For the first time in over two decades, the cover of the Madden NFL video game will feature John Madden. Starting with Madden NFL 2001, the game has used current players on the cover, ranging from Eddie George (2001), Daunte Culpepper (2002), and Peyton Hillis (2012) to Tom Brady (2018 and ‘22). To be the cover athlete of Madden means that a player has made it in the NFL. Well, aside from Hillis, maybe.
However, as exciting as it can be for players to see themselves as the face of Madden for the year, they also have to avoid the “Madden Curse.” The curse can involve untimely mistakes, like George bobbling a pass that was returned for a touchdown to seal a playoff loss in 2000-01. Sometimes it can be injuries like it was for Culpepper, Marshall Faulk, and Michael Vick. Hillis had 1,177 yards rushing in 2010 and 1,258 in the four years after that.
So, no one can fall victim to the curse this year by all accounts. With Madden himself gracing the cover, all should be copacetic in the NFL world, right?
Well, there will be three different covers for the game. The “All Madden” edition is an homage to the cover of the original John Madden Football game. Another cover features Madden as a broadcaster, drawing up plays while donning a blue shirt and red tie.
However, the third cover of the game features Madden as a coach, getting carried off the field, smiling ear to ear, victorious. It’s one of the most iconic images in NFL history. It should be a touching moment for NFL fans everywhere.
Unfortunately for Minnesota Vikings fans, the image was taken on Jan. 9, 1977, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. That was the day that Madden’s Oakland Raiders defeated the Vikings 32-14 in Super Bowl XI. The win began the greatest run in Raiders history. Oakland won three Super Bowls in eight years, although Madden wasn’t the coach for the next two victories.
Conversely, the loss ended the greatest run in Vikings’ history. Their run, too, lasted eight seasons. Minnesota had become the first team in the NFL to advance to four Super Bowls. However, they also became the first team to lose four Super Bowls, including three in four seasons from 1973-76.
The Vikings have failed to return to the Super Bowl since Jan. 1977, losing six NFC Championship Games over the past 45 seasons. And outside of the 1977 NFC Title Game, the Vikings have heartbreakingly lost these games. Darrin Nelson dropped a pass at the goal line that would have sent the 1987 team to overtime in Washington. Gary Anderson, who hadn’t missed a kick all year, pulled a 38-yarder that would have sealed the 1998 NFC Championship.
The Vikings traveled to the Meadowlands two years later to face the New York Giants as one-point favorites. Instead, Minnesota was down 14-0 before the offense touched the field, and the Giants rolled 41-0. In 2009, Brett Favre came to Minnesota after 16 years with the rival Green Bay Packers. After the best regular season of his career, Favre threw an interception on the potential game-winning drive, and the Vikings would lose to the New Orleans Saints in overtime of the 2009 title game.
And, of course, when it felt like fate finally favored Minnesota, the Vikings traveled to Philly in the 2017 NFC title game one week after the Minneapolis Miracle. However, the Philadelphia Eagles would dismantle the Vikings 38-7. Oh, and they won the Super Bowl two weeks later at US Bank Stadium.
Then there are the off-field gaffes that fail to make sense. Teddy Bridgewater’s knee exploding, Mike Zimmer nearly losing his eye, Norv Turner quitting mid-season, and the Metrodome collapsing — those are just some more recent examples. These are freak accidents, and although every team deals with some sort of off-field drama, misfortune seems to follow the Vikings everywhere they go.
EA will remember Madden for his work as a coach, broadcaster, and video game legend in this year’s edition of the game. For longtime Vikings fans, the image of him at the Rose Bowl may invoke some ill feelings.
However, the Vikings have tried to recapture their magic since that day. They have had solid teams, sometimes even spectacular. But they have failed to return to the Super Bowl. Only the Detroit Lions have a longer Super Bowl drought within the NFC, and that’s because they have never made the big game.
So let’s take this one on the chin and hope that the Madden Curse is reversed and helps lift the Vikings back into the Super Bowl this season.