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The Madden series launched in 1988, and the big man himself was featured on the game’s cover for the first decade.

The former sports star and pundit hadn’t even broadcasted a game since 2009, but he still found his way onto the most recent game, with EA Sports honoring his legacy once more after his unfortunate passing in 2021.

Let’s take a look back over that legacy and see which other players have graced the cover of one of the best sports games of all time. Here’s every Madden cover star since the year 2000.

Madden 2000 cover - John Madden

John Madden graces the cover of Madden 2000.

Before this year’s game, this was the last time John Madden was on the cover. The game itself revamped Franchise Mode, allowing multiple owners to participate in the same season. There was even a version of this for the Game Boy Color.

Madden 2001 cover - Eddie George

Eddie George looks intimidating on the Madden 2001 cover.

Eddie George – The Tennessee Titans’ running back – took center stage in 2001, marking the moment the game would make its jump to PlayStation 2. It was also the first game to feature NFL Europe teams.

Madden 2002 cover - Dante Culpepper

Dante Culpepper gets a throw read on the Madden 2002 cover.

After a rip-roaring 2000, it was time for the Minnesota Vikings quarterback to appear on the cover. This one also marked the first time the game appeared on Xbox and GameCube.

Madden 2003 cover - Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk goes beast mode on the cover of Madden 2003.

Way overdue for a run on the cover, 2003 was the year for The Greatest Show on Turf. Joining Faulk, Al Michaels also made his debut in the play-by-play spot alongside John Madden.

Madden 2004 cover - Michael Vick

Michael Vick looks to the side as he runs on the Madden 2004 cover.

Vick wasn’t just the cover star in 2004, he was almost like an in-game cheat – putting the QB on your team was like activating God Mode. With a speed stat of 95, he had to be nerfed in the sequels to make other players competitive.

Madden 2005 cover - Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis looks at the camera in this Madden 2005 cover shoot.

EA decided to go big on the defensive game for this iteration, and Lewis being on the cover was a statement of intent. As well as being the first game in the series to let players compete online, 2005 introduced the Hit Stick, allowing us to really unload on ball carriers. Bliss.

Madden 06 cover - Donovan McNabb

Donovan McNabb gets his gurn on for the cover of Madden 2006.

Not even a whiff of John Madden on this cover – outside of, you know, his name. No little badge with his face poking out. Nothing. Instead, McNabb took center stage by himself for the Xbox 360 launch title. This game also introduced Superstar mode, where you can play as a single athlete across an entire career.

Madden 07 cover - Shaun Alexander

Shaun Alexander gets ready to run you down like a frieght train on the Madden 07 cover.

Alexander came through for the game’s debut on PS3 and Wii. This version also added in Lead Blocker Control and the Highlight Stick, which would become staples in the games that followed.

Madden 08 cover - Vince Young

Vince Young looks focused on the Madden 08 cover.

What a season Vince Young had in the lead-up to this cover. With such a standout performance, it’s appropriate that EA included a new, more lifelike animation system and star player differences in the Weapons System, which made each major player feel different to control. Everyone was making moves.

Madden 09 cover - Brett Favre

Brett Favre gets ready to throw on the Madden 09 cover.

It’s unfortunate that Favre had retired from football when the game was announced, but at least he came back later and moved to the Jets. Still, he was the first inactive player to appear on the cover outside of Madden himself. No major changes came in ‘09 – just refinements of what came before.

Madden 10 cover - Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald

Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald face off for the Madden 10 cover

Polamalu and Fitzgerald shared the limelight on this explosive cover, following their performance in the previous Super Bowl. This year’s game introduced PRO-TAK, which allowed more players to join in on a tackle, as well as Fight for the Fumble. Oh yeah, and MUT made its debut here too. A lot of firsts!

Madden 11 cover - Drew Brees

Drew Brees throws a blinder for the Madden 11 cover.

