Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (2024)

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (1)

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (2)

June 7, 2024 11:53 am ET

Editor’s note: This post was updated for 2023.

The Madden series has been around since EA Sports released John Madden Football on MS-DOS in 1988.

For the first decade, Madden himself graced the cover. The Super Bowl-winning coach-turned-fan-favorite-broadcaster-turned-Turducken-evangelizer is also something of a master at building a personal brand. Even though he hadn’t broadcasted a game since 2009, he remained a household name thanks to EA’s best-selling franchise.

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. And remember: Patrick Mahomes is among the athletes to show the “Madden Curse” is just a myth.


  • Every NBA 2K cover
  • Every MLB: The Show cover
  • Every EA NHL cover

Madden NFL 2000 - John Madden

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (3)

This was the last year the man himself was on the cover. The game included an improved Franchise mode, which let multiple owners participate in the same season. 2000 was also the first iteration of the game that was ported to the Game Boy Color.

Madden NFL 2001 - Eddie George

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (4)

John Madden was still on this cover, but Tennessee Titans’ running back Eddie George took center stage. This year’s version was the first to make the jump to PS2 and first to feature NFL Europe teams. It also placed a big focus on customization, including Madden Cards, which let you add different rules to the game like giving yourself a fifth down.

Madden NFL 2002 - Dante Culpepper

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (5)

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. It was also the first game to include an Expansion Draft as it brought the Houston Texans to the game ahead of its first season.

Madden NFL 2003 - Marshall Faulk

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (6)

“The Greatest Show on Turf” was long overdue for a Madden cover, and Faulk was the perfect poster man. This game is also notable because it was the first year Al Michaels was in the play-by-bay spot alongside John Madden, with long-time partner Pat Summerall retiring.

Madden NFL 2004 - Michael Vick

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (7)

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. On top of that, Franchise mode was expanded to include owner mode, giving you the opportunity to do everything from building a team to setting your stadium’s hot dog prices.

Madden NFL 2005 - Ray Lewis

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (8)

This Madden was all about defense. EA went all in and put Lewis on the cover to signify that change. That, of course, means we got the introduction of the Hit Stick, letting you really unload on ball carriers. Plus, it was the first time players could hop onto Xbox Live.

Madden NFL 06 - Donovan McNabb

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (9)

For the first time ever, John Madden wasn’t on the cover at all. Instead, McNabb took center stage by himself for the Xbox 360 launch title. We also saw Superstar mode introduced, which let you take control of your own NFL rookie and play through his full career.

Madden NFL 07 - Shaun Alexander

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (10)

Seattle great Alexander helped kick Madden into gear on PS3 and Wii. EA also added in Lead Blocker Control and the Highlight Stick, but the move to the next generation took out Owner Mode.

Madden NFL 08 - Vince Young

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (11)

Titans QB Vince Young was coming off his most successful professional season when he hit this cover. This year’s version was highlighted by improvements to animations to help the game feel more lifelike. EA also started to make star players feel different by including the Weapons System. Finally, NCAA Football 08 players could bring their Campus Legend over to continue their NFL career for the first time ever.

Madden NFL 09 - Brett Favre

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (12)

Interestingly, Favre was actually retired from football when the game was announced. Of course, he would later come out of retirement and get traded to the Jets, but this was the first time a non-active player made the cover. Outside of that weird footnote, this game was focused on refinement, onboarding new players with a bizarre force ghost version of John Madden, and improving the on-field presentation in lieu of any major new features.

Madden NFL 10 - Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (13)

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. However, we also got Fight for the Fumble, which wasn’t nearly as fun. This year also saw the introduction of Madden Ultimate Team.

Madden NFL 11 - Drew Brees

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (14)

Saints QB Drew Brees had just come off a series of successful years, winning a Super Bowl in 2010. This year, fans were introduced to GameFlow. This gave players the option to build a situational game plan that was meant to speed up games. Players could go online for 3v3 matches.

Madden NFL 12 - Peyton Hillis

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (15)

Hillis actually won this cover as a part of a fan vote, beating out 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.

Madden NFL 13 - Calvin Johnson Jr.

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (16)

Johnson won another fan vote to grace the cover, beating out 64 other NFL players. Fans also got access to Connected Careers, which let them combine Franchise, Online Franchise, and Superstar modes into a single mode.

Madden NFL 25 - Barry Sanders/Adrian Peterson

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (17)

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. It also brought back team relocation, letting you take your franchise to Mexico City, Dublin, or London.

Madden NFL 15 - Richard Sherman

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (18)

With Sherman on the cover, the developer had to focus on defense. Madden 15 brought big improvements to pass-rushing, while also revamping tackling and player AI.

Madden NFL 16 - Odell Beckham Jr.

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (19)

This year’s vote was held on Madden NFL Mobile and MUT. Beckham beat out Rob Gronkowski for the coveted spot. It also introduced Draft Champions, giving players an easier way to hop into an Ultimate Team-like mode.

Madden NFL 17 - Rob Gronkowski

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (20)

After losing out on the vote the year prior, Gronk finally got a Madden cover. EA also redesigned Franchise mode to critical acclaim, even if the entire playerbase didn’t agree.

Madden NFL 18 - Tom Brady

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (21)

It’s kind of wild that Brady didn’t feature on a Madden cover until 2017. This version was also the first year EA switched to Frostbite engine and saw the team introduce a new story mode called Longshot.

Madden NFL 19 - Antonio Brown

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (22)

Brown made the cover after spending several years establishing himself as one of the most dominant wide receivers in the modern game. For the first time since Madden 08, the series launched on PC. We also saw the continuation of Longshot and additions to MUT that gave solo and team players even more options.

Madden NFL 20 - Patrick Mahomes

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (23)

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 also introduced X-Factors, which made star players feel even more like the players you see on the field every Sunday.

Madden NFL 21 - Lamar Jackson

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (24)

Lamar Jackson’s brand of dynamic quarterback play perfectly suited the new mode Madden 21 brought to the table. For this release, EA introduced a street-style mode called The Yard. However, this version was met with some of the harshest critics and fan responses in Madden’s history.

Madden NFL 22 - Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (25)

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. However, it was again met with fan backlash and lackluster scores.

Madden NFL 23 -- John Madden

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (26)

More than 20 years after appearing on Madden NFL 2000‘s sleeve, John Madden will grace the cover of another entry. That’s right, when Madden NFL 23 launches this fall, the late coach will be there once again.

Madden NFL 24 -- Josh Allen

A childhood dream come true 🙏
#Madden24 | #EAathlete pic.twitter.com/8PYdq9WOuH

— Josh Allen (@JoshAllenQB) June 7, 2023

Written by Ricky Frech on behalf of GLHF.

Every 'Madden NFL' cover star since 2000 (2024)
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