It’s not easy to have a dad who once played professional football in the NFL. There are some second-generation stars, such as Peyton and Eli Manning (Archie Manning), Marion Barber III, and even Andrew Luck (Oliver Luck), who ended up having better pro careers than their dads. Yet you’ve also got countless others who didn’t come close to what dear old dad achieved in the NFL, and many more who didn’t even get to play a down in the NFL, despite having Hall of Fame fathers – Joe Montana and John Elway’s sons immediately come to mind.
To qualify for this list, an NFL player must have had a father, and in some cases, a grandfather who played in the league. And since we’re talking about “bringing shame” here, we’re not solely focusing on draft busts or players who couldn’t measure up to their dads’ NFL accomplishments – there may be some who brought shame in other ways, mostly by being less than a solid citizen on or off the field. And just to be clear once again, this is a list of NFL players, so you won’t be seeing alleged domestic abuser Jack Elway here.
With that all said, let’s get down to the list, and look at 15 second- or third-generation NFL players who may have let down their families in one way or another, may it be in terms of on-field performance, conduct as a pro, or even post-football accomplishments.
15. Chris Simms
His father, New York Giants legend Phil Simms, may have said he’s going to Disney World after winning the Super Bowl. Chris Simms, on the other hand, would have had to go there on his own dime, after failing to achieve the same success his dad pulled off as an NFL quarterback. In eight NFL seasons, he compiled career stats of 12 TDs, 18 INTs, and a QB rating of 69.1, though we should also add that Simms didn’t take any snaps in three of those eight seasons.
Not only was Simms just as mediocre as his dad was great (if inconsistent as a younger QB), he also had a brush with the law as an active player, getting arrested for driving while intoxicated in July 2010. Still, that appears to be his only legal problem of note, as he’s achieved greater success as a football analyst, and as a coaching assistant for the New England Patriots.
14. Tim Hasselbeck
Aside from having a wife (Elisabeth) who is far more famous than he is, Tim Hasselbeck is also far removed from older brother Matt in terms of on-field accomplishments. While former 6th-round draft pick Matt Hasselbeck sometimes makes NFL redrafts as 1998’s #2 pick (instead of actual #2 pick/super-bust Ryan Leaf), due to his lengthy, more than solid 17-year NFL career, Tim was a quintessential undrafted journeyman behind center, playing for four teams in just as many pro seasons, and not being able to beat out draft bust Patrick Ramsey for the starting job in Washington in 2003.
As such, Tim wasn’t even able to enjoy a better NFL career than his father, former New England Patriots tight end Don Hasselbeck, who was mostly a backup in nine NFL seasons from 1977 to 1985. He is, however, doing well in retirement as an analyst for ESPN.
13. Erik McMillan
We wouldn’t call someone who made the Pro Bowl in his first two NFL seasons a bad player. But it would be a stretch to say that Erik McMillan didn’t have as good an NFL career as his father, Ernie, who was one of the league’s top offensive tackles of the 1960s, and a four-time Pro Bowler himself. Furthermore, Erik’s career would flame out quickly, as he only ended up playing six NFL seasons, splitting time with three teams in the last.
As for the “brought shame” part, we don’t think it’s entirely deserved, but Deadspin ranked McMillan #93 in their 2010 list of worst NFL players of all-time, noting that he was a “poor tackler and a worse cover man” at safety, and an example of why interceptions can be a misleading statistic. If it’s any consolation to Erik, that Deadspin list is now 8-years-old, which means there are many newer players who could potentially edge him out of the “bottom 100.”
12. Anthony Dorsett
Following a college career where he was named first-team All-American thrice and won the Heisman Trophy, Tony Dorsett went on to play 12 NFL seasons, 11 of them with the Dallas Cowboys, where he won one Super Bowl and was named to multiple All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams. He was one of the best running backs of his generation, but it’s unfortunate we can’t say the same about his namesake son, Anthony Jr., as a generational talent at safety.
While Anthony Dorsett followed his dad to Pittsburgh in college, he had a rather average college career, which led to a sixth-round draft selection. He then played eight seasons in the NFL, starting a bit, but mostly riding the bench as he racked up career totals of just 290 tackles and 3 interceptions. Hey, at least he was able to return 67 percent of those interceptions (that’s two, for those too lazy to do the math) for touchdowns.
11. Jarrett Payton
When you’re the son of one of the NFL’s greatest running backs of all-time, there’s a chance big expectations will follow you around. Initially, that wasn’t the case for Walter Payton’s son Jarrett, who was, at first, more interested in that “other” kind of football. But after shifting his focus from soccer to the gridiron, Jarrett Payton became a sought-after high school prospect, and had a four-year career with the University of Miami Hurricanes. It was a solid college career, but not good enough to get him picked in the 2005 draft.
