Every NFL Team That Has Never Had a Madden Cover Athlete Listed - Prima Games

Every NFL Team That Has Never Had a Madden Cover Athlete Listed

Did EA Sports snub your favorite NFL team?

by Grant Testa

It might come as a surprise to some NFL fans that only a little over half of the 32 NFL teams have seen any of their players featured on the cover of Madden, the NFL’s officially licensed videogame from EA Sports. While the August 19 release of Madden NFL 23’s cover features the late, great namesake of the series, John Madden, the legendary commentator and head coach of the Oakland Raiders, as of this writing, 15 NFL franchises have never had any of their players featured on the game’s cover, including ten teams in the AFC (American Football Conference) and five teams in the NFC (National Football Conference).

This list will detail every NFL team that has never had a Madden cover athlete, and present a player or players who were deserving of the honor, sorted by conference and division. Note: since Madden covers didn’t start featuring prominent cover athletes until Madden NFL 2001, the list will focus on players who could have realistically appeared on the cover during that time period (so don’t get mad when Johnny Unitas isn’t on the list).

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals

The defending 2021 AFC Champions, who fell just short of winning Super Bowl LVI against the Los Angeles Rams have never had a Madden cover athlete, making them the only AFC North team without one, as they’ve watched the Steelers, Ravens, and even their Ohio division rival Cleveland Browns featured on Madden covers, while deserving Bengals were passed over. With Cincinnati’s new high-powered offense and stingy defense coming off a narrow Super Bowl loss, it seems likely that quarterback Joe Burrow or wide receiver Jamarr Chase will up representing “Who Dey” nation on the cover of Madden someday.

However, the most deserving player of the past would likely be the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, Chad Johnson (formerly Chad Ochocinco). Between 2001-2010, Johnson became a household name in the NFL due to his flamboyant personality, antics (like changing his name to Chad Ochocinco), and intricate touchdown celebrations, all while backing it up on the field to the tune of six Pro Bowl selections, four All-Pro team nods, and by owning the trifecta of most receptions (751), receiving yards (10,783), and receiving touchdowns (66) in Cincinnati Bengals’ history. Although he faced some off-the-field legal issues after his time in Cincinnati, it’s a surprise that Johnson never appeared on the Madden cover during his prime.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

While it seems like only a matter of time before elite quarterback Josh Allen will be the Madden cover athlete, for now, no Bills have graced the cover. The reason is that, while the ’90s (pre-Madden Cover) Bills generated a number of Hall of Famers during the franchise’s four consecutive Super Bowl losses, following the 1999 season, the Bills failed to reach the NFL playoffs until 2017, and have only become Super Bowl contenders again in recent seasons.

While the fifth-year quarterback Allen and eighth-year wide receiver Stefon Diggs are the most viable cover candidates among current Bills’ players, one face from the past that deserves recognition is former Bills’ defensive tackle Kyle Williams. Over the course of his 13-season NFL career, Williams earned six Pro Bowl selections and was a perennial leader on Buffalo’s underrated defenses. However, no defensive lineman has ever been featured on the cover of the NFL’s premier videogame franchise.

Miami Dolphins

Since Dolphins legendary quarterback Dan Marino retired after the 1999 season and Miami has not had a playoff win since the 2000 season, it kind of makes sense why there has been a lack of Dolphins on Madden covers. However, versatile defender Jason Taylor deserved to be on the cover as much as any cover athlete, as, over the course of his 15-year career, the Hall of Fame linebacker/defensive lineman recorded the seventh most sacks in NFL history (139.5), won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2006, and earned six Pro Bowls and four All-Pro selections. However, to this day, Ray Lewis remains the only linebacker who has ever appeared on a Madden cover.

New York Jets

While the Jets kind of had a Madden cover athlete, as quarterback Brett Favre in his Jets uniform was featured on the rare, valuable variant cover of Madden 09 (while standard versions had Favre as a Green Bay Packer), this really doesn’t count, leaving one of the biggest media markets in the world without a Madden cover athlete. If Madden games had existed in 1969, then Joe Namath undeniably would have made a showing, however, since Madden games didn’t start featuring players on its covers until Broadway Joe had been out of the league for 23 years, the better option would be cornerback Darrelle Revis.

“Revis Island” was the NFL’s premier shutdown corner near the end of the 2000s, earning seven Pro Bowl appearances and four First-team All-Pro selections over the course of his 11-year career, many occurring in his eight seasons with the Jets. However, only one cornerback has ever appeared on the cover of Madden, Revis’ nemesis Richard Sherman in Madden NFL 15.

AFC South

Houston Texans

The Houston Texans are a younger franchise than Madden is, as the expansion team’s first season was in 2002, making it less of a surprise why they haven’t had any cover athletes yet. However, wide receiver Andre Johnson was among the best receivers in the NFL during his 14-year career, 12 seasons of which he played on the Houston Texans from 2003-2014, earning every major franchise receiving record with the most receptions (1,012), receiving yards (13,597), and touchdowns (64).

Indianapolis Colts

With so many Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers playing in Indy throughout the 2000s, it’s a wonder how no Indianapolis Colts were ever selected to be Madden cover athletes. While greats like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, and Bob Sanders all could make strong cases, there’s no bigger snub than Peyton Manning, one of the NFL’s greatest statistical quarterbacks, who earned four league MVP Awards (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009) with the Indianapolis Colts and was the Super Bowl XLI champion and MVP.

