Colleagues who are unable to coexist peacefully often sour work environments across the globe. Toxic co-workers can disrupt morale, strain relationships and hinder an entire team’s job performance. Essentially, bickering malcontents can make the workday a living hell. Unsurprisingly, the NFL isn’t an exception and plenty of its colleagues have endured poisonous partnerships over the years.
John Fassel became the Los Angeles Rams’ interim coach after Jeff Fisher’s axing on December 12, 2016. Fassel was determined to establish a healthy atmosphere and create widespread chemistry throughout the organization.
"Coaches chemistry, coaches-and-players chemistry, coaches-and-management chemistry, players-and-management chemistry," said Fassel, who resumed his original role as the Rams’ special team coordinator at the conclusion of last season’s campaign.
“That’s a really good word to use -- chemistry. But then it takes somebody to have their fingers on the pulse and know how to build it. That would be something that I would really look forward to. That’s what I want.”
Wholesome competition can deter players from becoming complacent. Conversely, when battling for a promotion or particular roster spot, competition can spawn envy, resentment and disdain. Such emotions can ruin an alliance and lead to gossip, harassment, bullying and even violence. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year. The NFL faces this issue and plenty of serious fights have erupted between associates over the past couple of decades.
With or without bloodshed, let’s analyze the relationships of 15 former NFL teammates who still hate each other today.
15 JOE MONTANA AND STEVE YOUNG
Legendary quarterback Joe Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl championships in the 1980s. Despite Montana’s brilliance under center, the 49ers acquired southpaw signal-caller Steve Young from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April 1987. “Joe Cool” was incensed by Young’s arrival and he treated the athletic Mormon like an outcast.
"[Joe] was so competitive -- and you know players will try to beat each other at Tiddlywinks -- it was such an affront to him," Young's agent, Leigh Steinberg remembered.
"It really put a tension, suspicion, distrust, into that relationship between Steve and Joe from the start. Steve was like the younger brother who venerated Montana and loved Joe. Joe was a proud competitive incumbent who didn't want Steve there."
San Francisco’s hierarchy traded Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs in April 1993. Finally relieved of Montana’s overbearing presence, Young guided the 49ers to a 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. While the absolute hatred between the two Hall of Famers has reportedly subsided, it is widely known that Montana and Young still dislike and avoid each other.
14 SHELDON RICHARDSON AND BRANDON MARSHALL
New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson was ecstatic when wide receiver Brandon Marshall signed a two-year contract worth $12 million to become a Giant in March. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound Richardson and 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marshall began feuding at halftime of the Jets’ 24-3 loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City last September. Tensions between the pair of loudmouths never cooled and a few more incidents transpired before the gloomy 2016 season ended.
"I enjoy being here," said Richardson, 26.
"Locker room is a whole lot easier to get along with now. Let's just say we've got 15 reasons why it's better."
Meanwhile, Marshall, who wore the No. 15 jersey as a Jet, is thrilled that he swapped the color green for blue.
“For me, I just knew I couldn’t be in that environment,” said Marshall, 33. “I wouldn’t have made it through an entire season knowing that we didn’t have a chance.”
13 JAY CUTLER AND J’MARCUS WEBB
Former Chicago Bears offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb is one of countless individuals who loathe now retired quarterback Jay Cutler. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Cutler berated and physically bumped the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Webb during a Bears defeat to the Green Bay Packers in September 2012. Notoriously disliked by many of his peers, Cutler struggled to apologize to Webb.
"I probably shouldn't have bumped him," said Cutler, 34, who hit 23 reps on the bench press at 225 pounds at the 2006 NFL Scouting Combine.
"You know, I'll go with that. As far as me yelling at him and trying to get him going in the game, I don't regret that. He's my left tackle. I expect him each and every week to play at a certain level, and I think he expects himself to play that well, too. Shouldn't have bumped him. I'll stick to that."
The Bears waived Webb in August 2013.
12 PERCY HARVIN AND GOLDEN TATE
Fullback Michael Robinson broke up a fistfight between wide receivers Percy Harvin and Golden Tate when the trio was Seattle Seahawks in 2013. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Harvin, an infamous basket case, contends that the 5-foot-10, 197-pound Tate was jealous of him. Tate refuted Harvin’s claim and noted that his rival also had problems as a Jet and Viking.
“There was never any jealousy on my end,” said Tate, 28, a 2014 Pro Bowler with the Detroit Lions.
“(Harvin’s) role in Seattle and my role were different so there was no need for me to be jealous. I wanted to win a Super Bowl that year and that’s all I wanted, that’s all I cared about. I think it was just a misunderstanding between him and I and I know it didn’t work out with the Vikings, the Seahawks or the Jets.”
Predictably, Harvin placed all blame on Tate.
“It was a constant thing,” said Harvin, 29, who retired in March. “It was something that got under my skin. I felt like they were acting like kids.”
