Sports writers and commentators love to cast professional athletes as heroes and villains, and nowhere is this truer than in the National Football League (NFL). For every good guy, All-American quarterback such as Aaron Rogers, there is a mean defensive tackle such as Ndamukong Suh waiting to step on his injured leg during the playoffs (which actually happened last season). And many things can cast a professional football player as a villain. For some it is dirty play on the field, for others it is holding out for more money or shooting their mouth off in the media. Whatever the reason, villains abound in the NFL and there is never any shortage of news stories designed to rile up fans in cities across America. Here’s a look at some of the biggest current villains in pro football.
10. Darrelle Revis
He is arguably the best cornerback in the league today and fresh off a Super Bowl victory with the New England Patriots. But despite his success, Darrelle Revis cannot shake the image that he is a ruthless mercenary who has no loyalty and will play for whichever team pays him the most money. Indeed, Revis became public enemy number one in New England this spring when he abandoned the Patriots after one victorious season and returned to his first team, the New York Jets, on a five-year, $70 million contract with $39 million of guaranteed money. This was after Revis concluded a one year contract worth $16 million with the Patriots. He also played the 2013 NFL season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after signing a six year deal with that team worth a whopping $96 million. However, just like in New England, Revis only spent one year with Tampa Bay before leaving as an unrestricted free agent. And while Darrelle Revis’s penchant for team hopping has made him very wealthy and helped him get a Super Bowl ring, it has left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans—especially in the Boston area.
9. Richard Sherman
Known as the mouthiest person on and off the field, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has a penchant for shooting his mouth off in the media and to players on opposing teams. He came to prominence in the media in October 2012 after a game in which the Seahawks narrowly beat the New England Patriots and he got into Tom Brady’s face, exclaiming “You mad, bro?” to a disinterested Brady. Sherman has since gotten into spats and made public pronouncements on numerous occasions—none more notorious than in January 2014 when, after his tipped pass ensured the Seahawks a victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship game, Sherman loudly declared himself to be the “best corner in the game” on national television and called San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree a “sorry” receiver. All the trash talking has helped to increase Richard Sherman’s fame, but it has not endeared him to many players, fans or sportswriters who think the Stanford graduate may be too clever for his own good.
8. Kam Chancellor
The big holdout story of the current NFL season, Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor skipped training camp and his team’s first two games over a money dispute. Chancellor, a three time Pro Bowl selection, and the self-proclaimed leader of Seattle’s much heralded “Legion of Boom” defense, felt he was owed more money than the current $7 million a season he is earning. He was especially upset after teammates Richard Sherman ($14 million a year) and Russell Wilson ($21.9 million a year) signed lucrative contract extensions with the Seahawks. Kam Chancellor demanded a new contract, and, when the Seahawks’ front office balked, he left his team and Seattle fans in the lurch. This has proven to be especially upsetting to the fan base, who watched in horror as Seattle lost its first two games of the 2015 campaign. Fortunately, Kam returned in time for Week Three (without a new contract) and the Seahawks managed to beat the hapless Chicago Bears. But the damage to Kam Chancellor’s reputation will take some time to repair.
7. Jay Cutler
Chicago has a love/hate relationship with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. In recent years it has been mostly hate, as Cutler’s lack of ball security, habit of throwing interceptions and general poor attitude has helped to doom the Bears franchise, keeping them out of the playoffs and sending fans into a tizzy. Things have gotten so bad for Cutler in the Windy City that there were media reports this off-season of Chicago restaurants refusing to serve Cutler and asking him to leave their premises. One Chicago eatery called Pauline’s proudly sells a “Cutler Pick Six Omelette” that enables customers to pick six ingredients for the price of three. To be sure, Jay Cutler has given football fans in Chicago a lot to despise in recent years. Although always viewed as a big arm talent, Cutler has never been able to play consistently well throughout his career. He also irked Bears fans in the 2010 NFC Championship game against the rival Green Bay Packers when he sat out the second half with a knee injury. There’s also his current seven year, $126.7 million contract, including $54 million guaranteed, that, sadly for Bears fans, makes Cutler untradeable.
6. Rex Ryan
Known for brash pronouncements, bold predictions and horrific let downs, Rex Ryan is the coach with arguably the biggest mouth in the NFL. He entered his first NFL head coaching job with the New York Jets by announcing that he was not in the AFC East Division to “kiss Bill Belichick’s rings,” and then proceeded to lose consistently to the New England Patriots over the next five seasons. Now leading the long suffering Buffalo Bills, it appears to be more of the same. Heading into a Week Two match-up against the Pats in Buffalo, Rex Ryan was everywhere in the media talking about how the Bills were going to stomp the Pats and working fans up into a frothy lather. He even had people in the stands at the game chanting “We want Brady” at the start of the game. Well, the Bills got Pats quarterback Tom Brady alright. In fact, not only did the Patriots beat Buffalo 40-32 in the game, but Tom Brady threw for 466 yards – the most yards ever allowed by a Bills defense in a single game. After the drubbing, a humiliated and sheepish Rex Ryan was left telling the media “This one’s on me.”
