McNabb Latest Victim of Madden Curse

We’ve all heard of the SI cover jinx, wherein something bad frequently happens to those on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Now it has competition: The Madden Curse, which plagues those on the cover of the popular video game.

‘Madden curse’ strikes again (ESPN)

Executives at Electronic Arts might one day find it challenging to get an NFL player to pose on the cover for its Madden game. Chalk up another one to the “Madden curse,” now that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has elected to have surgery to repair his sports hernia and is expected to miss the rest of the season.


In 2003, cover athlete Michael Vick broke his leg just one day after the game hit the shelves. He played in only five games that season. The year before, St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk — who had five straight 1,000-yard seasons — injured his ankle after appearing on the cover. He ran for 953 yards that season and hasn’t hit the 1,000-yard mark since. Gracing the cover of the 2002 Madden game meant a below-average year for Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper. In the season he appeared on the cover, he threw fewer touchdown passes and had a worse quarterback rating than the season before.


Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George graced the cover for the 2005 and 2001 versions, respectively, and had successful seasons without injury. Before that, Madden himself was on every cover since the popular game’s debut in 1989.

Obviously, this is just a matter of coincidence in brutal game where injuries are the norm. Like the SI jinx, famous people dying in plane crashes, tornadoes targeting trailer parks, and other such anomalies, once a pattern is detected we only focus on those events which bolster it.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. caltechgirl says:

    McNabb may also be a victim of the Campbell’s soup curse. Every player that has endorsed the soup has had a career threatening injury, including Terrell Davis’s leg/ankle issues that forced him to retire, John Lynch’s neck injury and Michael Strahan’s torn pectoral….

  2. KeepinItReal says:

    That’s funny because I was look at the cover of the new Madden game the other day…I was thinking the same thing as you. My Eagles are hurting big time. Who knew the Giants and Cowboys would be battling for the top of the NFC East???

  3. bryan says:

    Ray Lewis is hardly a counterexample, as he had other problems.

  4. RA says:

    McNabb’s problems are he has always been inconsistent. When he could run he pulled a lot of games out. All that running, are you listening Falcons, have taken a toll on his body.

    He needs a much stronger supporting cast around him than when he could run. Now that TO is gone I think the Eagles are in a rebuilding stretch.

    Say what you want but Rush was right.

  5. Gaijin Biker says:

    I also read somewhere that these “curses” are a matter of statistical regression toward the mean.

    In other words, a given athlete does not usually have better and better stats every year of his career. After a really good year, the odds are that the next year won’t be quite so good. Football players tend to make the cover of Madden after really good years. So naturally, the year after that great year is likely to fall short by comparison.