Josh Allen is making Buffalo Bills’ history as the first player in franchise history to be featured on the cover of Madden NFL 24. The 27-year-old joins seven other quarterbacks who were chosen as Madden cover athletes since 2001 and is the fourth quarterback to wear that honor over the past five years.
“As a fan of Madden NFL since childhood, I’m honored to be the first Buffalo Bills player on the cover, and I wouldn’t have gotten here without the support of my team and Bills Mafia,” Allen wrote in a statement – describing this is as a ‘childhood dream come true.’ Hopefully, that’s just one of many for the young QB.
Over the past five seasons, Josh Allen has thrown for 18,397 yards and 138 touchdowns in 77 games (52-24-0 record as a starter) – adding another 3,087 yards and 38 touchdowns on the ground. He was an MVP runner-up in 2020 and finished in third place in MVP voting in 2022, but he’ll win one eventually.
A Brief History of Madden Cover Athletes
The Madden NFL franchise originated in 1989 as ‘John Madden Football’ and was only available as a software title for the Apple II. The game moved to the Sega Genesis in 1990 and Super Nintendo in 1991 before gaining full licensing with the NFL and changing its name to Madden NFL – the start of a dynasty.
Prior to 1995, Madden cover athletes didn’t exist – instead, John Madden was featured on the cover. Several players – Karl Wilson, Erik Williams, Cary Brabham Gordon Laro, and Garrison Hearst – started appearing on the cover between 1995 and 2000, but weren’t considered Madden cover athletes.
That all changed in 2001, when Madden cover athletes became a yearly phenomenon that slowly started to mean more and more to the player and their legacy. Since then, 23 players have been chosen as Madden cover athletes – two of which were featured twice – and one non-player has graced the cover.
Let’s see how many you remember!
1. Eddie George – 2001
Madden NFL 2001 Release Date: August 22, 2000
Madden Cover Athlete: Eddie George
Eddie George graced the cover of Madden NFL 2001 after putting up 1,304 rushing yards, 458 receiving yards, and 13 total touchdowns (his fourth season in the NFL). After being named the cover athlete, he recorded a career-high 1,509 rushing yards, 453 receiving yards, and a career-high 16 total touchdowns. He led the NFL in touches, came third in MVP voting, and second in Offensive Player of the Year voting.
2. Daunte Culpepper – 2002
Madden NFL 2002 Release Date: August 13, 2001
Madden Cover Athlete: Daunte Culpepper
Daunte Culpepper graced the cover of Madden NFL 2002 after throwing for 3937 yards, 33 touchdowns (led NFL), and 23 total touchdowns in 2000 – leading his team to an 11-5 record and a playoff win in his first year as a starter in the NFL. Unfortunately, he didn’t play too well the following year and led his team to a 4-7 record in 11 games played – he had 2,612 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions that year.
3. Marshall Faulk – 2003
Madden NFL 2003 Release Date: August 12, 2002
Madden Cover Athlete: Marshall Faulk
Marshall Faulk graced the cover of Madden NFL 2003 after recording 1,382 rushing yards, 765 receiving yards, and 21 total touchdowns in 2001 – earning his third-straight Offensive Player of the Year award. After being named the cover athlete, Faulk’s production and touches started to decline. He had just 953 rushing yards, 537 receiving yards, and 10 total touchdowns. Still, it was good enough for a Pro Bowl.
4. Michael Vick – 2004
Madden NFL 2004 Release Date: August 12, 2003
Madden Cover Athlete: Michael Vick
Michael Vick graced the cover of Madden NFL 2004 after throwing for 2,936 yards, rushing for 777 yards, and scoring 24 total touchdowns in his first year as a full-time starter – he was fourth in MVP voting and was named to the Pro Bowl. Unfortunately, Vick broke his right fibula during a preseason game ahead of the 2003 season – his cover season. He missed the first 11 games of the season before making a return.
5. Ray Lewis – 2005
Madden NFL 2005 Release Date: August 9, 2004
Madden Cover Athlete: Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis graced the cover of Madden NFL 2005 after recording 163 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 6 interceptions, and 1 defensive touchdown en route to his second Defensive Player of the Year award – he also ranked sixth in MVP voting. He followed it up with 147 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries in 2004.
6. Donovan McNabb – 2006
Madden NFL 06 Release Date: August 8, 2005
Madden Cover Athlete: Donovan McNabb
Donovan McNabb graced the cover of Madden NFL 06 after throwing for 3,875 yards, 31 touchdowns, and just 8 interceptions in 2004 – he led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 13-2-0 record and won two playoff games before losing in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, McNabb was a victim of the Madden curse. He played just nine games and was on a four-game losing streak when he suffered a season-ending einjury.