5. Johnny Manziel
The NFL is littered with hyped college prospects who don’t live up to expectations. Case in point, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. But while many top draft picks have trouble adjusting to the game played in the pros, Johnny Manziel has managed to alienate fans further with his off-the-field behavior. This irritating and juvenile behavior includes the super annoying money sign that Johnny Manziel loves flashing, trademarking the name “Johnny Football,” which he loves calling himself, several arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct, and a stint in rehab after his first season in the NFL. However, what makes Johnny Manziel so hated is the fact that all of this bad behavior has gone on while he rode the bench in Cleveland. For most of his, so far, unimpressive NFL career, Manziel has been a back-up quarterback to other career back-ups such as Brian Hoyer and Josh McCown. Yes, it turns out that Johnny Manziel does not have the talent or ability to back-up his brash behavior, leading many disappointed fans in Cleveland to call him “Johnny Bench” rather than “Johnny Football.”
4. Ndamukong Suh
He was a much hated, and feared, villain in the NFL long before he left the Detroit Lions for the Miami Dolphins and a blockbuster contract worth $114.4 million over six years. After all, Ndamukong Suh was always known for dirty plays on the field and intentionally trying to hurt other players—as in last year’s playoffs when he purposely stepped on the injured leg of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers. However, fans in the Motor City were always willing to forgive the oft fined and suspended Suh for his transgressions. And, over time, Ndamukong Suh was seen as a representative of hard scrabble Detroit. His aggressive style of play seemed to fit the Lions defense. All that was before he left the frigid winters of Detroit for the sunny palm trees of Miami and a new gig anchoring the Dolphins defense. But fans in South Beach aren’t too happy with Ndamukong Suh so far, as his play with Miami this season has not been great.
3. DeMarco Murray
Running back DeMarco Murray was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2014 and led the league with 1,845 rushing yards—a record for his then-team, The Dallas Cowboys. However, despite his success in Dallas, DeMarco Murray did the unthinkable last off-season and signed with the division rival Philadelphia Eagles for a five year contract valued at $42 million. The Cowboys were not willing to match the offer as they credited much of Murray’s success in Big D to the team’s offensive line—which happens to be the best in the NFL. Nevertheless, DeMarco Murray earned the scorn of Cowboys fans everywhere for his betrayal. Those hurt Cowboys fans are no doubt enjoying watching Murray struggle with the Philadelphia Eagles. In a Week Two match-up against the Dallas Cowboys, Murray was held to just two yards rushing on 13 carries and caught only five passes for 53 yards in a 20-10 loss. Fans in Philadelphia are, so far, underwhelmed. And Murray is now missing games due to an injury suffered in practice. Not a great start in a new city, and not the way to endear yourself to fans.
2. Chip Kelly
Probably the only man more hated than DeMarco Murray in Philadelphia right now is Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Accused of being racist by former teammates, Kelly single handedly dismantled the talented team he inherited in the City of Brotherly Love—shipping quarterback Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams, all-pro running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson to the Washington Redskins. He then made questionable decisions such as bringing quarterback Tim Tebow into training camp. However, despite all the controversy, Chip Kelly has remained defiantly arrogant and convinced that the Eagles will be a better team once remade in his image. However, the former college coach of the Oregon Ducks has had egg on his face after the Eagles lost their first two games of the current season in spectacular fashion. Fans in Philadelphia are now calling for Chip Kelly’s head and media reports state that the team’s owners have Kelly on an extremely short leash.
1. The New England Patriots
The New England Patriots collectively get the top spot on this list for being the NFL team that everyone loves to hate. Sure, you could put quarterback Tom Brady or head coach Bill Belichick on this list. One could even argue that team owner Robert Kraft deserves a spot here. But let’s be honest, people hate the entire Patriots organization. The “Patriot Way” as it has come to be known is reviled by football fans outside of New England. Hell, even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office spent the last off-season waging a public war against the Patriots and their star quarterback. The team was fined $1 million (the largest fine ever levied against an NFL franchise), lost two draft picks and Tom Brady was suspended four games for the Deflategate controversy. And while Tom Brady has since had his suspension overturned in court, he has continued to draw the ire of NFL fans across America who are tired of seeing the Patriots succeed year in and year out. From Bill Belichick’s short sleeved hoodies to Tom Brady’s supermodel wife, Rob Gronkowski’s end zone ball spikes and owner Robert Kraft’s sneakers—everything about the 2014 Super Bowl champs upsets football fans. And yet, the Patriots have responded to all of the haters as they always do—by continuing to win. So far this season, the Pats are 3-0, have scored 119 points—49 more points than the second highest scoring team in the league, and are on pace to eclipse their historic 2007 undefeated 16-0 regular season. Damn those Patriots. All they do is win!