Peyton Hillis fell victim to the "Madden Curse," while Tom Brady enjoyed another MVP season in 2017
EA Sports has announced that Terrell Owens, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (albeit in absentia) in August, will appear on the cover of the 2019 edition of its groundbreaking Madden NFL video game franchise, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. While there is controversy, with the decision, at least Owens will not fall prey to the "Madden Curse."
I'm serious. The curse is real and many players have succumbed to it. Here are the five biggest victims.
5. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Cover: Madden 17, 2016 Season
After being named first team All-Pro in 2014 and ‘15, Gronkowski was sidelined most of his 2016 Madden cover season with hamstring and back injuries and a bruised lung. The Patriots staged the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history that season, but Gronk had to watch it from the sidelines in street clothes.
4. Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Cover: Madden 2004, 2003 Season
Vick led the Falcons to the playoffs in 2002, and then fractured his right fibula in the second preseason game prior to the ’03 season shortly after Madden 2004 hit the shelves. He missed the first 11 games of the regular season, but won three of his last four games. The next year, Vick returned to his old form and led Atlanta to the NFC Championship Game. That’s better than the top three on this list, who never quite recovered.
3. Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans
Cover: Madden 08, 2007 Season
Young was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, but had an epic sophomore slump. Even though he won nine games with Titans, Young threw nine touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. More importantly, the season brought out the sporadic play, maturity issues and questions about his work ethic that would haunt him for the remainder of his career.
2. Shaun Alexander, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Cover: Madden 07, 2006 Season
Alexander had posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and received the league MVP award in 2005 after rushing for 1,880 yards and scoring 28 touchdowns. In August 2006, he appeared on the cover of Madden and never ran for 1,000 yards again. Plagued by injuries in 2006 and ‘07, Alexander gained a total of 1,612 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground in those two seasons (23 games). The Seahawks parted ways with him after the 2007 season and he as out of the league for good after a brief (four games) stint with Washington in ‘08.
1. Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns
Cover: Madden 12, 2011 Season
With a career-best season of 1,177 yards, Hillis wasn’t even in the top 10 in rushing yards in 2010, but he won a fan vote to make the game’s cover. From there, he proceeded to become the Madden Curse’s greatest casualty. Hillis missed six games because of strep throat and a pulled hamstring and rushed for only 587 yards in 2011. The Browns decided they did not want to meet his salary demands and let him go as an unrestricted free agent. Hillis then spent his final three seasons with Kansas City and the New York Giants, rushing for a total of 671 yards (in 29 games).
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.