The Madden series has been around since EA Sports released John Madden Football on MS-DOS in 1988.
For the first ten years, Madden graced the cover. Madden, a Super Bowl-winning coach and Turducken evangelizer turned fan-favorite broadcaster, is also a master at creating a personal brand. Even though he hasn’t broadcasted a game since 2009, he remains a household name thanks to EA’s best-selling franchise.
But after 2000, Mr. Madden finally started to share the screen with NFL superstars. Here’s a look at every player who’s been on a Madden cover. Remember: Patrick Mahomes is one of the athletes who has shown that the “Madden Curse is just a myth .
This was the last year that the man was featured on the cover. A new Franchise mode was added to the game, which allowed multiple owners to participate in the same season. 2000 was also the first iteration of the game that was ported to the Game Boy Color.
John Madden remained on the cover, but Eddie George, Tennessee Titans’ running back, took center stage. This year’s edition was the first to be released on PS2 and the first to include NFL Europe players. The game also placed a lot of emphasis on customization. Madden Cards let you add new rules to the game, such as giving yourself a fifth down.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Dante Culpepper was coming off his breakout 2000 campaign when he featured on the Madden cover. Like Madden 2001, this iteration featured as a launch game for new consoles: Xbox and GameCube. The game was also the first to feature an Expansion Draft, bringing the Houston Texans to it before its first season.
“The Greatest Show on Turf” was long overdue for a Madden cover, and Faulk was the perfect poster man. It is notable that this game was also the first year Al Michaels appeared in the play-by bay spot alongside John Madden. Pat Summerall, longtime partner, has since retired.
Not only was Vick the cover star, but he was downright broken in Madden 2004. The QB boasted 95 speed, and Madden developers were forced to introduce features to slow him down in the sequels that followed. Franchise mode was extended to include owner mode. This allows you to manage everything, from setting up your stadium’s hot dogs prices to building a team.
This Madden was all about defense. EA went all in and put Lewis on the cover to signify that change. This, of course, brought us the Hit Stick. It allows you to really unload on ball carriers. It was also the first time that Xbox Live players could log in.
John Madden was not on the cover for the first time in his career. Instead, McNabb took center stage by himself for the Xbox 360 launch title. Superstar mode was also introduced. This allows you to take control of your own NFL rookie, and follow his entire career.
Seattle great Alexander helped kick Madden into gear on PS3 and Wii. EA added Lead Blocker Control to the Highlight Stick, but Owner Mode was removed when the game moved to the next generation.
Titans QB Vince Young was coming off his most successful professional season when he hit this cover. The game felt more real-lifelike this year thanks to improvements in animations. EA has also included the Weapons System to make stars feel special. Finally, NCAA Football 08 players could bring their Campus Legend over to continue their NFL career for the first time ever.
Interestingly, Favre was actually retired from football when the game was announced. Although he would eventually come out of retirement to be traded to the Jets and become a player again, this was the first time that a non-active player had been on the cover. This game, aside from that strange footnote, was focused on refinement and onboarding new players with a bizarre force ghost John Madden. It also improved the on-field presentation, in lieu of any new features.
We saw the first duo cover in years when the two teams from the previous Super Bowl both had players on the cover in Polamalu and Fitzgerald. Madden 10 saw several improvements to defensive realism by introducing PRO-TAK, which let more players join a tackle. Fight for the Fumble was also introduced, but it wasn’t as much fun. Madden Ultimate Team was also introduced this year.
Saints QB Drew Brees had just come off a series of successful years, winning a Super Bowl in 2010. GameFlow was introduced to fans this year. This allowed players to create a situational plan to help speed up their games. Online matches could be played between players.
Hillis won this cover in a fan vote. He beat Michael Vick. This was also the last year players could create a team without the use of mods, making it something of a classic for Madden fans.
Johnson won another fan vote to grace the cover, beating out 64 other NFL players. Connected Careers allowed fans to combine Superstar, Online Franchise and Franchise modes into one.
As the first Madden for PS4 and Xbox One, EA decided to give out two different covers. Peterson made his debut on the next-gen version, while Sanders was on PS3 and Xbox 360. You can also take your franchise to Mexico City or Dublin with you.
With Sherman on the cover, it was necessary for the developer to concentrate on defense. Madden 15 brought big improvements to pass-rushing, while also revamping tackling and player AI.
This year’s vote was held on Madden NFL Mobile and MUT. Rob Gronkowski was beaten by Beckham for the prized spot. Draft Champions was also introduced, allowing players to jump into Ultimate Team-like modes.
After losing out on the vote the year prior, Gronk finally got a Madden cover. EA also redesigned Franchise mode to great acclaim, even though not all players agreed.
It’s kind of wild that Brady didn’t feature on a Madden cover until 2017. This was also the first year EA switched from Frostbite to create a new story mode called Longshot.
After spending many years building his reputation as one of the best wide receivers in modern football,
Brown was featured on the cover. For the first time since Madden 08, the series launched on PC. The series also featured the continuation of Longshot as well as additions to MUT, which gave solo and group players more options.
Mahomes made a great cover athlete for Madden 20 considering all of the changes the developer added to this iteration. EA ditched Longshot in favor of QB 1, which let players take a custom player from college into the pros in an updated version of Superstar mode (which was last seen in Madden 25). It introduced X-Factors which allowed star players to feel more like the players on the field every Sunday.
Lamar Jackson’s brand of dynamic quarterback play perfectly suited the new mode Madden 21 brought to the table. EA released a street-style mode, The Yard. However, this version was met with some of the harshest critics and fan responses in Madden‘s history.
Outside of Madden himself (and Barry Sanders on some editions) Brady and Mahomes became the first athletes to appear on the cover twice. EA attempted to rectify Madden 21‘s mistakes by introducing improvements to Franchise mode and giving players a new Superstar-like mode called Face of the Franchise. It was met with widespread criticism and low scores.
Written by Ricky Frech on behalf of GLHF.