11 BRETT FAVRE AND AARON RODGERS
More than three years before Aaron Rodgers supplanted Brett Favre as the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback, the two became enemies. The Packers drafted the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Rodgers out of California with the 24th pick in 2005. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Favre was reportedly eating breakfast when, without having ever met, Rodgers strolled by and said, “Good morning, grandpa!” Favre was seething and retaliated by overseeing a series of cruel pranks on Rodgers. In the spring of 2008, Green Bay’s C-level executives finally tired of Favre’s indecisiveness and named Rodgers as the team’s starter. The Packers’ decision to choose Rodgers over Favre led to one of the ugliest divorces in sports history. Last November, Favre couldn’t resist criticizing Rodgers following Green Bay’s 31-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
“Aaron being the leader, rather than talk about it afterwards, we've got to figure out a way to be excited about playing," said Favre, 47.
"I hear Aaron's comments and there was three-and-outs, three-and-outs, three-and-outs, and they got it in gear a little bit too late."
10 JAY CUTLER AND BRANDON MARSHALL
Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are divisive figures who are both known for having frosty relationships with teammates. Predictably, Cutler and Marshall frequently clashed as Bears from 2012 through 2014. Arguments between the pair escalated in their final season together in the Windy City and their mutual animosity remains intact.
"There is a culture in the league that you keep everything in-house,” said Marshall, 33.
“I felt like I was the only one in the organization that had the ‘huevos’ to hold [Cutler] accountable. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. We didn’t talk much during the year. We still haven’t talked. That is sad.”
Marshall was a guest on "The Rich Eisen Show" in February. When Eisen asked the six-time Pro Bowler if he was now “cool” with Cutler, Marshall began awkwardly cackling and never answered the question.
9 PEYTON MANNING AND MIKE VANDERJAGT
Quarterback Peyton Manning and kicker Mike Vanderjagt had one of the league’s most infamous conflicts in the early 2000s. After the New York Jets embarrassed the Indianapolis Colts 41-0 in January 2003 to advance in the playoffs, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Vanderjagt trashed the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Manning for his subpar performance and alleged apathy. When told about Vanderjagt’s comments, Manning snapped and delivered an epic tirade on live television.
"Here we are," Manning said. "I'm out at my third Pro Bowl, I'm about to go in and throw a touchdown to Jerry Rice, we're honoring the Hall of Fame, and we're talking about our idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth off.”
The face of the Colts then angrily promised to confront Vanderjagt and even insinuated that the kicker’s job was in peril.
"When I get home, I'll deal with it," Manning said. "If he is still a teammate, we'll deal with it. That remains to be seen."
8 ELI MANNING AND TIKI BARBER
Eli Manning and Tiki Barber simply detest each other. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Barber called the leadership abilities of the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Manning “almost comical” when he formally retired in February 2007.
"That's nice of him. It's good to hear from Ol' Tiki," said Manning, 36, a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
"I'm not going to lose any sleep over what Tiki has to say. I guess I could have questioned his leadership skills last year with calling out the coach and having articles written about him retiring in the middle of the season."
Nearly a decade later, Barber labeled Manning “old” and ranked Kirk Cousins as the preeminent quarterback in the NFC East.
“I think it has to be (Washington Redskins QB) Kirk (Cousins),” said Barber, 42.
“None of the guys from the Eagles excite me. Eli and (Dallas Cowboys QB) Tony (Romo) are old and Kirk just feels like he took the right steps.”
7 DONOVAN MCNABB AND TERRELL OWENS
Terrell Owens is a heinous human being. After disrespecting head coach Steve Mariucci and implying that Jeff Garcia is gay, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Owens was sent from San Francisco to the Philadelphia Eagles in March 2004. Owens and Donovan McNabb immediately soared as Eagles and terrorized secondaries. Shockingly, following a standout campaign in the City of Brotherly Love, Owens reverted to being the miserable, boorish man that he is. Owens constantly blamed McNabb for the Eagles’ loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX and demanded a contract extension. Philadelphia’s brain trust sickened of Owens’ badmouthing of McNabb and deactivated him in November 2005. Owens never again competed as an Eagle.
"It's sad that his career and everything that he has been able to accomplish from a numbers standpoint over the years that my name always has to be the one that comes up," said McNabb, 40, more than a decade later.
“Well I talked to him but there's some people who are like talking to pretty much just a wall. You don't get no response.”
6 RILEY COOPER AND CARY WILLIAMS
Racist remarks can cause lasting animosity. Erstwhile Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper attended a Kenny Chesney concert at Lincoln Financial Field in July 2013. Bizarrely, and inexcusably, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Cooper pointed to the crowd during the show and said, “I will jump that fence and fight every [racial slur] here.” Many of Cooper’s Eagles teammates were furious and basically targeted the perceived bigot at practice. In particular, free agent cornerback Cary Williams took umbrage with Cooper’s vitriol and attacked him in a scrimmage.
"I'm not a (racial slur) you (expletive) with,” screamed Williams, 32.
DeSean Jackson helped separate the combatants and discussed the volatile incident.
