John Madden graces the cover of the Madden NFL 23 video game; on the front lines for the first time since Madden 2000


 John Madden graces the cover of the Madden NFL 23 video game;  on the front lines for the first time since Madden 2000

As a tribute to his namesake, the Madden NFL 23 video game cover will feature one person: John Madden.

Madden, the Hall of Fame coach who died December 28, will be featured on the cover of all three editions of this year’s game, due out in August. It’s the first time in over two decades that Madden has been the focus of the cover, which tends to use current athletes.

“We were thinking about this year’s game and who would be there; it almost became an obvious answer,” Madden NFL executive producer Seann Graddy told ESPN. “I’m saying that because this year we really wanted to celebrate Coach in the product and what he has meant to us in the 30+ years that we’ve used his name in our game.”

Madden was most recently the main cover persona for the 2000 edition of the game, released in 1999. He appeared in a small box with his signature and the All Madden logo alongside the lead cover athlete for the next four issues of the game before disappearing from the cover of Madden NFL 06, on which Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb , was seen.

EA then switched to using current athletes for each year’s coverage. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady shared it last year.

Graddy told ESPN that putting Madden on the cover was only discussed for this year’s game, but said, “To be honest, anything is possible” to put the former coach on the cover in the future.

The cover of All Madden – one of three covers this year – commemorates the original John Madden Football released June 1, 1988 Diagram of X and O on a plaque with the game’s name on top of the box.

The cover of the All Madden Edition shows a similar looking young Madden holding a soccer ball and rushing through a paper full of X’s and O’s. The side of the cover reads “Thank you, Coach” in white lettering.

Chuck Styles, a Philadelphia-based artist who has designed exclusive trading cards for Topps in his Project70 release as well as much work with NBA players, designed the cover art for the All Madden edition.

The other two covers, not created by Styles, feature Madden as the coach and broadcaster. The broadcast cover features Madden in a blue shirt and tie, who appears to be drawing on a telestrator, which he was famous for during his career. The coach cover has Madden, who coached the Oakland Raiders from 1969-1978, lifted from his players after he defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.

“What we all wanted to take away,” Graddy said, “is that we’re celebrating all three phases of Coach Madden’s legacy.”

Madden was immersed in the game from the start, calling for an 11v11 and handing over its old playbook to game developers to add more realism. As the game grew, so did its impact on players. Many current NFL players say Madden was part of their upbringing — Detroit Lions defenseman Jeff Okudah told ESPN in 2020 that he learned football by playing Madden — and that was always a proud point for the namesake of the game.

“It gives you the satisfaction that you’re doing something worthwhile,” Madden told ESPN in 2021. “You and everyone involved puts in time, and it works and influences people to not only enjoy the game, but to be able to play the game.”

“It helps them become better players. And I think that goes for high school, college, and the pros. It’s a real satisfaction when you address it.”

While many of the gameplay features for this year’s edition have yet to be announced, Graddy said the opening experience will see two versions of Madden from the 1970s coached against each other – one managing an NFC All Madden team and the other an AFC All Madden team — in the old Oakland Coliseum.

“It’s just a fun fantasy experience where there’s Coach Madden vs. Coach Madden,” Graddy said. “With a call back from the All Madden teams he used to create that we used to have in our game, a mix of legendary players and players of today.

“Honestly, the thought of why we wanted Coach vs. Coach is we want Coach to win.”

During this experience, Graddy said, between the comments, there will be lines spoken by Madden about some of the players in the All Madden rosters.

As part of the cover announcement, EA announced that its $5 million donation to the John Madden Legacy Commitment to Education will be split, with $2.5 million going to nonprofits College Track, Girls Who Code , StreetCode Academy and Mission Bit join forces to support five-year program in science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The other $2.5 million will help create the EA Madden Scholarship, which will work with the United Negro College Fund to provide scholarships to students at 12 historically black colleges and universities.

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