to his off-field issues.

Madden 20 — Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes

EA Sports

Things did not look good for Mahomes and the Chiefs early on. After he won MVP in 2018, Mahomes missed two games with an ugly dislocated knee cap. The Chiefs lost his first game back to fall to 6-4 and seemingly out of contention for winning the Super Bowl. But Mahomes slowly played his way back into health and dominance, winning the final six games of the regular season and all three playoff games. Despite the Madden cover, Mahomes and the Chiefs are Super Bowl champs.

Is the curse lifted? We'll find out next season.

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