After winning a Super Bowl in 2010 and having a series of successful years leading up to that, 2011 was the perfect time for Saints QB Drew Brees. Madden 2011 also introduced GameFlow, which allowed players to build a situational game plan, improving the pace of matches.

Madden 12 cover - Peyton Hillis

Peyton Hillis runs at you on the Madden 12 cover.

Hillis appeared on this cover due to the outcome of a fan vote, beating Michael Vick for the cover spot. The game itself was, again, a slight refinement of what came before.

Madden 13 cover - Calvin Johnson Jr.

Calvin Johnson Jr. prepares to catch on the Madden 13 cover.

Another fan vote, Johnson ended up on the cover, beating 64 of his rivals to the top spot. This year’s game added Connected Careers, which allowed players to combine various modes into a single beast.

Madden 25 cover - Barry Sanders/Adrian Peterson

Barry Sanders and Adrian Peterson both got a cover for Madden 25.

It’s confusing that it’s called Madden 25, but don’t worry – we haven’t thrown the order in the bin. The first Madden to launch on Xbox One and PS4, this game featured two different cover stars, with Peterson appearing on the next-gen consoles and Sanders popping up on the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions.

Madden 15 cover - Richard Sherman

Richard Sherman uses Jedi mind powers on the cover of Madden 15.

Another cover star and another statement on intent. Madden 15 was focused on defense, adding in improvements for pass-rushing, tackling, and AI.

Madden 16 cover - Odell Beckham Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr. jumps through the air and catches a ball on the Madden 16 cover.

Beckham beat out Rob Gronkowski for the coveted spot in yet another fan vote. The game introduced Draft Champions, which is like a gateway drug to MUT.

Madden 17 cover - Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski throws the ball on the cover of Madden 17.

He might have lost out on the vote for Madden 16, but Gronk finally got his cover slot a year later. This year’s Franchise Mode overhaul was praised by critics, but fans were split.

Madden 18 cover - Tom Brady

Tom Brady screams at the camera for the Madden 18 cover.

It shouldn’t have taken this long for Brady to appear on the cover, but here we are. This year saw the developer switch to using the Frostbite game engine – the same tech that powers games such as Battlefield – which improved the visuals immensely.

Madden 19 cover - Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown smiles on the cover of Madden 19.

After years and years of establishing himself as one of the most dominant wide receivers to ever grace the game, Brown finally got his place on the cover. This was also the first time in over a decade that the game launched on PC as well as consoles.

Madden 20 cover - Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes flexes for the Madden 20 cover.

Madden 20 ditched the Longshot story mode in favor of QB1, where players could take a custom player from college football right through to the pros. It also introduced X-Factors, which made star players even more like their real life counterparts in both visuals and controls. Mahomes was the perfect posterboy.

Madden 21 cover - Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson looks left and readies a throw on the Madden 21 cover.

One of the most dynamic QBs to grace the field, Jackson was the perfect ambassador for Madden 21. The game added a new mode called The Yard – a street-style throwback to the days when all games were called Something: Underground.

Madden 22 cover - Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes

Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes stare you down on the Madden 22 cover.

Brady and Mahomes are the only athletes outside of Barry Sanders and John Madden to grace the cover twice. After the poor critical reception of Madden 21, EA put the focus back on where it mattered here, improving Franchise Mode and adding in another mode called Face of the Franchise. Unfortunately, it still fell way short of the series’ high points.

Madden 23 cover – John Madden

John Madden returns for a lovely tribute on the Madden 23 cover.

EA chose to bring John Madden himself back for the latest game after his death in December 2021. A lovely tribute to the man whose legend still lives on. 

Check out our list of the best Madden 23 QBs for more. 

Madden 24 cover – Josh Allen

Madden NFL 24 Deluxe cover with Josh Allen.

Josh Allen, quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, was chosen to be on the Madden NFL 24 cover. Called the strongest arm in the NFL, he's been lauded for his diligence and work ethic, which allowed him to massively improve the areas people long saw as his weaknesses.