To celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Madden,” this year’s official cover vote pits 32 legends and 32 current NFL superstars against each other, as fans click for their favorite players from past and present to represent football gamers worldwide on the front of the “Madden NFL 25” box.
Will we see a Colin Kaepernick vs. Joe Montana final? It could happen, as could Deion Sanders vs. Darrelle Revis, Robert Griffin III vs. Randall Cunningham, or even Andrew Luck vs. Dan Marino.
Voting kicks off today on SportsNation. But before you cast your ballots, here are my thoughts on the players I see advancing to Round 2.
THE OLD-SCHOOL BRACKET
(1) Joe Montana vs. (16) Jake Delhomme
Bwahahahahaha. I actually spit out some of my cereal when I saw this matchup. Joe Montana, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, against Jake Delhomme, a quarterback who used to be called “The Waterboy” by his teammates. If Delhomme wins, I will seriously question everything I know about humanity.
Winner: Joe Montana
(9) Jerome Bettis vs. (8) Curtis Martin
Tough call, but Jerome Bettis is one of the greatest running backs in the history of “Madden” football, and I can still remember the pile of pixels he’d leave in his wake when rumbling down the virtual field.
Winner: Jerome Bettis
(5) Marshall Faulk vs. (12) Clinton Portis
Marshall Faulk is already the only player to ever appear on the Madden cover twice. Will he tempt the curse a record third time? I don’t see Portis giving him much of a first-round fight.
Winner: Marshall Faulk
(4) Dan Marino vs. (13) Reggie Wayne
So wait, why is Reggie Wayne a legend when he’s still playing? Would’ve been cool to see Jim Harbaugh as the Colts legend instead. Dan “The Man” should have no trouble here.
Winner: Dan Marino
(3) Barry Sanders vs. (14) Ron Rivera
Barry Sanders won the “NCAA Football 13” cover vote, and I can see him making a serious run at the “Madden” cover as well.
Winner: Barry Sanders
(6) Marcus Allen vs. (11) Tedy Bruschi
So happy to see Marcus Allen in the vote. So sad to see him representing the Chiefs and not the Raiders. If Allen wins, can we vote to see what uniform he wears on the cover?
Winner: Marcus Allen
(7) Randall Cunningham vs. (10) LaDainian Tomlinson
Not sure how Randall Cunningham is only a 7 seed, as he is the type of player/video game athlete people still talk about with a sense of awe. Randall could be a sleeper to win this whole thing.
Winner: Randall Cunningham
(2) Ray Lewis vs. (15) Derrick Brooks
Ray Lewis is the Tim Tebow of this year’s vote. He is either going to win by a landslide, or he could get bounced in the first round by the anti-Ray contingent who just shows up to click so he will lose. Curious to see what happens here. Either way, tears will be shed.
Winner: Ray Lewis
ON THE FLIP SIDE
(1) Jerry Rice vs. (16) Fred Taylor
Jerry Rice had to win a play-in round just to make the list of 64, and now all of a sudden he’s a No. 1 seed? Then again, he’s the G.O.A.T., and we could see a Montana vs. Rice showdown heading into the finals. Too bad Steve Young wasn’t the write-in candidate. Would’ve been cool to let the fans vote between Young and Montana.
Winner: Jerry Rice
(9) Eddie George vs. (8) John Randle
Anyone remember when John Randle was on the cover of “NFL Xtreme 2” where you could clothesline, slam and even swing ball carriers around by their arms? I’m surprised Roger Goodell hasn’t tried to go back and retroactively fine Sony for the violent nature of the game.
Winner: Eddie George
(5) Michael Strahan vs. (12) Sterling Sharpe
Would’ve been awesome if it was Sterling against his brother Shannon, just to make for awkward holiday moments as they sit around the dinner table and wonder which members of their family really voted for them.
Winner: Michael Strahan
(4) Kurt Warner vs. (13) Ozzie Newsome
Warner’s Greatest Show on Turf team was also fun to play as in “Madden.” Gamers don’t forget.
Winner: Kurt Warner
(3) Troy Aikman vs. (14) Deuce McAllister
Calling Deuce McAllister a legend is like calling the Big Mac a gourmet burger. Serious mismatch here.
Winner: Troy Aikman
(6) Tim Brown vs. (11) Chad Johnson
If this vote was about who’s the better trash talker, I’d click Chad Johnson all day, but on the field, Tim Brown let his play do all the talking for him.
Winner: Tim Brown
(7) Jim Kelly vs. (10) Terrell Davis
If the Bills win just one of those Super Bowls, how differently do you look at Kelly’s career? T.D., on the other hand, helped push John Elway and the Broncos over the edge and into greatness.
