Electronic Arts is once again letting gamers pick the cover athlete for the upcoming Madden release. The game is scheduled to release August 27, and will be titled Madden NFL 25 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the franchise. I have no idea what Madden will be called in the year 2024, but I guess EA will cross that bridge later. Sorry, no soup for you Madden 14.
EA just concluded a similar voting campaign for the NCAA Football 14 cover with Michigan’s Denard Robinson winning. We didn’t think that was the right choice.
For this year’s Madden vote, the bracket has been divided into “Old School” versus “New School," with the winner from each side to face off in a final vote.
With apologies to Peter King, here are 10 Things I Think I Think about the bracket:
1. It's In The Game
EA defines “Old School” as NFL legends and “New School” as NFL stars. That makes perfect sense. And I like the idea of the final vote coming down to the winners of those categories. In picking players for the NFL bracket, the folks at EA weren’t limited like they were for NCAA Football, as only players declaring for the draft or graduating were eligible. So, we’re far less likely to see a tidal wave of “my school is better than yours” votes producing a lame outcome. Yes, NCAA Football fans, it's time to own the embarrassing finale between Denard Robinson and Ryan Swope.
2. Looking At The Legends
To get a closer look at the “Old School” side of the bracket I'm listing the 32 total players by seed. Note: there are technically two 16-player regions on both sides of the bracket.
1 – Jerry Rice, Joe Montana
2 – Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis
3 – Barry Sanders, Troy Aikman
4 – Dan Marino, Kurt Warner
5 – Marshall Faulk, Michael Strahan
6 – Marcus Allen, Tim Brown
7 – Jim Kelly, Randall Cunningham
8 – Curtis Martin, John Randle
9 – Eddie George, Jerome Bettis
10 – LaDainian Tomlinson, Terrell Davis
11 –Chad Johnson, Tedy Bruschi
12 – Clinton Portis, Sterling Sharpe
13 – Ozzie Newsome, Reggie Wayne
14 – Deuce McAllister, Ron Rivera
15 – Cortez Kennedy, Derrick Brooks
16 –Fred Taylor, Jake Delhomme
a. It’s hard to argue with Rice or Montana as 1-seeds. You can debate which player is the greatest quarterback or wide receiver until the cows come home, but those guys are always in the mix.
b. Primetime could arguably be a 1-seed as well. Not just because of his real-life on-field dominance, but because of his dominance in the actual Madden games. Sanders defined 99 speed like no other player.
c. OK, let’s talk about what we’re not seeing: some pretty big-time players. John Elway is a good example. His omission is inexplicable. I can only assume there’s some financial or contractual reason he’s not in the bracket. It’s still absurd.
d. There are plenty more NFL legends missing. To name a few: Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Reggie White, Shannon Sharpe, Ronnie Lott, Joe Greene, Walter Payton, Don Hutson, Sammie Baugh and Gale Sayers.
e. It’s also strange to see a few active players on this list like Reggie Wayne and Jake Delhomme. On what planet does Delhomme belong on this list? Or any other list concerning football’s best? Very, very weird inclusion.
3. New Kids On The Block
Here is the “New School” side of the bracket by seed:
1 - Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III
2 - Adrian Peterson, Andrew Luck
3 - Rob Gronkowski, Russell Wilson
4 - Arian Foster, Dez Bryant
5 - Julio Jones, Ray Rice
6 - Jamaal Charles, Von Miller
7 - Patrick Peterson, Trent Richardson
8 - A.J. Green, Doug Martin
9 - Matt Forte, Matthew Stafford
10 - Clay Matthews, LeSean McCoy
11 - Darrelle Revis, Victor Cruz
12 - Jimmy Graham, Luke Kuechly
13 - C.J. Spiller, Danny Amendola
14 - Antonio Brown, Justin Blackmon
15 - Carson Palmer, Jake Locker
16 - Antonio Gates, Ryan Tannehill
a. Have to start with some of the missing players: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Andre Johnson, Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall, J.J. Watt, and Clay Matthews.
b. All Day should probably be a 1-seed. For several years he has shown he can produce at an elite level, something RG III and Kaepernick have yet to do. And Peterson deserves mad props for his remarkable comeback last season after suffering a grueling knee injury the prior season.
c. There are a lot of very young and talented players on this side of the bracket: Martin, Richardson, Luck, RG III, Kaepernick, Miller and Green. It’s tough to say they don’t belong and tricky to argue where to seed them.
d. Between both sides of the bracket there are three Niners as 1-seeds. So much for the old East Coast bias.
e. At times, Matt Forte carries the Bears. But when he’s done playing, will his credentials be any more impressive than the likes of Chris Johnson or Frank Gore? Kind of doubt it.
f. Blackmon at 14 is a stretch. No doubt the kid has incredible potential, but he’s done little on Sundays to merit his inclusion today.
g. Not a lot of respect for Antonio Gates as a 16-seed.
4. The Curse
The Madden cover curse is both enduring and unstoppable. Last year’s cover athlete, Calvin Johnson, had an amazing statistical season with 122 receptions, 1,964 yards and five TDs. But like a lethal virus the cover curse adapted to Megatron’s world-class athletic ability and instead targeted the rest of the Lions. Detroit finished with an abysmal 4-12 record, well below most pundits’ projections for a franchise supposedly on the rise.
But what happens to the Madden curse if a retired player wins? Will it seek out next of kin or manifest elsewhere? Flash theory: Did current Broncos GM John Elway refuse to participate fearing bad mojo for his team on the field?
5. The Will Of The People
If I had to predict how the actual voting will play out, I suspect the final four on the “Old School” side will include Joe Montana, Deion Sanders, Jerry Rice and Barry Sanders. “New School” final four potentially down to Andrew Luck, Arian Foster, RG III and Adrian Peterson. RG III edges Montana in a close vote. Without all the voting hoopla and the social engagement goodness, RG III is a solid historical and thematic choice.
6. My Pick
If I’m voting it’s Barry Sanders. He made many meaningless Lions games meaningful with mind-blowing grace, speed and athleticism. And he was pure class out on the field. Sure, he never won a Super Bowl, but let’s remember football is the ultimate team sport. That’s an important point some forget when they talk down players like Dan Marino and talk up players like Joe Montana.
7. BOOM! And Then There's John
Up until 2000, the cover of Madden always was a picture of John Madden. Sure it was silly and maybe a little boring but I kind of miss it. Madden 25 should give a final nod to John and feature the man himself. I miss John fronting his game and we miss him in his prime calling the big games.
8. Everyone All In
If I’m voting from the pool of players that weren't included in the bracket, my final is Tom Brady over John Elway. As a native son of Denver and New York resident it makes me throw up a little in my mouth, but I have to admit that Brady’s career accomplishments are second to none.
9. Trip Down Memory Lane
Part of the cover vote campaign apparently includes a rap song of sorts. It’s a tad dorky, but it’s set to a sweet collection of highlights from the franchise. If you’ve played Madden long enough you’ll appreciate the appearance of the ambulance: