Growing up in youth sports, the first thing you learn is the importance of the team. This is especially relevant in football. It takes all eleven players to work as a cohesive machine to achieve victory. If someone misses an assignment, a block, a cut, a snap count, your team could not only lose, but someone could get seriously injured.
On a separate note, not all NFL players get along with each other. There are hot head divas, quiet workers, and misunderstood jocks. When some of these personalities clash, chaos may ensue, and cause one (or both) of the players to go in a downward spiral until they fizzle out of the NFL without a trace. Sometimes it’s not always the fault of the one who caused a downfall, as they simply were doing what they had to do to advance in their careers. While you’re competing against other teams in team sports, you’re also competing for spots on your own team so it can get competitive very quickly.
So today, we will take a look at 15 NFL Players that were responsible for a teammate’s downfall. It may be an actual fistfight in practice, a psychological tormenting, or even outperforming one another on the field. Remember, keep your friends close, and your teammates closer.
15. Jim Kelly (Art Schlichter)
Honestly, Schlichter was responsible for his own downfall, but Kelly was the icing on the cake. Before we get into the heart of the story, we need to take a step back and look at Schlichter. The fourth overall pick of the 1982 draft had a serious gambling problem. From a combination of all his debts, he most likely owed bookies over $1 million within his first year in the NFL. Schlichter ended up going to the FBI to rat out the bookies, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. In and out of gambling, even during his suspension, the former Ohio State QB was reinstated, then cut, and eventually signed with the Bills in the 1986 offseason, clean and ready to reboot his career.
Unfortunately for Schlichter, the Bills 1983 pick, Jim Kelly, was playing for the Houston Gamblers in the USFL, when that league collapsed in 1985. Buffalo decided to go with Kelly at QB, and Schlichter didn’t play in the 1986 season, only to be released later on. The moral of the story, only gamble if you are really, really good at football!
14. Steve Young (Joe Montana)
One of the greatest quarterback controversies to ever occur happened in the Bay Area about thirty years ago. At the time, Joe Montana was the leader of the club house, winning two Super Bowls with San Francisco, and keeping a calm demeanor on the field. But, due to Montana’s age and injuries, the 49ers decided to pick up some insurance in 1987 in the form of Steve Young. While the two claimed to be friends, there was tension across the nation, each side arguing who should be leading the offense.
On the one hand, Montana was battle tested, and embodied his nickname, “Joe Cool.” Young was more of a jumpy passer, struggling with accuracy, and resorted to tucking the ball to get yards with his legs. Eventually, after Young sat behind Montana for several years, he finally got the starting opportunity when Montana got hurt, and when Joe was healthy, it created a rift in the locker room. Montana requested a trade and finished his career with the Kansas City Chiefs.
13. Peyton Manning (Mike Vanderjagt)
To say there was bad blood between the Colts QB and kicker is an understatement. After Indianapolis was eliminated from the playoffs in 2002, Vanderjagt came out and questioned Peyton Manning’s leadership. Manning fired back in 2003, referring to Vanderjagt as that “idiot kicker.” Peyton even accused the former West Virginia kicker of being drunk during the interview!
But, as we all know, Manning came out victorious in this feud. In the 2005 playoffs, Vanderjagt missed a field goal that would have tied up the game against the Steelers in the fourth quarter. Shortly after that, he went on David Letterman’s show and attempted a field goal of the same distance. The Colts did not take kindly to this childish showmanship, and cut Vanderjagt in the offseason. He went on to the Dallas Cowboys, but was out of the NFL at the end of 2006. The lesson here is to not f*** with Peyton!
12. Brandon Marshall (Jay Cutler)
Brandon Marshall, as we all know, has a big mouth on and off the field. He’s a big personality that needs to be fed, or else he will turn to dust. In his three seasons with the Bears, Marshall said he was the only one that held Jay Cutler responsible for his poor play. Whether or not he ruined Cutler’s career, or vice versa, is still up in the air.
In an interview with ESPN in 2015, Marshall said in regards to Cutler: “We didn’t talk much during the year. We still haven’t talked. That is sad. I don’t think there is anybody in the league that had more chemistry than us. If we had a slant route, I was going to go in the hole and he would find me. We saw the game the right way. I felt like that is something we could have built on.”