7. Shaun Alexander – 2007
Madden NFL 07 Release Date: August 22, 2006
Madden Cover Athlete: Shaun Alexander
Shaun Alexander graced the cover of Madden NFL 07 after leading the league in rushing yards (1,880), rushing touchdowns (27), and total touchdowns (28) in 2005 – he was named MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. Unfortunately, he too was a victim of the Madden curse and only had 896 yards and 7 TDs in 10 games played (he suffered a broken left foot in Week 3). He last played with the Commanders in 2008.
8. Vince Young – 2008
Madden NFL 08 Release Date: August 14, 2007
Madden Cover Athlete: Vince Young
Vince Young graced the cover of Madden NFL 08 after throwing for 2199 yards, rushing for 552 yards, and 19 total touchdowns in his rookie season (2006) – he led the Tennessee Titans to an 8-5-0 record. While he threw a career-high 2,546 yards in 2007, he only threw nine touchdowns and had a whopping 17 interceptions. He led them to a 9-6-0 record and the Titans made the playoffs, but lost their first game.
9. Brett Favre – 2009
Madden NFL 09 Release Date: August 12, 2008
Madden Cover Athlete: Brett Favre
Brett Favre graced the cover of Madden NFL 09 after throwing for 4,155 yards and 28 touchdowns in his final season with the Green Bay Packers in 2007 – he was second in MVP voting, third in Offensive Player of the Year voting, and fourth in Comeback Player of the Year voting. An awkward situation ensued when the Packers traded him to the New York Jets on August 7, 2008 – five days before the release of Madden NFL 09 (he was wearing a Packers’ jersey on the cover).
10. Troy Polamalu – 2010
Madden NFL 10 Release Date: August 13, 2009
Madden Cover Athlete: Troy Polamalu
Troy Polamalu graced the cover of Madden NFL 10 (alongside Larry Fitzgerald) after recording 73 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 7 interceptions, and 17 passes defensed – he and his Pittsburgh Steelers defeated Fitzgerald and his Arizona Cardinals. Unfortunately, he was a victim of the Madden curse and only played in five games in 2009 due to a series of knee injuries – the Steelers missed the playoffs.
11. Larry Fitzgerald – 2010
Madden NFL 10 Release Date: August 13, 2009
Madden Cover Athlete: Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald graced the cover of Madden NFL 10 (alongside Troy Polamalu) after recording 96 catches for 1,431 yards and a league-leading 12 touchdowns – he and his Cardinals lost to Polamalu and his Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. After being featured on the Madden NFL 11 cover, he had 97 catches for 1,092 yards and a league-leading 13 touchdowns – he managed to avoid the so-called Madden curse.
12. Drew Brees – 2011
Madden NFL 11 Release Date: August 9, 2010
Madden Cover Athlete: Drew Brees
Drew Brees graced the cover of Madden NFL 11 after throwing for 4,388 yards and a league-leading 34 touchdowns in 2009 – leading the Saints to a 13-2-0 record and placing second in MVP voting He proved not everyone was subject to the Madden curse and would go on to lead the league in yards in five of the next seven seasons. He had 4,620 yards, 33 TDs, and an 11-5-0 record during his 2010 cover season.
13. Peyton Hillis – 2012
Madden NFL 12 Release Date: August 30, 2011
Madden Cover Athlete: Peyton Hillis
Peyton Hillis graced the cover of Madden NFL 12 after recording 1,177 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards, and 13 total touchdowns in what might be one of the best breakout stories of the 2010s. While he wasn’t able to come anywhere close to duplicating those numbers before fading out of the league in 2015, his 2010 season will go down as one to remember and embodies being in the right place at the right time.
14. Calvin Johnson – 2013
Madden NFL 13 Release Date: August 28, 2012
Madden Cover Athlete: Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson graced the cover of Madden NFL 13 after putting up 96 catches, a league-leading 1,681 receiving yards, and 16 receiving touchdowns – he was named a Pro Bowler and All-Pro receiver. While he only scored five touchdowns the following year – his cover season – Johnson put together one of the best seasons by a WR all-time with 122 catches for 1,964 yards (both of which led the entire NFL.
15. Barry Sanders – 2014
Madden NFL 25 Release Date: August 27, 2013
Madden Cover Athlete: Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders graced the cover of Madden NFL 25 as the video game franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary – he won the honor in a fan vote that saw Sanders beat out Ron Rivera, Marcus Allen, Ray Lewis, Joe Montana, and Jerry Rice. In doing so, he became the first player to grace the cover of Madden more than once – his first appearance was in 2000, though he was in the background (not featured).
16. Adrian Peterson – 2014
Madden NFL 25 Release Date: August 27, 2013
Madden Cover Athlete: Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson graced the cover of Madden NFL 25 as the video game franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary – he was named runner-up to Barry Sanders in the fan cover vote, so they chose AP to be on the cover of the next-generation video game consoles (Xbox One and PlayStation 4). Peterson had just come back from a torn ACL to rush for 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012 before earning the honor.
