Ah, Madden NFL Football. It’s return every year may cause many eyes to roll and noses to turn towards the heavens, but for sports fans it means that the return of the most popular sport in the U.S. is breathing down our necks. And football is awesome, dammit.
As the game’s popularity snowballed to ridiculous proportions over the course of twenty-plus years, there have been many NFL players caught in the midst by gracing the cover, though they do so at their own risk. We’ve seen Hall of Fame talent such as Marshall Faulk and Brett Favre on the cover, which is fitting for such a legendary franchise.
Unfortunately, there have been as many clunkers as winners, as EA tends to gravitate towards players coming off of career years, and several years later these selections end up looking ridiculous as those players never reach those peaks again. Hell, sometimes they just pick someone based off of hype alone, before they showcase their true potential on the gridiron.
Now, players have only been on the covers for half as long as the games have been around, but with the release of this year’s edition looming, the time is right to highlight those players.
Peyton Hillis – Madden NFL 12
Let’s start with this year’s edition. To be fair, this is the first cover athlete to be chosen by the public, rather than by EA. During the offseason, EA Sports selected one player from each team for fans to choose from in a giant league-wide bracket. It came down to a choice between Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis. Between the fact that Vick was already on the cover for Madden 2004 and, you know, that whole dog-fighting thing, it wasn’t totally surprising that fans chose Hillis.
What is surprising, though, is that Hillis was ever in the running at all. On top of being a Cleveland Brown, he made it through some stiff competition just to make it to the final, including Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers. Instead, we get the 2008 Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week for Week 13 and 2010 FedEx Ground Player of the Week for Weeks 9 and 12. I mean, he had a fine breakout season last year, but many fans hadn’t so much as heard of him before then.
It’s only his third season, so maybe the voting public will prove to have a sage-like ability to see greatness before it blooms. Just as likely, though, we’ll just be laughing at Cleveland for yet another sports-related blunder. Because Cleveland, that’s why.
Vince Young – Madden NFL 08
If they ever made a montage about getting on the hype train just as falls apart before leaving the station, Vince Young would make up a good amount of it.
After his brilliant performance during the 2006 Rose Bowl to earn the University of Texas the national championship, I suppose it was inevitable. He would go on to win Rookie of the Year honors after being drafted by the Tennessee Titans, and it seemed that he was on his way of living up to that hype.
Of course, the way this whole Madden thing works is that the shit hits the fan immediately after you get on the cover, and Young sure as hell wasn’t going to be the one to buck the trend. In the first game of the 2008 season, he injured his knee and was projected to be back in a couple of weeks. On top of this, he disappeared after that first game. Not just on the field — literally, without anyone knowing where he was. Apparently he was so distraught after that first game that he just left without his cell phone, and his mother said that he was “hurting inside and out.”
He wouldn’t start another game until the Titans started 0-6 the following season, replacing Kerry Collins, who had replaced him the season prior. He won his first five games back, but that success wouldn’t last. Last season after Week 11 loss to the Redskins, he seemingly lost his mind. He threw his shoulder pads into the crowd, got into it with head coach Jeff Fisher, then stormed out of the locker room. He was released at the end of the season, and is now set to redeem himself as Michael Vick’s backup in Philadelphia.