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Lamar Jackson and The History of “The Madden Curse”
AP Photo/Nick Wass

We all might be trapped inside during the coronavirus pandemic, but you’re kidding yourself if you think that meant the annual tradition of announcing the Madden cover athlete would be canceled.

Ahead of Madden 20’s release last year, there was only one choice for the cover: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The big-armed gunslinger threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in an MVP season the year prior, which began his ascension to the NFL’s mountaintop.

Prior to the 2020 NFL season, there was only one choice yet again.

Reigning NFL MVP and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson announced that he’d be the cover athlete when Madden 21 is released. Last year, the Heisman Trophy winner at Louisville led the NFL with 36 passing touchdowns, finished third in passer rating, and broke Michael Vick’s single-season record for rushing yards by a QB — his 1,206 rushing yards were sixth-most in the NFL, regardless of position.

Needless to say, Baltimore is already the clubhouse leader for the “Hell-No-You-Can’t-Play-With-Them” team in this year’s Madden NFL video game.

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: Madden 21 Cover Athlete

“It’s always been a dream of mine. Since I was a little kid, since I first started playing Madden, it’s dope! I’ve had every Madden, so for me to be on the front of it, that’s a dream come true. That’s an accomplishment for the kids around here where I’m from, stuff like that.”

— Lamar Jackson on Madden NFL 21 cover

And while you’re here, we’re going to dispel this rumor right now: The “Madden Curse” is officially dead.

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What Is The Madden Curse?

Back in 1999, Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders was named the cover athlete for Madden 2000. However, Sanders’ abrupt and sudden retirement led to EA Sports using John Madden as the main cover, with Sanders in the background. (The European version even had Dorsey Levens on the cover.)

From that point, the “Madden Curse” raged out of control.

Madden 2001: Eddie George averaged a career-low 3.0 yards per carries and lost a career-high six fumbles.

Madden 2002: Daunte Culpepper missed six games, threw 14 TDs against 13 picks and fumbled 16 times.

Madden 2003: Marshall Faulk started only 10 games and never topped 1,000 rushing yards again.

Madden 2004: Michael Vick fractured his fibula and missed 11 games.

Madden 06: Donovan McNabb played in just nine games and only made one Pro Bowl in final seven seasons.

Madden 07: Shaun Alexander rushed for 896 yards and was out of football two years later.

Madden 08: Vince Young threw nine TDs against 17 interceptions and was benched the following year.

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RELATED: 16 Years Ago, Michael Vick Changed Madden NFL Forever

You get the idea.

Over the years, any waver in ability on the field correlated directly to the cover of Madden. But in 2011, Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis — he’s considered the strangest pick of any cover athlete in history — bumbled his way to just 587 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

It was the last time I’d consider the Madden Curse to have any relevancy, and all you need to see is the last few Madden covers to prove it.

Madden 13: Calvin Johnson set NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards

Madden 14: Adrian Peterson ran for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns in 14 games.

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Madden 15: Richard Sherman named First-Team All-Pro.

Madden 16: Odell Beckham Jr. set career-highs with 1,450 receiving yards and 13 touchdown catches.

Madden 17: Rob Gronkowski battled injuries. The New England Patriots won a Super Bowl, so…

Madden 18: Tom Brady named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.

Madden 19: Antonio Brown led NFL with 15 touchdown receptions.

Madden 20: Patrick Mahomes won Super Bowl MVP.

“I’m not worried about the curse,” Jackson said. “Patrick Mahomes was on the front, he won the MVP. So I would want that curse. I hope that’s the curse.”

The Madden Curse is dead, and Lamar Jackson is going to be virtually unstoppable when the game officially releases later this year.

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John Duffley About the author:
John joins the FanBuzz team with five years of experience freelancing as a sports writer for TheDupes.net and Football.com. A graduate of Penn State University, John currently lives and works in Austin, Texas. He is also a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
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