Perhaps the Madden NFL “cover curse” — a piece of statistical mythology that took hold after a string of bad-luck seasons befell the first 10 or so players to get the honor — can be laid to rest.
Sunday night, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to a 31-20 Super Bowl LIV triumph, and became just the second (of 22) Madden NFL cover stars to win a Super Bowl in the season of his cover appearance. And Mahomes is the first cover star to win the Super Bowl MVP in that season.
New England tight end Rob Gronkowski starred on the cover of Madden NFL 17, and the Patriots did win Super Bowl LI that season. But there’s a catch: numerous injuries ultimately put Gronkowski out for the season after the 11th week, and he watched the Super Bowl from the sidelines. So if you want to be technically correct (the best kind), then Mahomes is the first Madden cover star to play in and win a Super Bowl (and its MVP) while eluding all curses, evil-eyes, and hexes, for an immaculate trifecta.
As the Madden NFL 20 cover star, Mahomes got quite a logrolling from EA Sports in its annual simulation of the Super Bowl. Mahomes didn’t have quite the game the simulation predicted, but still came through when it counted, making good on EA’s prediction of a comeback Chiefs win.
And if you’re wondering how EA Sports did against Vegas, they hit on the Chiefs as the straight-up winner and winner against the point spread (Chiefs favored by 1.5 points at kickoff) but once again missed the over/under (Madden called for the over against a line of 54.5 points).
Here are the 22 NFL players and their postseason fates in the NFL season in which they starred on the cover of the North American edition of the Madden NFL franchise, since EA Sports began devoting covers to a single player in 2000:
- Madden NFL 2001: Eddie George, Tennessee (lost in divisional round)*
- Madden NFL 2002: Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota (did not make playoffs)
- Madden NFL 2003: Marshall Faulk, St. Louis (did not make playoffs)*
- Madden NFL 2004: Michael Vick, Atlanta (did not make playoffs)
- Madden NFL 2005: Ray Lewis, Baltimore (did not make playoffs)
- Madden NFL 06: Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia (did not make playoffs)*
- Madden NFL 07: Shaun Alexander, Seattle (lost in divisional round)*
- Madden NFL 08: Vince Young, Tennessee (lost in wild card round)
- Madden NFL 09: Brett Favre, Green Bay (did not make playoffs)
- Madden NFL 10: Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh (did not make playoffs) and Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona (lost in divisional round)*
- Madden NFL 11: Drew Brees, New Orleans (lost in wild card round)*
- Madden NFL 12: Peyton Hillis, Cleveland (did not make playoffs)
- Madden NFL 13: Calvin Johnson, Detroit (did not make playoffs)
- Madden NFL 25: Barry Sanders, Detroit (none, he retired in 1998)
- Madden NFL 25: (Xbox One and PS4 version): Adrian Peterson, Minnesota (did not make playoffs)
- Madden NFL 15: Richard Sherman, Seattle (lost Super Bowl)*
- Madden NFL 16: Odell Beckham, Jr., New York Giants (did not make playoffs)
- Madden NFL 17: Rob Gronkowski, New England (won Super Bowl)
- Madden NFL 18: Tom Brady, New England (lost Super Bowl)*
- Madden NFL 19: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (did not make playoffs)
- Madden NFL 20: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (won Super Bowl, won Super Bowl MVP)
* — appeared on cover in the season after appearing in the Super Bowl.