Facing the ‘Madden Curse’

Bad news Vince Young fans, your guy has just been selected to the cover of this year’s release of Madden NFL 2008, the long-standing football video game series. Starting with the game’s conception in 1989, John Madden would appear alone on the cover. Since 2001, however, a different player has been chosen for the cover of the game every year.

For those of you out there who are not informed on the “Madden Cover Curse,” some calamity has always befallen the cover athlete throughout the course of the season. It may be an injury, or a crucial mistake on the field, or too heavy of a workload, but you can mark it down that something will happen.

In 2001, former Tennessee Titans’ star running back Eddie George graced the cover. George has often been referred to as the exception to the curse because he had his best season ever after appearing on the cover, as he ran for over 1,500 yards. However, he bobbled a crucial pass in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoffs, resulting in a costly interception and ending any chance his team had to make it to the Super Bowl. The following season, hampered by injuries, George’s rushing total fell to an all-time low and he was never really the same after that.

After making an impressive debut throwing for 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns and leading Minnesota to the NFC Championship Game, former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper was on the cover for Madden 2002.

His cover season would turn out to be a nightmare.

The Vikings won only four of their first 11 games and Culpepper had just as many interceptions as touchdowns. He missed the last five games of the season after suffering a knee injury and the team finished 5-11.

The St. Louis Rams do-it-all running back Marshall Faulk would be the next player to grace the cover for the 2003 edition. Heading into that season, Faulk was coming off of five consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards rushing, however an ankle injury cost Faulk five games and the team missed the playoffs. Faulk would never again produce a 1,000-yard season.

Next up for Madden 2004 was the Atlanta Falcons electrifying quarterback, Michael Vick. The season before the cover, Vick had guided the Falcons to the playoffs for the first time in several years. The day after the game went on sale, Vick fractured his fibula in a preseason game and missed all but five games of the regular season as the Falcons tanked to a 5-11 finish.

In 2005, the Baltimore Ravens star middle linebacker Ray Lewis became the first defensive player to be on a cover of the popular video game. The season before, Lewis pulled down a career-high six interceptions and his team claimed the AFC North division.

Yet the season after the cover, Lewis had no interceptions, missed the last game after breaking his wrist and the Ravens watched the playoffs from the sidelines. The curse would follow Lewis into the 2005 campaign as well when he tore his hamstring in the sixth game of the season and watched as his team missed the playoffs yet again.

The 2006 cover featured Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Under McNabb, the Eagles had amassed a 59-21 regular season record, and five straight playoff appearances, the last of which came at the Super Bowl. After the cover, the season almost ended before it got started as McNabb suffered a sports hernia in the first game and played on for another eight games in pain before shutting his season down. The team finished last in their division.

Madden NFL 2007 featured the Seattle Seahawks perennial Pro Bowl running back, Shaun Alexander. The Seahawks were coming off their best season ever, which included a trip to the Super Bowl, and Alexander was the reigning NFL MVP. Three games into the following season, as luck would have it, Alexander suffered a fracture in his left foot and missed the next six games.

That brings this little history lesson back to the present and to Titans quarterback, Vince Young. Young has a unique combination of strength, size and elusiveness that has helped him find success early on in his career. He led his team to a win in the 2006 Rose Bowl, and exceeded everyone’s expectations in the NFL by completing over 60 percent of his passes and falling just short of getting his team in the playoffs.

Now Young will have his biggest challenge to date as he takes on “The Curse.” Who knows what may happen to Young this season, but it would be advisable to think twice before drafting him to your fantasy team this year.

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