11. J’Marcus Webb (Jay Cutler)
Aren’t you glad we threw two Jay Cutler stories right in a row. I mean, the guy’s a joke! In Week 2 of the 2012, the Bears were playing the Packers on Thursday Night. After Cutler got sacked in the second quarter, he decided to throw a toddler temper tantrum and yell at his left tackle, J’Marcus Webb, on the sidelines. Not only did he chew him out, but Cutler shoved Webb on his way back to the bench.
Maybe Jay was just trying to get his players motivated, but, in Webb’s eyes, he was just trying to pass of blame. Cutler ended up getting sacked seven times that game, and it was clear via film that the offensive didn’t even give a hoot. The whole locker room was on Webb’s side in the confrontation, and a Chicago revolution seemed to be imminent. Cutler later apologized, but has been on a steady downward slope for the rest of his career.
10. Golden Tate/Doug Baldwin (Percy Harvin)
Early in his career with the Minnesota Vikings, Percy Harvin was electric. He could come around the end and carry the ball, run deep on a post route and take it to the house, and even slither through the defense on kick returns. But, with all that athletic ability, came lots of injuries. Seattle took a chance on Harvin and traded for him in 2013, hoping he could light a fire under their less than stellar offense.
The only issue is that Harvin clashed with incumbent receivers, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. It’s hard to believe who was right and who was wrong in this situation, but apparently Harvin was trying to be that cohesive machine, but Tate and Baldwin were too worried that he would usurp their position. The disagreement led to blows in the locker room just a week before the Super Bowl. This seemed to be the beginning of the decline of Harvin’s career, as he’s not even in the league anymore.
9. Steve Smith Sr. & Ken Lucas
Smith and Lucas’s relationship did not cause the downfall of their careers, but was pretty much a downfall of their reputations. After battling throughout training camp in 2008, Smith was complaining that he was being held by Lucas and was livid. These two had been feuding for years on the practice field, but it had final boiled over. Smith sucker punched Lucas on the sideline after the pay and ended up breaking his nose and bruising his eye.
Smith, who is an all-time great receiver, was suspended for two games, and despite seeing these fights happen against opponents for years, was labeled as a hot head for the remainder of his career.
Lucas on the other hand quickly forgave Smith, and tried to mend their relationship. Some people viewed this move as weak and soft, as Lucas was apologizing for something he never did. The Panthers ended up having a pretty good season, but again, Smith and Lucas’ reputation took a hit.
8. Aaron Rodgers (Brett Favre)
Favre and Rodgers had an odd relationship throughout their time together in Green Bay. In 2005, the Packers plucked Rodgers off the board in the first-round, hoping to groom him to be Favre’s backup. But, Brett was’t having any of that, and even later came out and said that it wasn’t his job to mentor Aaron. Rodgers, on the other hand, used to carry a cocky attitude in practice, which Brett took as competition.
In 2008, Favre retired (for the first time) and Rodgers became the leader in Green Bay. While Rodgers never really caused Favre’s downfall towards the end of his career, he sure accelerated it.
Still, to this day, Favre seems to throw shade on the Aaron Rodgers led Packers. In a recent interview, in regards to Rodgers, Favre said “As good as he is, I would have though that he would have won more by now.” Maybe it’s just Brett’s jealousy, but those definitely sounded like shots fire.
7. Ik Enemkpali (Geno Smith)
Let’s jump right into it. Apparently, Jets quarterback Geno Smith owed Enemkpali $600 from some previous bet they made. Smith wasn’t paying up, and the former Louisiana Tech defensive end was not having any of it. He punched Smith in the jaw in the Jets locker room in the 2015 preseason. Smith’s jaw ended up being broken, and he had to sit out 6-10 weeks. New York released Enemkpali later on that week.
Both of these players careers were ruined from this incident. On the one hand, Enemkpali was still signed after the incident by the Bills, but will always be known as the guy who punched Geno Smith in the face. He actually got into a fistfight with his teammate in Buffalo exactly one year after this incident. On the other hand, Smith had to miss time, and Fitzpatrick took over the offense. The Jets had a decent year in 2015, and Smith was out of a starting job. Some words of wisdom for all you potential football players; don’t punch a teammate, and always pay your gambling debts!
6. Cary Williams (Riley Cooper)
In a league that is dominated by successful black athletes, Riley Cooper is an idiot. At a 2013 Kenny Chesney concert, in which he was denied backstage, Riley shouted at the security guards, “I will jump that fence and fight every n****r here.” Clearly, his teammates, who were predominantly African-American, didn’t like that comment. Cornerback Cary Williams, after having some lock-down defense in practice, got into with Cooper. The two tussled on the ground, and Williams grabbed Cooper’s face mask and shouted “I’m not a n****r you f*** with.”
