Not only were NFL fans saddened by the loss of legendary coach John Madden back in December, but so was the video game community. There is a whole generation (or two) that is familiar with pro football not from the teams, players, or NFL predictions, but because of the iconic video game.
Madden is a Hall of Fame coach that won Super Bowl XI with the Oakland Raiders. He retired as a coach in 1978 but had the boisterous personality that led him to a 14-year career as a broadcaster, during which John Madden Football was first released for the Sega Genesis.
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The Madden Legacy
The concept of Madden Football actually began back in 1984, when EA Sports founder Trip Hawkins approached the coach. Madden had actually taught a class at Cal-Berkeley about teaching fans the ins and outs of football plays, and he had hoped the computer program EA Sports pitched would do just that.
Madden was adamant that if he was going to put his namesake on a game, it had better be as realistic as possible thus, it took until 1988 until the coach was satisfied (computer limitations had a hard time fitting 11 players per team side, but Madden insisted on it).
1990’s John Madden Football was projected to sell 75,000 copies – it sold 400,000, and thus a legend was born. Audio quips from the coach, such as “Boom!” and, “where’d that truck come from,” helped grow the game’s popularity, as did the famous ambulance that would run over players.
By 1996 Madden was the best-selling sports video game franchise, and the NFLPA signed an exclusive rights agreement with EA Sports in 2004, meaning the video game would never face any real competition because no other games could use teams, players, stadiums, etc.
The Legacy of the Cover
Being named the cover player of Madden Football is definitely an honor. Some people basically consider that when you make a cover, you’re essentially the face of the NFL. Sites like BetUS have even taken wagers on who would be named to the cover.
John Madden has definitely been a cover boy before – the game is named after him. The coach appeared on the cover of the game from 1988 through 1999. Eddie George was the first NFL player on the cover, appearing on the front of Madden NFL 2001 in 2000.
The list of former Madden cover recipients is a who’s who of NFL royalty. Marshall Faulk, Michael Vick, Brett Favre, Drew Brees, Barry Sanders, and Odell Beckham Jr. are just a few of the NFL greats who have been covered.
Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes became the only players to ever make the cover twice when they appeared as a joint duo on the front of last year’s game. All the covers haven’t been considered ‘hits’ though, with Vince Young appearing on the game in 2007 and Peyton Hillis in 2011.
Of course, any talk about the Madden cover would not be complete without discussing “the curse.” Faulk, Daunte Culpepper, Vick, Donovan McNabb, Shaun Alexander, and Young have all suffered significant injuries the following season after appearing on the cover. Players on the cover had 110 combined pro bowl appearances prior to their cover appearances and just 25 afterward.
Madden the Person Will Be Missed
It will be interesting to see how BetUS and other sites project Madden covers in years to come. Even though the iconic coach hasn’t been involved with the NFL in recent years, his contributions (including the video game) have helped transform the league into the global entity it is today.
The Madden video game has its share of detractors every season upon release – including players who think their own speed, skill, agility ratings, etc., are too low. You can’t deny the success of the franchise, though, reportedly grossing $4-$5 billion in sales since its inception.
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