To a believer in the Madden curse, the numbers speak for themselves.
The so-called curse can be traced to the 2001 release of the hugely popular and profitable football video game that featured running back Eddie George on the cover. Madden himself had graced every cover prior to the 2000 release, so George became one of the first players ever to grace the cover.
But the famously durable George, who was coming off another All-Pro season in 1999, suffered a serious but flukish toe injury the season after his cover appearance and recorded his worst season as a pro. That set in motion a much ballyhooed hex that now rests on the shoulders of Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, the cover boy for the 2008 version released at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
"Ever since they've been on the cover, they've never been exactly the same player they were the year they graced the cover," Michael Fowler, the Web master who created www.maddenjinx.com, told ABC News. Fowler, a 25-year-old Cincinnati Bengals fan, said he built the site to document the undeniable trend.
A few of the more glaring examples:
Daunte Culpepper, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings, appeared on the 2002 game cover and in the 2001 season following the game's release, would miss five games with a knee injury, throw 22 fewer touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Marshall Faulk landed on the 2003 cover following an All-Pro, Super Bowl season as running back for the St. Louis Rams, but the curse struck Faulk when he sustained an ankle injury the following year and rushed for under 1,000 yards for the first time in five years. The high-octane Rams went 7-9.
Michael Vick's likeness made the cover of the 2004 game and the Atlanta Falcons' star quarterback promptly broke his leg during a preseason game. He would come back to play only five games that season, throwing five touchdowns for the entire season -- all not to mention Vick's current woes.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is another jinx victim. McNabb went from the NFC's offensive player of the year in 2004 to missing seven regular season games in 2005, the year he appeared on the cover of Madden 2006. His touchdown production was cut in half. The bad luck followed McNabb into last season as well, with the quarterback missing six more games in 2006.
Typically trusty Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander finished the 2005 season with as good a showing as a back could want -- rushing for more than 1,900 yards, scoring 28 touchdowns and earning a spot in the Super Bowl.
But after appearing on the cover of the 2007 Madden game, Alexander missed six weeks with a fractured foot and struggled when he did play, only twice rushing for more than 100 yards in a game.
Asked about the Madden curse before last year's season, Alexander laughed it off as a waste of time.
"I don't believe in curses," Alexander told the Seattle Times. "I'm always the person that goes against the grain, the baseball player who grabs the random bat. Once you start believing in curses, you have to think about what sock you put on, how many times you stepped on a crack, did you pass a black cat, did you walk under a ladder, did you open an umbrella in the house. After that you get worn out."
Young Takes the Field
Now it's Young's turn to wear the burdensome crown and already, his agent, Major Adams, is on record shrugging off any funny business tied to his client's cover shot.
"People said when they put Vince on the cover of Sports Illustrated, it was going to jinx him in the Rose Bowl game, and (Texas) won the national championship," Adams said. "We don't believe in stuff like that."
Young may have a few things working in his favor.
For starters, the hybrid style run-pass quarterback isn't coming off an enormous season, but instead a solid debut that earned him NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors but also left room for his expected growth into an even stronger player.
Furthermore, the player who best succeeded at beating back the curse was also a Tennessee Titan. Running back Eddie George actually increased production the season after he appeared on the game's 2001 cover. The team didn't have the same type of success and injuries would eventually sideline George, but he best managed to stave off the effects of the curse. A sort of Titans kryptonite?
But not every player was lining up to grace the game's cover this year. Electronic Arts, the video game manufacturer, reportedly courted San Diego Chargers superstar back LaDanian Tomlison, who declined the partnership.
The decision overjoyed Charger fans, one of whom had set up the online petition www.saveltfrommadden.com.
Madden himself, known as a superstitious leader when he coached the Oakland Raiders, would be happy to see Young debunk the curse, which he described a few years ago as "starting to get out of control."
"It is just coincidence but I know there are a number of people who have rituals, are superstitious and have set routines," Madden said. "My game just seems to be taking all of the attention away from the Sports Illustrated jinx."