As an undrafted rookie, the younger Payton rushed for only 105 yards as a Tennessee Titans backup in 2005, then went on to play in the CFL and the Indoor Football League. That’s definitely nowhere near what “Sweetness” had achieved in his Pro Football Hall of Fame career, though Jarrett’s doing pretty well for himself as a retired player, as he keeps busy with charitable organizations, while working as a sports reporter and podcast host.
10. Mike Adamle
Let’s first address the elephant in the room by saying that Mike Adamle had a decent NFL career in the 1970s as a running back, considering he was only a 4th-round draft pick. He also went on to have a great career as a sports commentator and TV host. But he qualifies for this list because a) his father, Tony Adamle, was one of the NFL’s top linebackers in the immediate postwar era, and therefore had a better pro career than his son, and b) he presumably brought shame to any family members who were wrestling fans in the late 2000s.
Despite having little to no knowledge of WWE’s product, the company brought him on as an interviewer in 2008, and he wasted no time in botching people’s names, referring to Jeff Hardy as “Jeff Harvey” and Tazz as “The Tazz,” among other goofs. He also had a forgettable stint as Monday Night Raw‘s general manager before leaving the WWE. Adamle may have been good when it came to calling NFL games and hosting American Gladiators, but he was simply out of his element in the world of sports entertainment.
9. David Shula
As a Baltimore Colts defensive back in the 1950s, Don Shula wasn’t a bad player, but he gained most of his fame in the NFL as one of the league’s greatest coaches of all-time, winning two Super Bowls in 33 seasons, including the one in 1972 where he led the Miami Dolphins to the league’s only perfect season to date – 14 wins in the regular season, 3 more in the playoffs. His son David, on the other hand, played just one season in the NFL as a backup wide receiver, and is considered by many to be one of the worst NFL coaches in history, with a career record of 19 wins and 52 losses. Ouch.
Starting his NFL head coaching career in 1992, aged only 33-years-old, David Shula was more Lane Kiffin than Sean McVay as an insanely youthful head coach. He clearly had little of his father’s genius when it came to the X’s and O’s, to say little of his lightly-regarded career as an NFL benchwarmer. Though part of his lack of success can be attributed to the fact that the Bengals often stunk during that time, the younger Shula still has the worst winning percentage (26.8%) of any NFL head coach with more than 50 games’ experience.
8. Braylon Edwards
Perhaps most of you aren’t aware that Braylon Edwards’ father, Stan Edwards, had played in the NFL in the 1980s, suiting up as a running back for six seasons, but never earning a starting job. Braylon did much better than his dad, getting picked 3rd-overall in 2005, and enjoying a productive eight-year NFL career that was most notable for his time in the Cleveland Browns. Granted, he didn’t quite live up to the draft hype, but he did tally 1,289 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in the 2007 season. Not surprisingly, that was the Browns’ only 10-win season since their 1999 return.
Edwards, however, falls in the “solid player, not-so-solid citizen” category, due to his many brushes with the law. From 2002 to 2010, he was charged with seven driving violations, including a few DUIs, and he’s racked up a couple assault charges as well, including one in 2013 that suggested he wasn’t, at that time, exactly mellowing with age.
7. Bobby Carpenter
There are three second-generation players in this list who have the unenviable distinction of being on Deadspin‘s 2010 list of the 100 worst pro football players in history. Elsewhere in this list, you’ll find Erik McMillan and John McKay. Now, let’s move on to the youngest second-generation entry in the Deadspin list, linebacker Bobby Carpenter, whose namesake dad, Rob Carpenter, played 10 NFL seasons as a fullback and halfback, and had notably blocked for Hall of Famer Earl Campbell when they teamed together in the Houston Oilers’ backfield of the late ’70s.
A first-round pick in the 2006 draft, Carpenter is widely considered to be one of the Dallas Cowboys’ biggest draft busts of the current century, if not the biggest bust of them all. Not only was he largely unproductive in a six-year journeyman career, he also got the derisive nickname of “Barbie” from teammates and even assistant coaches on the Cowboys, who felt he was too soft to make it as an NFL linebacker.
6. Marques Tuiasosopo
For eight NFL seasons, Manu Tuiasosopo was a solid, reliable defensive lineman for the Seahawks and the 49ers — not a Hall of Fame candidate by any stretch, but he got the job done. His son Marques, on the other hand, played six NFL seasons as a quarterback, but even if he was drafted late in the second round in 2001 — not exactly a draft position that inspires visions of Hall of Fame greatness — one would struggle to remember anything he did during those six disappointing seasons.
Starting only twice in 13 games, the younger Tuiasosopo ended his career with a 2-7 touchdown-interception ratio, and an atrocious QB rating of 48.1. That’s not what the Oakland Raiders expected when they drafted him as a potential replacement for the aging Rich Gannon. Fortunately, though, he’s still involved in football, as the quarterbacks coach of his alma mater, the University of California.
