The Best NFL Rumors and Scandals in History Will Change How You Think About Football

Rumors are always floating around the NFL. Whether it involves a salacious scandal like Deflategate or even the dreaded Madden curse, football always has its fair share of drama on and off the field. While some rumors are wrong and others are blown out of proportion, a few have rocked the NFL and changed how the organization operates altogether. Here, we clarify the top scandals and best NFL rumors that fans can’t get enough of.

The New England Patriots’ Deflategate scandal

One of the most controversial scandals over the past few years involved former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Some saw it as proof that both the team and Brady are cheaters; others claimed it was a poor attempt by the league to smear one of the greatest football dynasties.

Deflategate came down to this: Did the Patriots decrease the inflation of certain game balls at Brady’s request? Did it give New England an unfair advantage? Ultimately, the scandal brought up more questions than answers. An NPR report found that it was “more probable than not” that Deflategate happened.

Brady served a four-game suspension, and the team incurred several fines. However, scientists argued that certain weather conditions could deflate the balls. By that time, it was already too late; the damage was done. Brady and Co. will forever be linked to Deflategate. For the iconic quarterback, it will likely serve as merely a footnote in his record-setting career. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers faced rumors over the years

The Patriots aren’t the only team suspected of “deflating” a game ball. In 2016, the New York Giants accused the Pittsburgh Steelers of the same crime. However, the NFL squashed the story almost as soon as it broke, and business returned to normal.

Yahoo Sports is quick to question why the Patriots and Brady got dragged through the mud over similar allegations yet the Steelers walked away scot-free. Is it because the first Deflategate went on forever and yielded limited conclusions? Maybe. Whatever the reason, the Steelers always seem to make their way into the middle of a scandal.

In 2006, when the Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, media and fans went crazy. Not because Pittsburgh won, but due to obvious bad calls made by officials. Many questioned whether the game was fixed.

According to Bleacher Report, the referee crew chief for the game added fuel to the fire. He said, “I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter, and I impacted the game, and as an official, you never want to do that.” While the NFL and its supervisor of officiating vehemently deny any wrongdoing, it remains part of NFL folklore.

The Madden Curse

For nearly 25 years, EA Sports has cautiously dismissed claims of a curse that affects successful NFL players. Dubbed the “Madden curse,” the suspicion involves many NFL superstars either suffering injuries soon after being featured on the cover of the video game or having their contracts terminated mysteriously.

The history of the infamous Madden curse dates back to the late ’90s. Some of the players supposedly affected see their NFL careers cut short; others fall into unexplainable confrontations with law enforcers.

Does the Madden curse really strike?

Daunte Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings leaves the game after being injured, sparking allegations of the Madden Curse, one of the best NFL rumors in football history
The Minnesota Vikings’ Daunte Culpepper is injured in 2005 | Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

Many players have experienced an unfortunate turn of events soon after gracing the cover of Madden. Antonio Brown started his football career on a high note. After a remarkable season, he was fortunate to grace the NFL Madden Cover in 2019. However, a difficult offseason soon followed.

Brown was involved in an altercation with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It resulted in the termination of his Steelers contract. Later, Brown developed frostbite on his feet, which caused him to stay off the field for some time.

Iconic superstars, including John Madden, Daunte Culpepper, and Shaun Alexander, are among NFL players believed to be affected by the curse. All of their football careers ended mysteriously, CBS Sports reports.

However, EA Sports has denied claims. The sports video game company argues that the injuries and other misfortunes are a normal part of the NFL. More prominent players have avoided the Madden curse after appearing on the cover.

Patrick Mahomes recently defied the NFL curse, even though he suffered an arm injury. Brady, Rob Gronkowski, and Odell Beckham Jr. fared well despite appearing on the cover — further proof that the Madden curse could be false. Regardless, there’s another NFL curse that’s more daunting.

The NFL MVP curse

Many players who win the coveted NFL MVP Award end up losing in the Super Bowl. Football fans often discuss the idea that a player cannot win the MVP award and Super Bowl in the same year, which may be true if history is anything to go by. However, players like Kurt Warner and Terrell Davis overcame the curse when they won the MVP and Super Bowl in the same year.

Big names, including Peyton Manning, Brady, Aaron Rogers, Warner, and Matt Ryan have all been victims of the MVP curse, as CBS Sports reports. Despite winning five MVP awards during his NFL career, Manning has two Super Bowl wins. Ironically, the championship successes came during the two years that Manning lost the NFL MVP award.

