Every year, there are certain constants that football fans are able to look forward to.
Whether it’s the start of the regular season, the beginning of the playoffs, or the Super Bowl, there’s always something coming down the pike for the NFL.
While all of those events are related to on-the-field action, there are other constants that come in the digital space, specifically related to EA Sports’ Madden NFL franchise.
The game’s annual release in August stands out as the most important detail, but diehard fans of the franchise know that there are other milestones on the calendar that signal the start of the Madden season.
Between the first gameplay trailer, the reveal of “99 Club” members, or your favorite team’s ratings, EA Sports delivers a slew of content in the months leading up to Madden‘s official release. But, nothing compares to the hype that surrounds the reveal of the year’s cover athlete.
For 2021, the term “cover athlete” doesn’t quite cut it.
Just a few months after an all-time quarterback matchup in Super Bowl LV, EA Sports decided to feature two players for just the second time in the franchise’s history.
Honoring the “G.O.A.T.” and the “Baby G.O.A.T.,” the developer picked Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes for a star-studded cover.
The cover followed a trend that EA Sports has set over the last few years with its NFL, NHL, and UFC releases, opting for more simplistic designs with similar photography.
While many were excited to see such legendary figures photographed together on the cover of what will be a pivotal release in Madden‘s history, others were left to compare the design to others from years past.
Fans instantly made the comparison to Madden NFL 10, which was the first release in franchise history to feature two athletes.
Similarly, EA Sports chose two players that were featured in that year’s Super Bowl, highlighting Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
While the Madden NFL 22 cover simply shows Brady and Mahomes on a practice field, EA Sports created an action shot with Polamalu and Fitzgerald to add some intensity to the Madden NFL 10 cover.
As a result, it’s widely regarded as one of the best Madden covers of all time.
In eight consecutive years from Madden NFL 2001 through Madden NFL 09, EA Sports opted for a rather uniform approach to the Madden cover. Even considering the fact that the covers all looked the same minus the athlete that was featured, fans have a special affinity for Madden NFL 2004.
With Michael Vick on the cover, the game is widely regarded as one of the greatest Madden releases of all time. Even with the simple design, fans are nostalgic instantly when the cover makes an appearance on their social media feeds or on their old video game shelves.
Each Madden cover from Madden NFL 13 through Madden NFL 17 showcased a bit more creativity, with players like Calvin Johnson, Barry Sanders, Richard Sherman, Odell Beckham Jr., and Rob Gronkowski all featured, respectively.
The designs began to stray away from the usual, generic white backgrounds, and actual football fields began to show up behind players, starting with Madden NFL 15.
But, one of the greater covers of recent memory came in 2020, when Madden NFL 21 was released.
That cover featured Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, and completely strayed away from any prior precedent that EA Sports had set.
Jackson was featured in a normal photoshoot image in the center of the design, but multiple other images surrounded the main picture to create more of a collage.
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It contributed to an all-time cover year for EA Sports, which used a similar design for fighters Israel Adesanya and Jorge Masvidal on the cover of UFC 4, and for Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin on the cover of NHL 21.
Madden NFL 22‘s cover is unlike any in the franchise’s history, opting for the most simplistic approach of them all.
It’s not the most unique design in Madden history, and definitely not the most creative out of all the options.
But, when you have two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in one photo, it makes sense to lean more towards the idea that “less is more.”