The Madden Curse's 5 Most Notorious Victims

Michael Vick's career went downhill fast after his stint on the cover of Madden 2004.
Michael Vick's career went downhill fast after his stint on the cover of Madden 2004. / Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The Madden curse has been a subject of controversy ever since the release of the first Madden game with an athlete on the cover in 2001. With Patrick Mahomes, the cover athlete of Madden 20, taking home his first Super Bowl win Sunday during the year he was on the cover, it's an appropriate time to examine the five most notable cases of the Madden curse.

Madden Curse Notable Victims

1. Michael Vick (Madden 04)

After having a phenomenal season in 2003 and earning himself a spot on the cover of Madden 04, Vick fractured his fibula in the first quarter of a presason game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Vick would miss the first 11 games of the season as a result. When Vick finally returned in Week 13, he was only a shell of his former self. He posted just 585 passing yards and four touchdowns while throwing three interceptions.

2. Shaun Alexander (Madden 07)

Shaun Alexander was another injury victim of the Madden curse. After helping lead his team to Super Bowl XL in 2005 and leading the league in carries, yards, and touchdowns, Alexander broke his foot in a Week 3 game against the New York Giants. He would play in only 10 games that season and was never the same after the injury.

3. Donovan McNabb (Madden 06)

Donovan McNabb was enjoying another season in paradise with the Eagles in 2005, posting incredible numbers with the help of star Terrell Owens. But the 2006 season brought trouble to Philadelphia.

A dispute between Owens and McNabb would see the duo's chemistry disintegrate, and a Week 9 groin injury would land McNabb on the injured reserve. McNabb would not play another game in the 2006 season after his injury.

4. Peyton Hillis (Madden 12)

It's hard to tell if what happened to Peyton Hillis is an example of the Madden curse or the inability of fans to judge talent in the National Football League. After a series of breakout performances with the Cleveland Browns in 2010, Hillis was named the cover athlete of Madden 12 after beating out Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Ray Rice, and Matt Ryan in a national vote.

During the 2011 season, Hillis would suffer two different hamstring injuries and a stint of strep throat that would sideline him for most of the season. He would end the year with 587 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

5. Rob Gronkowski (Madden 17)

The injury bug struck Gronk at the start of the 2016 season and never loosened its grip on the rising Patriots' star. Gronkowski missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury and did not fully recover until Week 4. After a stretch of a few good games, Gronkowski suffered a back injury that required surgery and ended his season.