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Christian McCaffrey was named the cover athlete of “Madden NFL 25” on Tuesday and he didn’t wait long to tempt fate.

Speaking to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the San Francisco 49ers running back was asked if he was worried about the fabled “Madden curse” when he accepted the offer to be the cover athlete. He didn’t sound too worried:

“No, I’m not superstitious about it at all. I was so excited, man. It was such an honor. When I got the call, I was shocked. I never thought something like this would happen to me. I never thought someone would call me and tell me I was on the cover of Madden.

“When I got the call, I didn’t think it was a curse, I was just excited. I think this stuff is kind of a myth and whatever happens, happens. I’m excited to be on the cover.

Given McCaffrey’s injury history, those are bold words.

McCaffrey is the NFL’s best running back this offseason after leading the league with 1,459 rushing yards, a career-high, and 564 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns, a career-high, in 2023. He has proven to be a perfect fit for the Niners, who took him to Super Bowl LVIII last season.

However, McCaffrey has struggled to stay healthy in the past, playing just 10 games for the Carolina Panthers between 2020 and 2021. Could appearing on the Madden cover cause further problems?

Let’s take a closer look at how it worked with its predecessors.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 11: Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during warmups before Super Bowl LVIII against the Kansas City Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images)LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 11: Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during warmups before Super Bowl LVIII against the Kansas City Chiefs at Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images)

Christian McCaffrey is not afraid of any curse. (Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images)

There’s no denying that in the history of Madden NFL, some of the cover athletes have had bad years or worse than the one they went through the following year.

There are certainly some examples that stand out, such as Michael Vick (2003), who broke his fibula, and Peyton Hillis (2012), who battled strep throat and hamstring problems on a team that let him go at the end of the year. But as you’ll see, the last 10 seasons post-Madden have been up and down, so let’s take a closer look.

For comparison, we use a five-point system named after Hillis, for whom the Cleveland Browns and various trolls rigged an online vote against Vick after the scandal (probably to the relief of the Madden editor).

  • “Madden NFL 24,” Josh Allen: Had a relatively poor year with a career-high in interceptions, the Bills won the division but lost to the Chiefs in the divisional round. 3/5 hills.

  • “Madden NFL 23”, John Madden: N/A

  • “Madden NFL 22”, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes: Brady was a little less productive in his final season at age 45, while Mahomes had another Pro Bowl year, surprising the Bills in the “13 Seconds” game and losing to the Bengals in the AFC Championship. 2/5 Hills.

  • “Madden NFL 21,” Lamar Jackson: Played quite well, though not as well as his previous MVP year. The Ravens got off to a slow start and battled a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak, but managed to earn a wild-card spot where they got revenge on the Titans but were steamrolled by the Bills. 2/5 Hills

  • “Madden NFL 20,” Patrick Mahomes: Won the Super Bowl. 0/5 hills.

  • “Madden NFL 19”, Antonio Brown: Had a decent year by his standards until he got into a fight with Ben Roethlisberger, was benched for missing practice in Week 17, and demanded a trade, beginning one of the most bizarre stretches we’ve ever seen from a player. 5/5 hills.

  • “Madden NFL 18”, Tom Brady: Won his third MVP award, led the NFL in passing and reached the Super Bowl, where the Patriots lost to the Eagles in the “Philly Special.” 1/5 hill.

  • “Madden NFL 17,” Rob Gronkowski: Was sidelined for the rest of the season by a herniated disk in Week 12 and did not play in the Patriots’ Super Bowl run. 4/5 Hillises, 5/5 if you don’t care about rings.

  • “Madden NFL 16,” Odell Beckham Jr.: Had the most productive season of his career with career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns, but was also suspended for one game for safety violations during the Giants’ 6-10 record. 1/5 hill.

  • “Madden NFL 15,” Richard Sherman: He was selected to the All-Pro first team for the third consecutive year and led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Patriots in the Malcolm Butler game. You may remember his dismayed reaction, which went viral. 2/5 Hills.

So it was a pretty mixed bag. You could argue that the majority of athletes on the last 10 Madden covers have suffered from bad years, but that’s the nature of football. Players get injured and don’t perform at their best, and their problems are magnified by both the Madden cover and the expectations created by the types of seasons that lead to a Madden cover.

The problem with many of these seasons, even the bad ones, is that many players would kill just to be able to call a season like Allen’s 2023, with 4,306 passing yards and an 11-6 record, a bad year. Everything is comparison-oriented, the standards are very high, and in the end it’s very easy to call any season that doesn’t end in a Super Bowl a failure.

So the curse will live on unless there is an incredible winning streak that is firmly anchored in American sports and video game culture.

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