Seattle Seahawks, Team of Destiny

The Seattle Seahawks were on the cusp of Super Bowl victory and eternal glory, and then it all just slipped away. Yet now, at the dawn of a new season the Seahawks are early favorites to defend their NFC title and return to the Super Bowl to fight the good fight yet again. There is just one glitch with that plan. The Seattle Seahawks are now a team of destiny for the 2006 season.

This is not the good kind of destiny. This is the kind of destiny that will bring sports heartbreak and citywide depression. This is the kind of destiny that can spoil so many hopes and dreams. This is the kind of destiny that results from three independent curses converging on one team at one time. Let’s just say, you don’t want this kind of destiny.

Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl Losers

Some may blame the officiating; Mike Holmgren is certainly one of them. Others may cite bad play. Still others will just say that it was all luck. Whatever the reason, Seattle walked away from Super Bowl XL with a giant loss. And now the fact remains that no such losing team has returned to the playoffs in the succeeding season since the new millennium.

There are many natural reasons for this “curse.” In the name of parity, playoff teams, and division winners in particular, are given tougher schedules, facing numerous playoff teams from the previous season. Attrition is a factor, as free agency will see key contributors leave for more money, while others are released for salary cap reasons. Super Bowl losers also find themselves with a giant target on their back; they are the team to beet and every team they play treats that game as their Super Bowl.

Whether the reasons are this logical or are instead supernatural does not change the trend; Super Bowl losers do not reach the playoffs in the season following that loss.
The curse started when the Baltimore Ravens crushed the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. In the following season the Giants limped to a record of seven wins to nine loses.

At first, no one thought much of this occurrence. Many experts did not actually expect the Giants to reach the playoffs, much like the Super Bowl in 2000, when then head Giant coach Jim Fassel “guaranteed” that his team would make the playoffs. This “guarantee” inspired the team to play beyond their actual level of talent to reach the Super Bowl. It was then not that surprising when the Giants fell back to earth and missed the playoffs in 2001.

The first real surprise came after Super Bowl XXXVI, which featured the start of the New England Patriots’ dynasty and the end of the “Greatest Show on Turf” that was the St. Louis Rams’ prolific offense. This is the same offense that had been dominating defenses for the past three years, and which featured two players in running back Marshall Faulk and quarterback Kurt Warner that held the past three league MVP trophies between them.

This all ended with their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. Marshall Faulk would experience various injuries and never again provide the consistent play-making force that the offense had come to rely on. Kurt Warning turned from potentially Canton-bound to average, inaccurate and sack-prone, and the offense would never again reach the heights of domination and flare it experienced in the years previous. The Rams finished the season with a losing record and without a playoff birth.

The Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers lost the next two Super Bowls to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New England Patriots respectively. In the following season the Oakland team “got old in a hurry,” as their formerly dependable veterans compiled injury after injury and those that remained healthy found their play to be inconsistent at best. This lead to a pathetic record featuring only four wins and twelve losses, and the team has never been the same since. The Panthers experienced their own injury woes in the season following their own Super Bowl loss, which lead to a losing record and remaining home for the playoffs.

The Philadelphia Eagles are perhaps the most surprising team hit with this particular curse. At first, it seemed that the Eagles were the one team built to withstand a post-Super Bowl loss let down. The Eagles had been consistent contenders that past few seasons and were built to win not just now, but in the future as well. The team returned almost all of their key contributors and expectations were high.

There is a poem about the best laid plans of mice and men and the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2005 season certainly went awry. Terrell Owens functioned as a one-man wrecking ball and dashed the Eagles’ hopes before the season even started. Eventually, Owens found himself suspended without pay and then deactivated for much of the 2005 season. Injuries to Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Todd Pinkston as well as an ineffective pass rush and an exposed the Eagles’ secondary did not help matters either. Even a consistent playoff team such as the Eagles were no match for losing the Super Bowl.

