Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen becomes the first player in franchise history to be featured on the cover of the Madden video game. He posted a picture to his Twitter of the cover of the game's Deluxe Edition that will be released later this summer. While the quarterback is elated at the honor, there is no concern over what this means for his 2023-2024 season. Will he fall victim to the infamous Madden curse?
For background, the Madden curse wasn’t a thing for nearly two decades after the game's inception. For the first 10 years, the game’s namesake John Madden was always on the cover. Starting in 1998, Electronic Arts (EA) decided to move toward a featured player on the cover. San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst was on the cover for Madden NFL 99, and he suffered a severe ankle break that season. Bad luck, right? Since that installment, there have been 13 instances of a cover athlete experiencing an out-of-character season decline or a brutal injury shortly after being featured on the video game’s cover.
The good news for Josh Allen is that the curse has fallen off in the last decade. After being featured, Calvin Johnson broke the receiving record, Tom Brady won his third MVP, and Patrick Mahomes won a Super Bowl. While there is mainstream negativity around being on the cover, it doesn’t automatically doom Allen or the Buffalo Bills this season.
Why Josh Allen won’t fall victim to the Madden Curse
Well, for one thing, the curse is inherently not a real, tangible thing and is just a small sample size in an already small sample size. Of the 24 Madden covers featuring a player, 14 are considered to have a “cursed” year. Among these instances, there are still extenuating circumstances like Sanders retiring and then Brett Farve equally unexpectedly unretiring his year on the cover. Could something happen to Allen this season? Sure. Is it any higher of a chance than he would’ve had not on the cover? Nope.
From a performance standpoint, Allen had yet another solid regular season before falling apart in the postseason. He played in 16 games during the year and threw for 4,283 passing yards with 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Allen showed off his rushing ability with 762 yards and seven additional scores on the ground. He had 616 passing yards through two playoff games, with three touchdowns, three interceptions and a fumble. Recency bias has his postseason interceptions at the forefront of our minds, He still has Stefon Diggs in tow, and Buffalo is at the forefront of the sweepstakes to land DeAndre Hopkins. Allen should be fine if he can stay healthy.
Why Josh Allen will fall victim to the Madden Curse
Injuries can happen out of nowhere, and Allen’s rushing proficiency has him out of the pocket often. This could lead to extra hits that could result in an injury. Even if it is minor, everyone is instantly going to cry curse if/when it happens.
Outside of the injury, there is a chance that Allen will take a step back in the offense. Defenses have yet another year to get used to his tendencies, and Buffalo has less depth than a year ago as they let Isaiah McKenzie walk in free agency. If they don’t land Hopkins, a lot of weight will be put on the shoulders of Gabe Davis and Khalil Shakir to help Allen have a reliable option outside of Diggs. With how much better the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins are expected to be, combined with a tough schedule, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Buffalo, as a team, have an off-year. Whether it is personal or the team, if there is a slight step back, people will quickly blame the curse.