Cooper downplayed the incident and actually went on to have a great season. But, he will always be known as the racist receiver, and eventually was released by Philadelphia at the end of the 2015 season.
5. Redskins O-line (Robert Griffin III)
RGIII had a stellar rookie season until he re-injured his knee in the playoffs. Washington looked like they had their quarterback of the future from the outside, but inside the locker room, controversy stirred. Griffin alienated himself in the locker room, and lost the support of a lot of his teammates, specifically the offensive line. The former Heisman winner placed the blame on his protectors, while the line thought that RGIII was holding on to the ball too long, that’s why he was getting sacked. Either way, as a quarterback, you shouldn’t be blaming the five big men up front that are protecting your life.
According to his former teammate Chris Cooley, in an interview with ESPN 980, “The offensive line did not like Robert Griffin. A lot of the receivers did not like Robert Griffin. The offensive line had a problem with Robert, because they were considered for a year-and-a-half or two years a terrible offensive line that couldn’t protect a quarterback. A lot of that isn’t true. A lot of that was Robert. A lot of the sacks were put on Robert. Want to believe it or not, they were, okay? Football-wise, they were: it was Robert.”
4. Owners (Colin Kaepernick)
Unless you live under a rock, you know the story behind Colin Kaepernick’s fall from his NFL career. The recently named GQ Man of the Year decided to sit during the National Anthem in 2016, which sparked a huge political divide across the NFL. Originally, he sat (then kneeled) in protest of police brutality against African-Americans in the USA. But, many fans felt like he was disrespecting our country and our veterans by protesting the anthem. The 49ers released Kaepernick in the offseason.
Queue 2017. Kaepernick is still unemployed in the NFL and has filed a grievance against all NFL owners for not giving him an opportunity. The Packers lost Rodgers, no signing. The Texans lost Watson, no signing. It’s pretty clear that Kaepernick is being black-balled by the league because they don’t want to deal with the political backlash.
3. Browns Players (Johnny Manziel)
We’ve made it to TheSportster’s favorite party boy, Johnny Manziel. Clearly, Manziel was not taking his role as the Browns’ quarterback seriously, and the former first-rounder is now seen as one of the biggest draft busts ever! He was all talk, all gimmick, and no production. Maybe if Johnny Football stood behind his team more, they would have supported him. But, the word in Cleveland’s locker room was that Manziel was a “100 percent joke.”
Cleveland has been known for making bad draft day decisions such as Manziel. They passed on Carson Wentz, they passed on Deshaun Watson, and they knew Manziel was going to be party boy, but like a crazy girlfriend, they thought they could “change” him. Ultimately, everyone in northeast Ohio turned on the former Heisman winner, and he was out of the league as quickly as he came into it.
2. Richie Incognito (Jonathan Martin)
Jonathan Martin needed his space when it came to fellow offensive linemen, Richie Incognito. It all stemmed from Martin’s rookie season, in which he missed a few voluntary workouts, and coaches employed Incognito to help toughen him up. But, Richie went a little far with his hazing, and in 2013, Martin left the team, citing emotional distress. Apparently, the entire offensive line, led by Incognito was verbally harassing and bullying Martin. He couldn’t take it anymore and left the Dolphins.
Crazy text messages came out form Incognito to Martin, calling him a “half-n****r piece of s***,” as well as Incognito threatening his family. Incognito sat out the rest of the 2013 season due to “conduct detrimental to the team.” While Incognito is now a Pro Bowler on the Bills, Martin has fizzled out of the league and it definitely stemmed from his emotional tormenting from his teammates.
1. Bill Romanowski (Marcus Williams)
I’m sure every offensive player of the time would love a free shot at Romanowski. He was known as a hard-hitting linebacker with a bad attitude. He never admitted to using steroids back in the day to improve his strength and recovery. That all being said, you can’t doubt his pure football IQ and ability to throw a hit. The four-time Super Bowl Champion was involved in several altercations throughout his career, but arguably the most egregious of them was against teammate Marcus Williams.
During a team scrimmage, Romanowski ripped off Williams’ helmet after a play and punched him right in the eye. Now, this wasn’t just any punch, as Williams was forced to retire due to the injury. He eventually sued and settled with Romanowski, but clearly, this fight was the cause of Williams downfall, and it ended his career.
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