5. Chris McAlister
Once again, let us make this clear – this is not a list that solely focuses on draft busts or mediocre-to-outright-terrible NFL players whose dads also played in the league. Take the example of cornerback Chris McAlister, who is best known for being part of the stifling Baltimore Ravens defense that led the team to great success, including a win at Super Bowl XXXV. He also played in three Pro Bowls, and enjoyed 11 mostly productive seasons in the league, which is much more than what you can say about his father, James McAlister, who gained just 677 yards and rushed for 5 TDs in three NFL seasons in the 1970s.
Unfortunately, McAlister hasn’t been much of a success off the field as he had been on it. Aside from racking up his share of arrests early in his NFL career for drug possession, DUI, and disturbing the peace, McAlister was in the news earlier this decade, claiming that he was “broke” and living with his parents as he struggled to pay for child support. So much for once being worth at least $50 million while still an active player.
4. Todd Marinovich
The case of “Robo-QB,” Todd Marinovich, is an interesting, but sad one. While he did truly bring shame to his family as an NFL first-round draft bust and a less-than-exemplary human being away from the field, it’s not like his dad, former Raiders backup guard Marv Marinovich, was ever a Father of the Year candidate. Instead of letting young Todd eat junk food, watch cartoons, listen to rock music, or basically enjoy life as an average kid, Marv allowed none of that, as he focused on intense, unconventional training to mold his son into the perfect quarterback. Unsurprisingly, Todd would end up rebelling.
While he was quite successful playing for USC, Todd Marinovich was an utter failure playing for his dad’s old pro team, among others in a troubled journeyman career. Free from his father’s controlling ways, he ended up going wild as an adult, as he experimented with, and got addicted to a number of drugs, further compromising his already spotty play. Even in his late 40s, Marinovich is still trying to get his life together, as he was arrested in 2016 for drug possession after being found naked in a neighbor’s backyard.
3. John McKay Jr.
Technically speaking, we shouldn’t be including John McKay Jr. in here, as his dad, former USC and inaugural Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach John McKay Sr., never played in the NFL. But when it comes to nepotism in pro football, the McKays often come to mind. Despite hardly possessing any of the tools required to be successful pro wide receiver, John Jr. (or “J.K.” as he was also called) made the maiden Buccaneers lineup in 1976 (along with several other ex-USC standouts). And here’s the kicker – he actually started for his dad for three seasons!
Injuries ultimately ended the younger McKay’s career at the end of the 1978 season, but it’s not like other teams would have been scrambling for his services. He did, however, become much more successful after his NFL retirement, as he worked as a lawyer for several years, was general manager of the Los Angeles Xtreme in Vince McMahon’s XFL, and was, until 2016, the senior associate athletic director at his college alma mater of USC.
2. Joe Don Looney
This one’s a real blast from the past, but it’s proof that well before Johnny Manziel was even born, there was another wild and crazy young Texan wasting his talent and getting more press for his off-field antics. And he also happened to be a second-generation player, as Joe Don Looney’s father, Don Looney, briefly played in the NFL, and even made the Pro Bowl in 1940. Joe Don was so talented that the New York Giants took a gamble with him as a late first-round pick in 1964, despite the fact he was kicked off the Oklahoma Sooners (his fourth school in four years) just three games into the 1963 season for various acts of insubordination.
Looney was hardly different in the pros, getting a year’s probation as a rookie after allegedly attacking a couple whom he had a political argument with, and, in four seasons with four different teams as a backup RB, gaining a reputation as the NFL’s most uncoachable player of all-time. He even uttered a quote while an active player that, if you ask us, puts Allen Iverson’s “practice” rant to shame in much fewer words –”If practice makes perfect and perfection is impossible, why practice?”
1. Kellen Winslow II
Definitely, Kellen Winslow II wasn’t as good as his dad, Kellen Winslow Sr., who made the Pro Football Hall of Fame as arguably the NFL’s top tight end of the 1980s. But he did make the Pro Bowl in 2007, and had a six-year productive stretch from 2006 to 2011 after missing most of his first two seasons due to leg injuries. All things considered, Kellen II wasn’t quite the tight end his old man was, but he wasn’t THAT bad on the field. Even if the Browns could have drafted Ben Roethlisberger and avoided years upon years of quarterback problems.
What puts him on this list, however, are his various off-field shenanigans, dating back to the time in 2003 when, while playing for the Miami Hurricanes, he bellowed out the words “I’m a f****** soldier!” in an interview with ESPN, after barely being able to restrain himself from swearing in the minute prior. That’s certainly not the impression you want to make as a blue-chip draft prospect. He was also suspended multiple times as an NFL player, once for making unprofessional comments about management, once for violating the league’s wellness policies.
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