Peyton Hillis will forever be associated with the ‘Madden Curse’ thanks to his astronomical slump in form following his appearance on the front cover of Madden 12 – unless he can do something with this golden opportunity afforded by the New York Giants.
Whilst many Giants fans will be buoyed by the news, there is simple statistical evidence to suggest not only was Hillis the wrong choice for that video game in 2011, but there were better options available to the Giants at a similar cost in the current market.
This is essentially Hillis’ fourth crack at the big time having previously been bailed out by the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs. His rookie season with the Denver Broncos was sprinkled with promise having notched 343 rushing yards and five touchdowns in six starts. His second year a pro was a major comedown; although Hillis suited up for more games he was largely overlooked and was limited to just 54 yards and a single touchdown all season.
Hillis was rescued by the Browns in 2010 and duly repaid the favor with a stellar season that ultimately led to the most flawed, mind-boggling Madden cover vote in history. Who gets to adorn the front cover of the prestigious video game is not a decision that is taken lightly; there is a rigorous selection process involved involving all 32 NFL teams, hence why it is considered such an accolade.
Hillis was the obvious candidate to represent the then 5-11 Browns. He led the team in rushing yards and had the second-highest receptions whilst contributing a staggering 50 percent of the team’s total touchdowns for the year – although this is where it should have stopped.
Each of the other three semi-finalists in the vote were more deserving of the award than Hillis. There was Aaron Rodgers, who led his team to victory in the Super Bowl, Michael Vick, who was the second-highest fantasy points scorer across the league in the regular season, and there was Adrian Peterson, who produced Hillis in total rushing yardage and number of rushing touchdowns.
The fact it was an impressive season for the third-year running back cannot be disputed. He carried the can for a Browns team that chopped and changed their quarterback like there was no tomorrow and accumulated 13 all-purpose touchdowns along with over 1,500 total yards rushing and receiving. His appearance on the front cover of Madden 12 suggests he was the standout player of 2010 when in truth he was far from it.
Hillis finished the season with the 11th-highest rushing yards total; ironically, Ahmad Bradshaw, whom the Giants let go in the most recent offseason, was among the ten better performers. 14 other running backs finished with a more impressive yards-per-game average; these included Michael Turner, who is also available as a free agent currently, and Ryan Torain, whom the Giants cut at the beginning of the 2013 season. With the second-most receptions on the Browns roster it was Hillis’ ability as an all-purpose back that drew much praise. However, it remains a fact that there were seven other running backs that completed the 2010 season with more receiving yards than the man in question.
The initial argument here was that Hillis should never have made the front cover of the video game for which he will forever be associated, and that was well supported. In truth, it wasn’t even as outstanding a season as perhaps Hillis has been credited for. It was by his standards very much a breakout year given the way he’d fallen out of favor with the Broncos the season before, but unfortunately for Hillis and all associated it was also a standalone year.
The following season in 2011 he went in the first round of many fantasy football drafts only to frustrate and disappoint his owners. He had the same effect on the Browns and their fans that year as he failed to live up to his own high standards, before injuries and personality clashes saw the franchise cut their losses.
After failing to make enough impact with the Chiefs, a team that place a large emphasis on their run game, Hillis has wound up floating around on the market and an injury-prone veteran as far as running backs are concerned. He surely will be nothing more than a stopgap for the Giants who have the return of Andre Brown in the pipeline. Those Giants fans getting excited about Hillis recapturing that scintillating form of 2010 should seriously temper their expectations. Peyton Hillis will always be that one-season-wonder.