17. Richard Sherman – 2015
Madden NFL 15 Release Date: August 26, 2014
Madden Cover Athlete: Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman graced the cover of Madden NFL 15 after recording 48 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, 8 interceptions (led NFL), 16 passes defensed, and 1 defensive touchdown – he helped the Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII. In his cover season, Sherman recorded 57 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 4 interceptions, and 8 passes defensed. His Seahawks again made it to the Super Bowl, but lost this time.
18. Odell Beckham Jr. – 2016
Madden NFL 16 Release Date: August 25, 2015
Madden Cover Athlete: Odell Beckham Jr.
Odell Beckham Jr. graced the cover of Madden NFL 16 after recording 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in his rookie season with the New York Giants – he led the league in receiving yards per game and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Madden curse spared him and he went on to have an even better campaign in his cover season (2015) – 96 catches, 1,450 yards, and 13 touchdowns.
19. Rob Gronkowski – 2017
Madden NFL 17 Release Date: August 23, 2016
Madden Cover Athlete: Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski graced the cover of Madden NFL 17 after recording 72 catches for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015 – he also had 15 catches for 227 yards and 3 touchdowns in two playoff games. Unfortunately, Gronkowski was a victim of the Madden curse in his cover season (2016), playing in just eight games due to a hamstring injury and back surgery – ending his streak of two healthy seasons in a row.
20. Tom Brady – 2018, 2022
Madden NFL 18 Release Date: August 25, 2017
Madden NFL 22 Released Date: August 20, 2021
Madden Cover Athlete: Tom Brady
Tom Brady graced the cover of Madden NFL 18 after leading his team to an 11-1-0 record in 12 starts – he had 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions before winning his fifth Super Bowl. He graced the cover of Madden NFL 22 (alongside Patrick Mahomes) after throwing for 4,633 yards, 40 TDs, and 12 interceptions in his first season with the Buccaneers – he went on to win his seventh Super Bowl.
21. Antonio Brown – 2019
Madden NFL 19 Release Date: August 7, 2018
Madden Cover Athlete: Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown graced the cover of Madden NFL 19 after recording 101 catches for 1,533 receiving yards (led NFL) and 9 touchdowns in 2017 – he was second in Offensive Player of the Year voting and had 7 catches for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Steelers’ lone playoff game. He followed that up with 104 catches for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns (led NFL) in 2018 – his final year with Pittsburgh.
22. Patrick Mahomes – 2020, 2022
Madden NFL 20 Release Date: July 30, 2019
Madden NFL 22 Release Date: August 20, 2021
Madden Cover Athlete: Patrick Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes graced the cover of Madden NFL 20 after throwing for 5,097 yards and 50 TDs in his first year as starting quarterback – he was named MVP and Offensive Player of the Year before losing to Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship gamel. He also graced the cover of Madden NFL 22 (alongside Tom Brady) after throwing for 4,740 yards and 38 TDs (14-1-0 record) before losing to Tom Brady and the Bucs in the Super Bowl.
23. Lamar Jackson – 2021
Madden NFL 21 Release Date: August 28, 2020
Madden Cover Athlete: Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson graced the cover of Madden NFL 21 after throwing for 3,127 yards, rushing for 1,206 yards, and scoring 41 total touchdowns (led NFL with 36 passing TDs) – he was named MVP and came second in Offensive Player of the Year voting. He followed that up by throwing for 2,757 yards, rushing for 1,005 yards, and scoring 33 total touchdowns. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a playoff win in 2019 and 2020.
24. John Madden – 2023
Madden NFL 23 Release Date: August 18, 2022
Madden Cover Athlete: John Madden
John Madden – the man the video game is named after – graced the cover of Madden NFL 23 in honor of his death on December 28, 2021 (just eight months before the release of Madden NFL 23). He was a former Super Bowl-winning head coach and one of the most well-known and unique broadcasters the sport has ever seen. If it weren’t for John Madden, a video game like Maddden NFL might not exist.
Our Predictions for Future Madden Cover Athletes
Madden cover athletes are chosen based on three primary variables – popularity, performance, and marketability (except between 2009 and 2016, when they were chosen based on a fan vote). With that said, there’s really no telling who might grace the cover of the video game next – it could be anyone!
Some of the active players we fully expect to be considered (if not named) Madden cover athletes in the future include Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow, Vikings’ wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Cowboys’ linebacker Micah Parsons, 49ers’ defensive end Nick Bosa, and Chargers’ quarterback Justin Herbert.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: 20 NFL Rookies We’re Excited to Watch This Season
Of course, things can change with new players and rookies entering the league every season. Who knows, maybe Patrick Mahomes will become the first player to grace the cover three times, or maybe Aaron Rodgers will add to his impressive resume and grace the cover for the first time before retiring.
At The Buzzer, or ATB is the place for those who love sports, life, family, community, and so much more. We are far from the run-of-the-mill 24/7 sports news websites. We not only bring you what’s happening in the world of sports in terms of trades and breaking news, but we also bring you the news that goes on behind the scenes, like big life moments, and so much more. So take a minute and read one of our articles, we promise you won't regret it.