According to Sportskeeda, Manning won his first Super Bowl ring in 2007 while playing for the Indianapolis Colts. It wasn’t until 2016 that he won his second Super Bowl ring, which also happened to be his last active season; he retired that same year.

Brady suffered the same fate when he won the MVP award in 2007 and 2010; he failed to win the Super Bowl in those two years. So, is it an NFL curse, or did other teams perform better? If you think you’ve heard everything, take a look at what the Superdome curse has done to sports manias.

The Superdome Curse

The Superdome curse seems more of a superstitious belief. According to the New York Daily News, a voodoo priestess would perform rituals before the start of games in a bid to secure a team’s victory. It all began with the Saints. In 2000, New Orleans brought in a priestess named Ava Kay Jones to do this before the playoff game against the Rams.

During the matchup, in the company of drummers and dancers, Jones was seen chanting and calling on supernatural powers while holding a voodoo doll. Whether it was a charm or luck, the Saints clinched their first postseason win.

When contacted a second time, Jones couldn’t convince the spirits. The Saints lost terribly. Fans angrily threw beer bottles on the field in disappointment. According to ESPN, the rituals are a way of honoring the ancestors, who would remove any obstacles preventing the team from winning. To lift the curse, the priestesses would use a snake to honor the voodoo queen, Marie Laveau, who then grants victory.

The Super Bowl Curse

Since 1992, the Super Bowl curse is a phrase used to describe three situations involving NFL championships. First, championship participants follow up with a lower-than-expected performance in the subsequent year. Second, teams do not repeat as Super Bowl champions. And last, the host team of the championship always fails on its home turf.

The home-field curse has affected many teams over the years. In the last 27 seasons, the overall record of NFL teams that will host the Super Bowl the next season is 250-214 (53.8%), details Boyd’s Bets. The next year, when each of these teams actually host the championship, the record drops miserably to 203-261 (43.8%).

Notable, recent examples include New Orleans going 7-9 and missing the playoffs; the Indianapolis Colts finishing with a record of 2-14, and the Dallas Cowboys going down at 1-7. Other teams hurt by the alleged Super Bowl curse include the Dolphins, Miami, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

History is cruel, as seen with the past teams that hosted or won a Super Bowl. So, if you believe in the Super Bowl curse, you’ll have the answers for last year’s champions: Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The best NFL rumors from the Super Bowl halftime show

The infamous Nipplegate scandal still shocks people nearly two decades later. Taking place on February 1, 2004, the event is likely the most scandalous moment in Super Bowl halftime show history. (Pop star Justin Timberlake pulled off part of Janet Jackson’s outfit, exposing her to cameras feeding to an audience of over 140 million.)

Many people believe there was more to it than a “wardrobe malfunction,” as the performers’ media reps stated. It was the last song of the evening (“Rock Your Body”), and it took place as Timberlake sang the last line, which goes, “Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song.”

While others believe the exposure was on purpose, Jackson herself has never commented. The FCC received 540,000 complaints — 65,000 alone from the Parents Television Council, according to CNN. The “Nipplegate” sensation lasted for months, and the complaints resulted in settlements amounting to $3.5 million.

The Chicago Honey Bears Curse

The curse of the Chicago Honey Bears is one of the most fascinating in the Super Bowl, details Football Babble. It all started when the Chicago Bears’ then-President Michael McCaskey decided to get rid of the team’s cheerleading squad, called the Chicago Honey Bears, in 1985. Since then, Chicago has only gone 5-9 in the playoffs and never qualified for the championship.

The main reason for McCaskey’s directive is not public. However, the explanation offered by the organization is that they felt the cheerleaders did not add value to the team. The Honey Bears had appeared on the sideline from 1977 to 1985.

And finally … NFL trade rumors for the 2021 season

As soon as the Super Bowl ends, it’s time to talk trades. Diehard fans know there’s nothing to do until the next season except speculate about the deals and players involved. For the 2021 NFL season, one of the most-discussed trade rumors focuses on Deshaun Watson.

The Houston Texans quarterback was supposed to be the franchise quarterback. But foolish trades and an underperforming head coach made him struggle to pick up the pieces. By the time Bill O’Brien left, Watson wanted out of Texas. Then, things would get much worse. In early 2021, 22 women filed lawsuits against him, alleging sexual misconduct and harassment. Watson’s once-bright future is now hanging by a thread.