Calvin Johnson or Cam Newton? It's a tough call, and either would make a good pick for the cover of Madden 13. Before I explain my pick and make a prediction, here are the previous winners...
2001 - Eddie George
2002 - Daunte Culpepper
2003 - Marshall Faulk
2004 - Michael Vick
2005 - Ray Lewis
2006 - Donovan McNabb
2007 - Shaun Alexander
2008 - Vince Young
2009 - Brett Favre
2010 - Larry Fitzgerald/Troy Polamalu
2011 - Drew Brees
2012 - Peyton Hillis
As you can see, there have been six quarterbacks on the cover as opposed to .5 receivers. That should weigh in to everyone's decision. But we can't just vote Calvin in because he's a receiver. We have to decide if he's good enough to warrant something that no one who has ever played his position has ever received. Through the Madden cover era, the best wide receiver we've seen has been Randy Moss, who's considered by many people to be the second best receiver to ever play the game behind the Jerry Rice. If Moss never graced the cover, how could Calvin?
Then again, is the Madden cover even about recognizing greatness? This has been going on from 2001-present, yet neither Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, the two guys who have dominated the era, have never been on the cover. The more I look at it, the Madden cover seems to be about three things: 1) Recognizing an outstanding single season performance and 2) Recognizing the "hottest" athlete at the time in both the real NFL and the video game and 3) recognizing recent post-season success
Eddie George's cover came a year after his best statistical performance, when he rushed for 1500 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Daunte Culpepper's came after he burst on the seen as one of the most exciting QBs in the game
Marshall Faulk's came after a hot season and a Super Bowl victory
Michael Vick's came after bursting on the scene as the hottest young QB in real life and especially the video game
Ray Lewis' came after a DPOY award
Donovan McNabb's came after his best statistical season when the Eagles were the most exciting team in the game with him and T.O.
Shaun Alexander's came after his ridiculous 1880 yard, 27 touchdown season
Vince Young's came after an average statistical year, but he was still one of the freshest young stars in the game
Brett Favre's came after this come back year with the Packers when he was the hottest player in the game besides Brady
Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu's cover came after they met in the Super Bowl
Drew Brees' came after his Super Bowl victory
Peyton Hillis' came after his unreal year
So, out of the three categories that all these fall into, who has the edge in each?
Single Season Numbers
Cam Newton - 4,051 yards, 21 tds, 17 ints, 60% completion, 706 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns
Calvin Johnson - 96 receptions, 1,681, 16 touchdowns
The Edge - I'm actually going to go with Calvin...Calvin was 4th in receptions, 1st in yards, and 1st in touchdowns among wide receivers. Cam is 10th in yards and 11th in touchdowns among quarterbacks. He is 1st in rushing yards, and second in the entire league in touchdowns, but how many of those came from the 1 yard line? Calvin's season is more impressive to me.
This has got to be Newton. Calvin's been around for five years now, and while he's cool as hell, Newton captivated everyone with his play last year.
This is obviously Calvin. He was on the better team, but not only did he make it to the playoffs, but he played at the highest level a receiver can play at in that game against the Saints. He was simply un-guardable, catching 12 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
My vote goes to Calvin. He beats out Cam in two of the three categories that have decided the previous winners, and he'd be the first of his position to grace the cover alone. Cam will get his cover one way or another, because he's just scratched the surface of his potential. Calvin, however, had one of the best years in recent memory by a receiver last year and took over as the best player at his position.
My prediction is also Calvin. While you might expect Cam to dominate in vote getting, he barely edged out Patrick Willis last week while Calvin easily handled Aaron Rodgers. Here's to hoping we see Megatron on the cover of Madden 13'.
To vote, click here.