Who doesn’t remember the circus show that was Michael Vick during his first year as starter of the Atlanta Falcons? He made defenders look like highschool players on the field, outrunning the fastest linebackers and defensive linemen with ease. Even better was the outrageous over-time run that he had against the Minnesota Vikings, where he ran almost the length of the field, weaving through defenders as they ran into themselves. Teams scrambled to find an answer for Vick during the next off-season when he led his Falcons to an upset of the Green Bay Packers at in Green Bay in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
The Madden Curse struck in the preseason game against the Ravens. Vick, while scrambling for yards, was tackled oddly and suffered a broken leg. Fantasy nerds nation-wide began sobbing as they saw their hopes and dreams being carted off the field. The Atlanta Falcons had an abysmal 5-11, though they won three of their last four games when Vick finally returned to the field. Soon, Vick began hearing criticism about his tendency to flee the pocket. Some said that he didn’t have the pocket-precense of a true NFL QB, when all he heard before was praise for his awesome athleticism. Vick marked the Madden Curse’s debut into the public eye, and popular programs on ESPN even started discussing the curse after Vick’s season.
The Madden franchise made its big move to defense in 2004, offering more control of the defensive players on the field, as well as enhanced defensive AI scripts to help curb the high scoring achieved in previous titles. To help empahisize these enhancements, EA chose Baltimore Raven linebacker Ray Lewis for the Madden 2005 cover. Lewis was, and still is, revered as one of the top two or three most dominant linebackers in the game today. In 2003, he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press, making him the perfect choice.
The Football Gods must have smiled at EA’s choice, as Lewis has suffered the least after gracing Madden’s cover. In trying to refute the Curse, doubters always point to Ray Lewis as proof. I offer the theory that defensive players are exempt from the curse. Again, based solely in goofy football superstition, it is my belief that any future defensive player would also be protected from the curse. Lewis wasn’t completely immune, however. His team failed to make the playoffs after having won the division the year before, while he himself was injured in 2005 for a majority of the season.