The Madden curse doesn’t strike fear in the heart of football fans like it once did. Back in the aughts, an NFL star getting his likeness on the video game meant an injury or a horrible season was soon to follow. Plenty of players have since bucked the trend, though.
If there was any lingering fear that being on the cover of Madden is a bad thing, Patrick Mahomes erased it entirely by earning the Super Bowl MVP award. The video game franchise didn’t waste any time celebrating his curse-breaking success.
Others — like Calvin Johnson, Ray Lewis, and Eddie George, for instance — had great seasons after being featured on Madden. But a Super Bowl MVP is a new achievement for a cover athlete.
In two decades of Madden putting an NFL player on the cover each year, Mahomes is the first to play in and win the Super Bowl in the following season. Only three others even made it to the Super Bowl:
- Madden NFL 15: Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman — He ended the year as a first-team All-Pro and helped Seattle get to the Super Bowl for the second straight season. Then the Seahawks decided not to give Marshawn Lynch the ball near the goal line and Russell Wilson threw an interception in the final minute. The lasting memory of Sherman in that Super Bowl was this pained reaction to the Patriots’ game-sealing pick.
- Madden NFL 17: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski — The Patriots actually won the Super Bowl after Gronk graced the cover. They just did it without him. Gronkowski missed eight games due to a hamstring injury, a bruised lung, and then eventually back surgery to repair a herniated disc. He finished the season with just 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns — all career lows. With Gronk on injured reserve, the Patriots pulled off an all-time great comeback against the Falcons in the Super Bowl.
- Madden NFL 18: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — It’s hard to say Brady was too cursed when he won the NFL MVP award after being on the Madden cover. But it was one of the few times in his career that the year ended with a Super Bowl loss. While he threw for 505 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowl 52, Brady fumbled in the final minutes and couldn’t lead the Patriots to a game-winning touchdown. A year later, however, Brady got another ring.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Mahomes during the 2019 season. He suffered a knee injury in October that kept him out of action for a couple weeks, and his touchdown total dropped from 50 in 2018 to 26 a year later. He didn’t come close to defending his title as NFL MVP, either, with Lamar Jackson earning the award unanimously.
But Mahomes led the Chiefs back from three double-digit deficits in the playoffs and turned around a poor performance against the 49ers to become Super Bowl MVP.
Take that, Madden curse.