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There is no bigger honor for a pro athlete than having your self image enshrined forever; unless that honor is the cover of John Madden’s NFL Football.
Earlier this week, Super Bowl 50 MVP and Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller was skipped over for the cover of the most popular Football game in America. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will be the poster child for a game that will be released August 23rd. Gronk can be seen giving his signature “Gronk spike” on the cover with cheering fans in the background. This is the first time a tight end has ever been represented as the cover player and the first Patriot to do so.
Now, why does all of this matter you ask? Why would we not want to see a Bronco on the cover? The “Madden curse,” that’s why. The curse of the game cover has plagued players from around the league that were brave enough to grace the jacket of the game.
It all started in 1999, when the video game franchise placed their first athlete on the parasol, San Francisco 49er running back Garrison Hearst. Hearst, who was coming off a record season with the 49ers, led his team to the playoffs after being awarded the cover. In their second round matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, Hearst suffered a horrifying ankle injury which ended with surgery. Complications form the procedure caused a bone in his foot to die and the former standout running back missed the next two seasons.
In 2002, Minnesota Vikings pro-bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper was told he would be the man for the job, a job he should have reconsidered. Before being told he would be on the cover, Culpepper was the hottest young QB in the game; he led the Vikings to an 11-5 record and the conference championship in just his fourth year. The next season on the other hand, did not go as planned. The young University of Central Florida standout suffered a knee injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers and had to miss the rest of the season. Culpeper never fully recovered for the curse and became a journeyman QB until his retirement in 2009.
Perhaps the most famous of all athletes to fall to the curse was Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2004. Vick, who had a style of quarterback that has never been seen before, was considered the new face of the NFL and was going to change the game forever. Well, after being named the cover player, Vick shattered his right fibula in a preseason game and missed the first 11 games of the season.
In 2011, the curse was handed off to the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints Drew Brees. Brees was coming off one of the greatest seasons a quarterback could have, throwing for 5,500 total yards and 46 touchdowns, both NFL records at the time. Brees was not just about the records that year, he and the Saints went marching into the Super Bowl and defeated the then Peyton Manning led Colts in a shootout. After being named Super Bowl MVP and man of the year by Sports Illustrated, it was no surprise that Madden team would come knocking. The 2012 season was one of the worst in his career; Brees threw twice as many interceptions as he did the previous year and the Saints would go on the lose in the first round of playoffs to the Seattle Seahawks, the first team in NFL history to make the postseason with a losing record.
So, losing the cover to a rival team isn’t a bad thing, not in the slightest. Let Gronk and the Patriots have this one; Denver has something better than a cover anyway, the Lombardi trophy.