Cleveland may have a new curse to worry about.
Browns running back Peyton Hillis appeared on ESPN with Eagles quarterback Michael Vick to discuss the NFL lockout situation, and the cover of EA Sports® video game phenomenon, Madden NFL 2012.
An online ESPN vote will determine which one representative per NFL team will be featured on the game’s cover this year. I haven’t included the link because I don’t want any of you to vote for Hillis.
For years, players and teams featured on the cover of the Madden game have suffered through injury plagued, scandal-ridden seasons of disappointment. Fans and players alike have come to call it the Madden Curse, for obvious reasons.
So don’t vote for Peyton. There’s no way he could overcome being on the cover of Madden AND playing for a Cleveland team. This curse is a sure thing, and to prove it, here’s a recap of what’s happened to the previous players who’ve made the cover…
Garrison Hearst, 1998
The Madden Curse enters the world with a bang. Hearst has a Pro Bowl season the year he’s on the cover, leading the Raiders to a 12-4 record and a playoff berth. But, he breaks his ankle so bad in their playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons that he’s forced to miss the next two full seasons. Ouch.
Barry Sanders, 1999
Sanders gets the Madden cover after finishing off his tenth consecutive Pro Bowl season. Wow. Then, he suddenly retires prior to the start of his cover-year and never plays again. Think he knew something?
Eddie George, 2000
The curse comes in all forms. George has a fantastic season while he’s on the cover, rushing for over 1,500 yards and 14 scores. But he carries the ball a ridiculous 403 times, plus another 50 catches. It winds up killing him. He never averages over 3.4 yards per carry in four seasons after, and now nobody leans on their running backs like that anymore.
As much as Browns fans might think Eric Mangini over used Peyton Hillis last year, by comparison, he carried the ball 270 times plus 61 catches = 121 less touches than George in 2000.
Daunte Culpepper, 2001
In his year on the cover, Culpepper misses four games to a knee injury, and sees his TD pass total drop from 33 to 14. The Vikings also fall from 11-5, to 5-11, and head coach Dennis Green is fired before the end of the season. Daunte has a nice rebound period from 2002-2004, but another major knee injury in 2005 pretty much stops the clock right there.
Marshall Faulk, 2002
Marshall still makes the Pro Bowl in his Madden cover-year, but the curse survives still. Faulk drops from 30 total TDs to 10, and the Rams finish with a losing record after three straight playoff appearances and two Super Bowl runs. His rushing yardage also drops from 1,382, to 953. He never rushes for over 1,000 yards in any of his three injury marred seasons after that.
Michael Vick, 2003
My choice for the “Most Impressive Curse Award.” In Vick’s first year as a starter he sets the league on fire, makes it to the Pro Bowl, and becomes the first player ever to defeat Brett Favre in the playoffs at Lambeau Field. He gets the Madden cover the next year and breaks his leg in a preseason game litterally the same day the game hits stores. He’s only able to start four games and the Flacons miss the playoffs.
Two seasons of declining play later and he’s in freaking jail for operating an illegal dog fighting ring in his backyard. He misses two more full seasons, but returns to Pro Bowl form with the Eagles in 2010.
Ray Lewis, 2004
The perennial All Pro and Browns torturer has had a hall of fame career, before and after his cover-year, and there’s nothing we can do about it. He does break his wrist while he’s on the Madden cover, but somehow only misses one game, and is still named a first team All Pro.
He misses 11 games the following year, but that doesn’t count, he’s clearly above curses, and the law too if you know what I mean.
Donovan McNabb, 2005
McNabb gets the cover after making it to (but not winning) the Super Bowl with star receiver Terrell Owens. During his Madden cover-year, he misses seven games to sports hernia surgery while TO goes into locker-room-cancer mode to help destroy the season. The Eagles finish 6-10. McNabb made the Pro Bowl five of six years before he was on the cover. Since then, he’s been there once in six years.
2006, Shaun Alexander
Wait, the only team that doesn’t learn from Eddie George Dead Leg Syndrome is Mike Holmgren’s 2005 Seattle Seahawks? Come’on Man.
Alexander wins the 2005 MVP Award carrying the ball 370 times in Holmgren’s West Coast Offense and is never the same. He gets the Madden cover and breaks his foot three weeks into the season. Two years later, and just two years into an eight-year $61-million contract with Seattle, he’s released.
Vince Young, 2007
Young graces the cover of Madden after a scintillating rookie year that sees him rip off 6 straight wins after starting the season on the bench. Vince misses a game to injury and his stats do suffer while he’s on the cover, but he still leads the Titans to the playoffs. You could even say they catch a lucky break…
In 2007, the Titans and Browns finished the season with identical 10-6 records, but the Titans kept the Browns out the playoffs because they had a better record against the AFC. They won that tiebreaker by defeating a Colts team who was resting their starters on the last day of the season (PS – If I ever meet Jim Sorgi, I will fight him). The curse of Cleveland supersedes all I guess.
After this however, Young struggles with injuries and maturity issues, is yanked in and out as starter, and is currently set to be released or traded by the Titans.
Brett Favre, 2008
Lord Favre gets the Madden cover after the Packers finally say enough is enough, and trade him to the New York Jets. The Jets start strong at 8-3, but Favre injures his arm and sinks the team down the stretch. They lose four of their final five games and miss the playoffs. The Jets then release Brett and fire coach Eric Mangini, but the curse doesn’t stop there.
Brett’s final downfall will eventually be traced back to his inappropriate cell phone seduction of Jenn Sterger, whom he met while with the Jets, and yes, while on the cover of Madden.
Larry Fitzgerald / Troy Polamalu, 2009
Following one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever, EA Sports decides to put two players from that game on the Madden cover for the upcoming season. Fitzgerald follows his tremendous Super Bowl run with a very good season, and the Cardinals even make the playoffs again.
Troy is not so lucky. He suffers a knee injury in the season openner and is only able to play in five games. The Steelers miss the playoffs and lose to the Browns for the first time in five years.
Drew Brees, 2010
The only player other than Troy Polamalu to get the cover after actually winning the championship – maybe the Madden Curse coincidentally rides alongside that other curse infecting teams that lose the Super Bowl?
Either way, Drew stats drop only slightly, despite one embarrassing loss to the Browns in Colt McCoy’s first start. Brees avoids injury and his Saints make the playoffs, but do manage to fall to the Seahawks, the only team ever to make the playoffs with a losing record.
So, what do you think?
If Peyton Hillis does make it, he’ll be the first player who did so without making the Pro Bowl the previous season.
Would you risk Peyton’s 2011-2012 season in return for him being the first Brown ever featured on the Madden cover?