Jacksonville Jaguars

A slightly older expansion franchise than their Houston division rivals, the Jacksonville Jaguars did not come into existence until the 1995 NFL Season. To this day the franchise lacks a Super Bowl ring and a Madden cover. The two most deserving “cover athletes who never were” that stand out are the two leading rushers in franchise history Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. While both running backs could make a strong case, I would give Jones-Drew the slight edge, as despite trailing Taylor in career rushing yards, “MJD” outpaced the elder running back in receiving yards, total touchdowns, Pro Bowl selections, and All-Pro appearances. Jones-Drew’s versatility as a kick returner also makes him more Madden Cover material, but both running backs were undeniably special players in the annals of Jaguar history.

AFC West

Denver Broncos

It is baffling how a franchise with eight Super Bowl appearances, tied for the second most of all-time (only behind the New England Patriots) was never given a Madden cover. While legendary quarterback John Elway surely would have been featured, had he not retired prior to Madden ever introducing cover athletes, the two players who stand out as equally deserving are cornerback Champ Bailey and outside linebacker Von Miller. During his tenure in Washington and Denver, Bailey was the league’s preeminent shutdown cornerback, earning 12 Pro Bowl selections and seven All-Pro nods during his Hall of fame career. On the other hand, Miller led the Broncos to victory in Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers, earning the coveted Super Bowl MVP award, to go along with his eight Pro Bowl appearances and seven All-Pro honors.

Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders

The Silver and Black have never had a player featured on the Madden Cover, as while “The Autumn Wind is a Raider,” Madden usually releases in August. However, it’s doubtful Las Vegas Raiders fans will lose any sleep over this, as their legendary head coach, John Madden, is featured in the game’s very name, and has appeared on the cover more than anyone else. Still, while the Raiders have struggled in the 21st Century, failing to win a playoff game since 2002, the franchise has seen many deserving players overlooked for covers, and its most egregious Madden cover snub would be Jerry Rice. While the legendary wide receiver was a much older player by the time he left the San Francisco 49ers for their formerly bay area counterpart Oakland Raiders, his three and a quarter seasons with the franchise were extremely fruitful, as he recorded 3,286 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns, earning a Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl appearance to boot. Prior to being usurped by Tom Brady, for many years after his career finished Rice was considered to be the GOAT (greatest of all-time) during his impressive 20-year NFL career.

San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers

While the current Los Angeles Chargers have a number of exciting offensive and defensive stars who could appear on future Madden covers, the former San Diego franchise saw its biggest stars consistently passed over for Madden covers. The most notable of these players would be running back LaDainian Tomlinson, a Hall of Famer, who won League MVP in 2006, setting an NFL single-season record with 31 total touchdowns, and ranks 7th all-time in career rushing yards (13,684).

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NFC North

Chicago Bears

Despite being one of the oldest, most storied franchises in NFL history, a Chicago Bear has never been included on the cover of Madden. If a Bear had been chosen, it should be no surprise that Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher would have been an ideal fit. Urlacher appeared in eight Pro Bowls, was selected to five All-Pro teams, and won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2005, making him clearly the most deserving of the Madden Cover-era Bears. However, Urlacher was featured on the cover of the, unfortunately, now defunct NFL 2K series, NFL 2K3.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

“America’s Team? No thanks, let’s put another Detroit Lion on the cover,” says EA Sports, as one of the NFL’s most recognizable franchises, the Dallas Cowboys have never had a Madden cover athlete. While present-day Cowboys units have not lived up to the legendary teams of the ’70s and ’90s, a number of Madden Cover-Era Cowboys deserve consideration, with the most notable being edge rusher DeMarcus Ware. Ware is the all-time sack leader in Cowboys’ history, twice leading the NFL in sacks (2008, 2010), earning 7 Pro Bowls and 7 All-Pro Honors along the way, before finishing his career with the Denver Broncos and retiring with the ninth most sacks in NFL history (138.5).

Washington Commanders

The Washington Commanders, who changed their name for the 2022 NFL Season from the Washington Football Team moniker the team used for the two prior seasons, are another example of a franchise that was skipped for a Madden cover. They also had a potential cover athlete that was one of Madden’s most unfortunate missed opportunities. In just his fourth NFL season, Washington’s hard-hitting, elite safety, Sean Taylor, was tragically murdered at the age of 24 during a botched robbery attempt at his home, as the rising star passed away on November 27, 2007. His four-year career consisted of two Pro Bowl selections and a posthumous All-Pro honor and should have also included a Madden cover the following season.

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NFC South

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers, like the Jacksonville Jaguars, are one of the NFL’s newer teams, entering the league in 1995, and are also the most successful of the expansion teams, appearing in two Super Bowls since their inception. However, no Panther has appeared on the cover of Madden, with the two most notable players passed over being quarterback Cam Newton and wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. Newton was the 2015 NFL MVP, whose electrifying dual-threat ability as a passer and runner with “Superman” touchdown celebrations, made him one of the NFL’s most popular characters, while Smith Sr., cemented himself among the best wide receivers of all-time by recording the eighth-most receiving yards in NFL history (14,731), and winning the “triple crown” in 2005 by leading the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Both of these players undeniably have/had the qualities of prototypical Madden Cover athletes.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers

Lastly, another example of a legendary franchise without a Madden cover to show for it is the five-time Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. While the 49ers have gone through ups and downs during the Madden Cover-Era, which began after the retirement of the franchise’s two most legendary QBs, Joe Montana and Steve Young, there have been a number of worthy Madden cover players. However, the one who deserved consideration the most was middle linebacker Patrick Willis. While Willis only played eight seasons, he earned seven Pro Bowl selections and six All-Pro nods and developed into one of the most feared defenders in the NFL from 2007-2014 before his surprise retirement prior to the 2015 season.

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