"You're dealing with different personalities and a lot of different players with different backgrounds and things like that," Jackson said.
The 29-year-old Cooper and Williams are both free agents. It’s safe to presume the two aren’t planning to enjoy the 2017 holiday season together.
5 GENO SMITH AND IK ENEMKPALI
Geno Smith entered the 2015 season as the New York Jets’ undisputed starting quarterback. Finally surrounded by elite weapons, expectations were high for Smith and Gang Green. Per usual, considering its star-crossed history, the Jets’ plans were ditched due to turbulence. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Smith allegedly refused to reimburse the 6-foot-1, 260-pound Enemkpali for a $600 plane ticket. In retaliation, Enemkpali fractured Smith’s jaw with one punch. Smith still denies owing Enemkpali a penny.
“It’s the biggest misconception in America,” said Smith, 26. "I didn't owe him. No."
Enemkpali was released almost immediately after the assault occurred.
“I'm guessing it's something I'll never live down,” said Enemkpali, 26. “But it is what it is. It's good to have that behind me."
Smith started one final game for the Jets before he signed with the New York Giants in March. Enemkpali is a free agent without any known suitors.
4 RICHIE INCOGNITO AND JONATHAN MARTIN
Past Miami Dolphins offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin were the centerpieces of the biggest bullying scandal in NFL history. The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Incognito harassed and intimidated the 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin via voicemail, text message, and in person. Martin eventually unraveled and permanently retreated from the Dolphins’ facilities in October 2013. Roughly a week later, the Dolphins indefinitely suspended Incognito for conduct detrimental to the team.
"I have no desire to ever see or talk to (Incognito)," said Martin, 27, who contemplated suicide on two occasions in 2013.
"I'll get nothing from it. That's in the past. I don't know what his thoughts are and I don't really care, honestly. I don't even know if Richie wants to be a bad person.”
Incognito is equally uninterested in reconciling with Martin.
"Zero conversation with Jonathan Martin," said Incognito, 34.
"Jonathan and I were close friends. I cared about him. If anybody was there for Jonathan, it was me. And Jonathan had his troubles.”
3 MICHAEL WESTBROOK AND STEPHEN DAVIS
Wide receiver Michael Westbrook badly pummeled running back Stephen Davis during a Washington Redskins practice in August 1997. The 6-foot, 230-pound Davis seriously considered filing criminal charges against the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Westbrook. The one-sided donnybrook reportedly happened because Davis asserted that Westbrook is a homosexual.
"Stephen Davis told me I needed to shut up and all that stuff I was saying sounded like some gay [s---], like I'm soft,” said Westbrook, 45, a mixed martial artist.
"Everybody that knows me knows that's the farthest thing from the truth. For about three years, I wanted to lock myself in the house and never come out.''
Westbrook retired as a Cincinnati Bengal in 2002. The University of Colorado legend still abhors Davis and the league as a whole.
"I didn't like the (NFL) lifestyle,” said Westbrook. “I didn't like the guys."
2 MICHAEL IRVIN AND EVERETT MCIVER
When one man nearly murders another man, forgiveness is not always a realistic option. Michael Irvin and Everett McIver were waiting to get haircuts at the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp in July 1998. The 6-foot-5, 325-pound McIver heard his name called and he sat in the barber’s chair for a trim. At this moment, the 6-foot-2, 207-pound Irvin entered the room and screamed “seniority!” McIver scoffed at Irvin’s nerve and sense of entitlement and didn’t budge.
Irvin continued to rant and yelled, "Seniority! Seniority! Punk, get the f*** out of my chair! Either I get cut right now, or nobody does."
Enraged, McIver got out of the chair and punched Irvin in the face. Irvin managed to regain his balance and he then sliced McIver across the neck with a pair of shears.
"Blood immediately shoots all over the room," said veteran cornerback Kevin Smith. "And we're all thinking the same thing - 'Oh, s***.'"
According to medical practitioners, Irvin barely missed severing McIver’s carotid artery, which would have killed him.
1 BILL ROMANOWSKI AND MARCUS WILLIAMS
Bill Romanowski exemplifies the negative side effects of abusing performance-enhancing drugs. During an Oakland Raiders’ scrimmage in 2003, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Williams blocked the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Williams. A lunatic, Romanowski went ballistic and barbarically disfigured Williams’ face with a punch.
"Don't ever f—in' hold me!" screamed Romanowski, 51, while standing over an unconscious, grotesquely bludgeoned Williams.
Romanowski shattered Williams’ eye socket and chipped his tooth. At the age of 25, a thug in pads ended Williams’ football career.
"I'd been in some tussles," said Williams.
"But that ain't what this was. I was like, goddamn. I knew I didn't do anything to deserve that. That wasn't a fight. It was an assault."
Williams hired an attorney and sued Romanowski for $3.8 million in damages. While Williams was only awarded $340,000, he didn’t care because he "just wanted to prove what was right and wrong about football."