Every year, EA’s Madden franchise debuts their "Cover Athlete", the player who graces the front of the eponymous football video game. With rare exception (such as last year, when the game’s namesake—Hall of Fame coach/broadcaster John Madden—graced the cover after his passing), this goes to one of the top athletes in the game today.
Over the last few years (with the exception of Madden 23, after Madden’s passing), it's been given to a player who’s won, or been a finalist for, the previous year’s MVP award.
- Madden 22 had Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes over 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers—who would have been the cover athlete if his future had been known (if you'll recall, it was believed that Rodgers could be traded away from Green Bay that offseason).
- Madden 21 had Lamar Jackson, the 2019 MVP.
- Madden 20 had Patrick Mahomes, the 2018 MVP.
- Madden 19 had Antonio Brown, who made it over 2017 MVP Brady—but only because Brady was on the cover the previous year.
- Madden 18 had Brady, who made it over 2016 MVP Matt Ryan—because Brady was not only the runner-up, but beat Ryan in Super Bowl LI.
It’s a bit of an odd choice. Because given this pattern—and given the comparison between the play of the two this season—it should really have gone to Jalen Hurts.
Now, you might say this doesn’t matter. It’s a nothingburger! And it’s not like Allen is bad! He’s a great quarterback!
All of that is true. But—you forget the fact that I’m a sicko, and a nerd, and a massive Jalen Hurts enthusiast.
By his (admittedly lofty) standards, Allen had a poor season last year. He put up tremendous numbers, but turned the ball over far too much and got humiliated in the postseason, at home, by the Bengals.
Mahomes was never going to make the cover—he’s been on it twice in the last 4 years. If he's on three times in 5, they might as well call it Mahomes 24.
Brady’s gone. The last time they put a retired athlete on there—Brett Favre—he came back to play for the Jets and (allegedly) sent unsolicited pictures of his penis to a reporter before getting hurt.
Rodgers? He’s got a big name, and he would have been there last year if Madden hadn’t passed. But he’s controversial, didn’t play well last year, and need I say again what happened the last time a 40-year-old Packers-turned-Jets QB made it?
Joe Burrow? Maybe. He’s certainly more qualified to be on the cover than Allen. He played better than Allen last year, and beat him in the playoffs. But Cincy is a very, very small market team.
Outside of Mahomes, Hurts is the slam dunk. Why?
- He was the runner-up for MVP. Typically, if the MVP doesn’t get it, it goes to a finalist. (Yes, Allen was also a finalist. But Hurts is better, so shut up.)
- He’s on the Eagles—a big market team with a huge and passionate fanbase. (Does Buffalo need to purchase 1,500 gallons of lube from an adult entertainment supplier to grease the street lamps just in preparation for their team potentially winning the Super Bowl? No. All they have is a couple of broken tables. We're passionate fans. No other city needs pre-emptive lubing.)
- He has the 2nd-highest selling jersey in the NFL—behind only Rodgers—and is ahead of Mahomes (3rd), Burrow (4th) and Allen (7th). (That's science.)
Maybe it’s a good thing, Eagles fans. At least Hurts will be spared the mighty Madden curse. The only cover athlete to actually win the Super Bowl that season was Patrick Mahomes in 2019.
So whatever you do, don’t bet on the Bills to win the Super Bowl—unless the Madden curse counteracts the "Wide Right" curse, in which case feel free to place a wager.
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