With such a history of failure, can Seattle actually hope to buck the trend and contend for the Lombardi trophy once again, or even return to the playoffs? Perhaps with just this one curse, they may have a chance, but with two curses…

Shaun Alexander, Madden Cover Boy

The Madden video game franchise is the best selling franchise in North America since its inception in 1990. Gamers of all ages have enjoyed taking their favorite team or player to the Super Bowl in team or franchise mode, as well as challenging their friends in multiplayer games. Recently, Electronic Arts, the publisher responsible for the game, has sponsored the Madden Bowl, a tournament of NFL players competing against each other in the video game.

Until 1999, the video game featured just John Madden in all his glory on the cover. However, in 1999, the game featured Madden alongside Detroit running back and future hall-of-famer, Barry Sanders. The world of football would never again be the same. Within weeks of the release of Madden 2000 and a week before training camps started, Barry Sanders shocked the sports world and abruptly retired. Ever since, those that grace the cover of Madden have experienced disastrous seasons, some never again regaining the greatness that lead to their featured status on the cover in the first place.

In 2000, there was little hint of a curse, as Madden 2001 cover boy, Eddie George, led the Tennessee Titans to the playoffs. It could be argued that the curse had yet to reach full power. However, what little power the curse held, it used when Eddie George bobbled a pass that Ray Lewis intercepted and promptly returned for a touchdown. This sealed an early trip home for the Titans from the playoffs. Eddie George was never again the same, and his career took an abrupt downward spiral.

The cover of the 2002 edition of Madden featured a young Daunte Culpepper, fresh off an amazing Pro Bowl season in 2000. By now the curse had reached full power as the Vikings, led by Culpepper, stumbled to a 4-7 record, before Daunte was shelved with a knee injury. Culpepper was luckier than some as he would eventually go on to post one of the greatest season ever for a quarterback in 2004. However, it was a season that was greatly overshadowed by Peyton Manning’s record breaking run. In 2005, Daunte would again be forced to the bench over a knee injury and was subsequently traded in the off-season to the Miami Dolphins. Can Culpepper ever truly shake the Madden Cover curse?

Marshall Faulk was featured on the Madden 2003 cover after years of superstardom for both the St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts. However, since that appearance, Faulk has been plagued with injuries and has never again rushed for over a thousand yards. There is a chance that Faulk will have to retire due to injury this very season.

Michael Vick was on his way to stardom. He was revolutionizing the mobile quarterback position with his fast feet, quick moves and cannon of an arm. With all that Vick had going for him; he followed that path of sure career destruction when he appeared on the cover of Madden 2004. He then suffered an injury in the preseason of 2003, and missed the first 11 games of that season. Vick has since been unable to shake the label of injury risk or potential from his name.

Ray Lewis is the weak link in the Madden Cover curse. Lewis appeared on the 2005 cover, but had no major injuries or other such maladies. Though his 2004 season was solid, it was far from his usual performance as he failed to make an interception and had fewer impact plays than in season past.

The Madden cover curse may have been asleep at the wheel for Ray Lewis, but it came back with a furry for Donovan McNabb. Perhaps McNabb felt that the curse had lost its power after Ray Lewis, but for whatever reason he was featured on the cover of Madden 2006. Even worst, this was the season immediately following the Eagles’ Super Bowl loss and fate would surely be cruel to McNabb.

Well, cruel it was. Almost immediately after the Super Bowl, McNabb’s leadership and ability were questioned after his failure to mount a two-minute drill to attempt a last minute comeback for victory. At the same time, the honeymoon period for Terrell Owens and the Eagles came to an abrupt end, as TO incessantly campaigned for a new and much larger contract after only signing his previous agreement less than a year ago. TO wanted to use the leverage of his Super Bowl heroics and sacrifice to secure his financial and controversial future.

McNabb was faced with the brunt of TO’s attacks, which eventually lead to Owens’ suspension and eventual deactivation. Compounding the problem, Todd Pinkston, the Eagles’ consistent, though unspectacular second receiver was injured and out for the season, leaving the Eagles to start inexperienced backup receivers.

To make matters worst, McNabb was diagnosed with a sports hernia that left him unable to take advantage of his mobility, which has always been a large part of his game. After it was clear that the Eagles’ season was doomed and their playoff hopes gone, McNabb was placed on injured reserve and went under the knife to fix that hernia.

