EA Sports

John Madden Video Game

The Madden Curse isn't universal. Calvin Johnson nearly became the first NFL player to post 2,000 receiving yards in a season when he was featured on the cover of the popular video game. And Ray Lewis had another All-Pro season when he became the first defensive player to earn cover status. But it does strike a lot. Like last year. Rob Gronkowski started the season with hamstring problems, then missed the playoffs because of back surgery. Now Gronk's teammate Tom Brady has been tapped for Madden 18, and the Patriots quarterback posted a video to say he doesn't believe in curses.

Here are some players who might disagree with Brady:

Vince Young, Tennessee Titans

EA Sports Vince Young, Tennessee Titans

For a while there, it seemed like Vince Young could be the dual-threat defense-destroyer we all wanted. Then came his appearance on the Madden 08 cover. Young pulled his quad, missed a game and began a downward spiral that quickly gained momentum. The following season, he was moved to the Titans bench. In 2010, the team released him. He spent one more season with Philadelphia, but by 2011 he was out of the league for good.

Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles

EA Sports Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles

After an inspired run to the Super Bowl, McNabb was supposed to lead the Eagles all the way. But his Madden 06 cover put those possibilities to bed. McNabb suffered a season-ending injury in Week 10, the team finished 6-10 and missed the playoffs, and Philadelphia never put together a better team with McNabb than the ones the franchise enjoyed pre-cover.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

EA Sports Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

All in all, Drew Brees has made it out just fine. He's got a Super Bowl ring, he's had a long, glorious NFL career, and he'll leave behind a great legacy in New Orleans. His Madden cover appearance will not be part of that legacy. Coming off the Saints' Super Bowl win, Brees had a down year, throwing 22 interceptions and quarterbacking New Orleans to a playoff loss to a team with a losing record. Since then, the Saints have seemed to get a half-step worse every year. The Super Bowl win now feels distant.

Shaun Alexander, Seattle Seahawks

EA Sports Shaun Alexander, Seattle Seahawks

His appearance on the Madden cover spelled the end of Alexander's long run of dominance. The former rushing title holder broke his foot, missing six games, and was held to 896 rushing yards that season. The next year was even worse: He played in 13 games but was far less productive, amassing just 716 yards and five touchdowns. After four more games with Washington, he called it a career. Alexander was a great running back in the prime of his career, but the Madden cover marked the end of that era.

Garrison Hearst, San Francisco 49ers

EA Sports Garrison Hearst, San Francisco 49ers

Hearst was the first NFL player ever featured on Madden, after several years of its namesake, John Madden, enjoying the spotlight. The year was 1999, and Hearst was coming off a career-best year, running for 1,570 yards for San Francisco. And in fairness, the start of his 1999 season was incredible as well. But in the NFL playoffs, the wheels came off the bus: Hearst broke his ankle, and he wound up missing two entire seasons. He made a strong comeback years later, but two years of his prime were stolen, forever altering his legacy. And so began the Curse.

Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons

EA Sports Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons

The timing of this couldn't be any more stunning: On the very same day his Madden cover was released, Michael Vick broke his leg. If that's not a sign, I don't know what is. He missed 11 games that season, and yes, he came back just fine. But come on. The same day.

Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota Vikings

EA Sports Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota Vikings

What a tale of two careers: For a while there, Daunte Culpepper looked like almost superhuman, with his rocket arm, his strong running and his 250-pound frame to bowl over defenders. No one batted an eye when he got the Madden cover. And then this happened: 23 interceptions, and far worse, 23 fumbles. That happened in just 11 games, too, before Culpepper suffered a season-ending injury. He kept on quarterbacking for a while, but he was a shell of the Culpepper that graced the Madden cover.

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns

EA Sports Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns

Sweet Moses, what a disaster. In 10 years, nobody under the age of 25 will even know the name Peyton Hillis -- and if they do, it'll most likely be due to his status as the most cursed of all Madden cover boys. Hillis earned the Madden cover thanks to EA Sports' decision to open up fan voting to choose the 2011 representative. Hillis rode to victory on the backs of rapid Browns fans. True to Browns form, the choice was an abject failure. Hillis only played in 10 games that season, amassing a mere 587 yards and three touchdowns. He signed with Kansas City after that season and almost literally disappeared. In his last two seasons, with the New York Giants, he totaled just 99 carries. His career ended in 2014, at just 28 years old.

Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

EA Sports Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Gronk missed the first two games of the 2016 season with a bad hamstring. He ended up playing in just eight games in which he had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns. He sustained a season-ending back injury that required surgery in Week 12 against the Jets. But the Patriots won the Super Bowl without him.