Two of the most famous curses in sports history are no more: The Boston Red Sox finally won a World Series in 2004, and the Chicago Cubs followed suit in 2016. That got us thinking: Are there any similar curses in pro football?
The Curse of Bobby Layne
Through the end of the 2015-16 NFL season, only four teams have never been to the Super Bowl. Oddly, one of them is one of the oldest teams in American professional sports: The Detroit Lions. Before the merger of the NFL and the AFL in the late ’60s, however, the Lions appeared in six NFL championships games and won four. In the ’50s, Lions quarterback and kicker Bobby Layne led the team to three titles. But he was injured at the end of the 1957 and traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the early weeks of the 1958 season. Layne was reportedly so offended by the unceremonious dumping that he declared the Lions “wouldn’t win for 50 years.” Now, more than 50 years later, the Lions still haven’t been a NFL champion. During the period of Layne’s “curse,” the Lions went 1-10 in playoff games. In 2008, the 50th anniversary of the curse, the team posted a “perfect” 0-16 record.
The Curse of the Maroons
They’ve been playing in Phoenix since only 1988, but the Arizona Cardinals are one of the oldest teams in the NFL, originating as an amateur club team in Chicago in 1898 called the Racine Normals (they played in Chicago’s Normal Park, located on Racine Street). As pro football developed, the team joined in and soon became the Chicago Cardinals. The team lost of the 1925 NFL championship game to the Pottsville Maroons (of Pottsville, Pennsylvania). A few days later, the pro champs played the college champs, Notre Dame, in an exhibition game in Philadelphia. However, doing so was against the “territorial rights” of the Frankford Yellow Jackets. The Maroons were harshly punished: fined $500, kicked out of the league, and removed of their championship. It was given to the Cardinals, the runner-up squad. It was then that Maroons fans supposedly cursed the Cardinals from ever winning a championship again…until the 1925 title is restored. In 2008, the Arizona Cardinals made their first ever Super Bowl appearance. They lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that, like the Maroons is from…Pennsylvania.
The Madden Curse
Beginning in 1999, video game publisher EA Sports decided to put a dominant player on the cover of its annual release of football game Madden NFL (instead of coach and sportscaster John Madden). And nearly every single time, the player chosen has gone on to have a lousy season at best or a nasty injury at worst. For example: Garrison Heart of the San Francisco 49ers appeared on the cover of Madden 99, and then suffered a broken ankle. Surgical complications led to bone death and two-seasons off the field recuperating. Another example: 2006 cover guy Donovan McNabb suffered a groin injury and upon his return to play tore a ligament in his knee. In 2012, Cleveland Browns star Peyton Hills blamed being on the cover of Madden NFL for his terrible play that year.