Knowing of this curse and seeing the results of appearing on the Madden Cover, who would dare tempt fate and appear on the cover of Madden 2007? The 2005 MVP and recent single season touchdown record holder, Shaun Alexander.

Alexander already has a few too many negatives before his appearance on the Madden cover. He is now at the age when running backs experience a sharp decline in production. He lost one of his main lead blockers and perhaps the best guard in football when Steve Hutchinson left to join the Minnesota Vikings thanks to a “poison pill” contract. And Alexander plays at perhaps the most inconsistent and turnover-heavy of positions at running back where a star one day, is on the street the next.  All of these factors favor heavily against Shaun Alexander, but to top it off he allowed himself to be featured on the cover of Madden 2007. Fantasy players beware.
Perhaps the Seahawks figure that these two curses could cancel each other out, though historically that has not been the case. But then, there is that third curse to worry about…

Matt Hasselbeck, Chunky Soup Can

The Chunky Soup curse is perhaps less well known than the Madden Cover curse, but it is arguably far more devastative.

Terrell Davis was the first professional football player featured on a can of Chunky Soup and in commercials for that same product in 1998. Since that endorsement, Davis immediately went from being the best running back in the league and a sure-thing first ballot hall-of-fame inductee, to being released outright due to numerous injuries, all in the span of two years.

Kurt Warner was the next to have his career ruined by his endorsement of Chunky Soup. The story is familiar to anyone who has even briefly followed the NFL; Warner went from stock boy at a grocery store to NFL MVP practically overnight. He produced perhaps the finest three-year span of any quarterback. Then in his own words, God used every area, every situation, to shape me. Then Chunky Soup happened.

Considering Donovan McNabb would eventually appeared on the cover of Madden, he must not have learned from his disastrous experience with Chunky Soup endorsements. McNabb first endorsed the soup in 2002 and immediately during that season proceeded to break his leg and miss a good deal of the season. Ever since, his career has just not shown the promise that it once held when he almost single handedly brought the Eagles’ franchise from the league basement to perennial contenders.

McNabb is actually the only athlete at this time to directly experience all three curses, and look at the trouble that has followed. From Terrell Owens, to his Super Bowl meltdown, to Rush Limbaugh, to his various injuries and maladies; McNabb has not had the easiest of professional football careers.

In 2004, Chunky Soup decided to go for a trifecta and signed Michael Strahan, Jerome Bettis and Brian Urlacher to Chunky Soup endorsement deals. All three finished the 2004 season on injured reserves.

Always on the lookout for potential victims, Super Bowl quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck and Ben Roethlisberger were to be the new faces of Chunky Soup. We all know what happened to Big Ben.

The day before he was to shoot the advertisement, Roethlisberger, while riding his motorcycle helmet and license-less, crashed into a turning car and found himself in critical condition in the emergency room. The question that now haunts us all is whether that crash was part of the curse, or an attempt to prevent Roethlisberger from shooting the advertisement and becoming cursed.

What is known, is that Hasselbeck was not so (un)lucky and will now have the Chunky soup curse hanging over his shoulder waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

Three’s the Charm

Seattle is not the first team to experience all three curses. St. Louis has never been the same since its Super Bowl loss and star endorsements. Previously, the team was annual contenders and featured one of the greatest offenses ever. Since the three curses, the team has been one of the more dysfunctional organizations. Injuries and inconsistency beset the two star players, Warner and Faulk. The team has been criticized for lack of discipline, including a fight between their head coach and an offensive lineman. Just last year the organization used the hospitalization of head coach Mike Martz to conduct a coup and clean house over the off-season. Perhaps now that the former regime has left, the curses may abate.

As mentioned before, Donovan McNabb has now experienced all three curses himself, and the Eagles suffered greatly for it last season, and perhaps in future seasons as well.

It is now clear that the Seattle Seahawks are in fact a team of destiny, destined to have one of the most ruinous and tragic of seasons. For reasons both natural and supernatural, the Seahawks have little to look forward to, besides 2007.