Winner: Terrell Davis
(2) Deion Sanders vs. (15) Cortez Kennedy
When I asked Deion Sanders about his “Madden” character, he told me: “I’m the peanut butter and the jelly. I’m the ham and the cheese. I’m the chocolate in the milk. I’m the syrup on the pancakes.” Who am I to argue?
Winner: Deion Sanders
THE NEW-SCHOOL BRACKET
(1) Colin Kaepernick vs. (16) Antonio Gates
Crazy how Kaepernick went from second string to starter to superstar in the blink of an eye. Kaepernicking on the cover of “Madden 25”? Could make for one of the coolest-looking game boxes in recent memory.
Winner: Colin Kaepernick
(9) Matt Forte vs. (8) AJ Green
AJ Green is one of the best wide receivers in “Madden” to everyone but Green, himself. “I suck at ‘Madden,’” Green told me at this year’s Madden Bowl. “I’m a big gamer, and I’ll sit down and dominate in games like ‘Call of Duty’ all day. I’ll sit there and play ‘Call of Duty’ about five hours at a time, but I play ‘Madden’ and I don’t know what happens, I just suck. Fans come up to me all the time and they tell me how great my character is in the game, but then I throw the ball to me and I drop it. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong; all I know is that I suck.”
Winner: AJ Green
(5) Julio Jones vs. (12) Jimmy Graham
Tough call, but fantasy owners are still mad at the lack of production Jimmy Graham posted last season, and I think it carries over here.
Winner: Julio Jones
(4) Arian Foster vs. (13) Danny Amendola
So, last season the Rams were represented by Brandon Lloyd, who signed in free agency with the Patriots, leaving St. Louis with no player in the vote. This year, Amendola is the candidate, and he’s also a free agent who will most likely sign with a new team. Funny how things work out sometimes.
Winner: Arian Foster
(3) Russell Wilson vs. (14) Justin Blackmon
Wilson has a serious shot at going all the way and making the cover. His toughest matchup looks to be in Round 3, where he would go head-to-head against Andrew Luck.
Winner: Russell Wilson
(6) Von Miller vs. (11) Victor Cruz
Salsa dancing on the cover of “Madden”? It could happen, even if Cruz’s favorite football video game is actually “FIFA.”
Winner: Victor Cruz
(7) Trent Richardson vs. (10) Clay Matthews
I’ve always loved a good sack dance, so as electrifying a runner as Richardson is, I’m going defense.
Winner: Clay Matthews
(2) Andrew Luck vs. (15) Jake Locker
If you were starting a team right now and had to draft one of these two quarterbacks, who would you choose? If you said Locker, please stop reading right now and find a good shrink.
Winner: Andrew Luck
ON THE FLIP SIDE
(1) Robert Griffin III vs. (16) Ryan Tannehill
Imagine the uproar that would’ve happened if RG III’s knee disintegrated after being named the “Madden” cover athlete. CURSE! CURSE! CURSE!
Winner: RG III
(9) Matthew Stafford vs. (8) Doug Martin
Upset that Megatron didn’t try for back-to-back covers. He only broke the single-season receiving record while on the cover last year. I call that looking straight into the eyes of the curse and spitting in its face.
Winner: Doug Martin
(5) Ray Rice vs. (12) Luke Kuechly
Super Bowl champ vs. Defensive Rookie of the Year makes for an intriguing first-round match. I say Rice rides the wave of victory into the second round.
Winner: Ray Rice
(4) Dez Bryant vs. (13) CJ Spiller
Curious to see how this one shakes out. Bryant is a polarizing figure, but he rewarded fantasy owners big time at the end of last season, and I can see the love spilling over here.
Winner: Dez Bryant
(3) Rob Gronkowski vs. (14) Antonio Brown
Has Gronk jumped the shark? Seems like people are getting sick of him dancing around without a shirt acting a fool. But I don’t see Brown putting up much of a fight.
Winner: Rob Gronkowski
(6) Jamaal Charles vs. (11) Darrelle Revis
With Andy Reid’s trade for Alex Smith and the re-signing of Dwayne Bowe, there is a lot of love right now for the Chiefs. The Jets? Not so much.
Winner: Jamaal Charles
(7) Patrick Peterson vs. (10) LeSean McCoy
I would’ve flipped the seeding here, as I just think nationally, LeSean McCoy is the more popular player. Maybe Peterson will prove me wrong, but I think Shady wins this in a landslide.
Winner: LeSean McCoy
(2) Adrian Peterson vs. (15) Carson Palmer
Crazy mismatch here, especially with Purple Jesus coming off one of the most unbelievable seasons in NFL history. I’m voting Peterson all day.
Winner: Adrian Peterson