For the first time in "Madden" franchise history, the coveted (and cursed) cover will be decided by fan vote. Starting Thursday, fans will be able to log on to the Web site doritoschangethegame.com and vote daily for either Drew Brees, Reggie Wayne or Jared Allen to appear on the front of the "Madden NFL 11" box.
Voting will continue through March 15, and EA Sports is expected to announce the winner sometime around the NFL draft in late April.
In talking to Brees earlier this season, he joked that he's a lot better at playing quarterback in real life than he is at "Madden."
"I've never even thrown for six touchdowns in 'Madden,'" Brees told me after throwing six touchdowns against the Lions in real life. "I've had people throw six touchdowns on me, but I've never thrown that many in 'Madden.' Fans tell me that my 'Madden' character is all souped-up in the game, and it's pretty crazy to sit there and see how cool the graphics look, but I guess I'm just not very good at playing as myself."
"No one ever said you had to be good at the game to be on the cover," joked Chris Erb, senior director of partnership marketing for EA Sports. "The idea behind this promotion is that throughout the years, no matter who we end up putting on the cover, it's never the right choice. So the idea here is to bring the consumers into the process and have a voice."
According to Erb, Brees, Wayne and Allen were EA's first three choices for the cover.
"We never even got the chance for anyone to turn us down, because our first three choices all wanted to participate," he said.
"For us, it's never about putting the most famous player on the cover," Erb continued. "Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and [Chad] Ochocinco have never been on the cover. For us, it's about who is hot and relevant, number one, and then we're also looking for guys who are passionate, who are video game fans and guys who have a great story. And for this year, we wanted to have guys who played different positions. We didn't just want fans to pick from three quarterbacks."
And with the selection of Allen, we could be looking at the first mullet on the cover of "Madden."
"That's part of the fun," Erb said, laughing. "Some people are going to look at the list and think Drew Brees is going to win, but Reggie Wayne had an amazing statistical season, and I think he's the best wide receiver in the NFL. And then with Allen, not only is he a great player, but he has the type of personality that would just be a blast to work with.
"I can't wait to see who wins."