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.
Early years of the Madden video-game franchise
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
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
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 would never play again.
Madden 2001 — Eddie George
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.
Madden 2002 — Daunte Culpepper
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.
Madden 2003 — Marshall Faulk
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
Vick missed the first 11 games of the 2003 season with a broken leg he suffered on a scramble during a preseason game. The Falcons went 5-11 and missed the playoffs.
Madden 06 — Donovan McNabb
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.
Madden 07 — Shaun Alexander
In the season prior to 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 would only play two more seasons.
Source: Washington Post
Madden 08 — Vince Young
London Walk Casual Chukka Lace Hornchurch ups Grey 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.
Madden 09 — Brett Favre
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 would win another Super Bowl two years later.
Madden 10 — Troy Polamalu
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.
Madden 11 — Drew Brees
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
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
Peterson played in just one game during the 2014 season after he was charged with abusing his son with tree branch. After playing opening weekend, Peterson was ruled ineligible and later suspended by the NFL for the rest of the season.
Madden 17 — Rob Gronkowski
Gronk played in just eight games and missed the final five weeks and the playoffs with a back injury.
Madden 18 — Tom Brady
With only the Super Bowl left in the 2018 season, it appears that Brady has avoided the curse — knock on wood — even at 40 years old. The Patriots even traded both of Brady's backups, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. So maybe the curse is just a bunch of coincidences in a violent sport.
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."