Think of the best athletes that you’ve ever met in your life. There’s a good chance that they had athletic parents with monstrously sized fathers and speedy mothers. Some athletic ability can be learned, but a lot of it comes from the bittersweet world of the genetic lottery. You would think that if one sibling has success in the NFL, that he would have a brother that could succeed just as much, but that hasn’t been the case.
Sure, there have been pairs of brothers that have had a lot of success in the NFL. Just look at siblings like Ronde and Tiki Barber, Shannon and Sterling Sharpe or Vernon and Vontae Davis. Oh, and there are those two Manning brothers that have combined for four Super Bowl championships, 18 Pro Bowls, 116,127 passing yards and 833 touchdowns. That’s not too bad, I guess.
For each pair of brothers like that, there are plenty of siblings that have only had one stand out while the other never got recognition. Of course, you have brothers like Chris and Matt Simms or Josh and Luke McCown where neither one seems to be heading to the Hall of Fame. Let’s take a look at the unlucky siblings that have to be reminded of their brother’s success once again as we discover the top 15 NFL players that were better than their siblings.
15 Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (better known to fans as KGB) was a relative unknown defensive end coming out of San Diego State. The Packers selected KGB in the fifth round in 2000 and he ended up being a huge value. In 2003, KGB made his only Pro Bowl appearance despite the fact that he led the league in the category the next season. KGB finished with 74.5 sacks in his career (all with the Packers), giving him the most in franchise history.
Kabeer’s younger brother, Akbar, was even more unknown coming into the 2003 NFL Draft, also from San Diego State. Akbar signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2003 and spent two seasons on the team before sitting out the 2005 season. Akbar would return for the 2006 and 2007 seasons, but only played a combined four games with the Chargers and Dolphins. All in all, KGB outsacked his brother by a huge margin of 74.5 to 2.0.
14 Clay Matthews
Speaking of Packers that have been able to get to the quarterback with ease, Clay Matthews and his brother, Casey, come from a pro football lineage. Their father was All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews, Jr., their grandfather Clay Sr. was an offensive tackle and their uncle Bruce is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Out of the two Matthews in the league now, Clay appears to be more in tune with the rest of his family.
Clay has been to the Pro Bowl six times with three All-Pro selections, winning the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year award. With 67.5 career sacks so far, Matthews has a legitimate shot at breaking KGB’s franchise record in Green Bay during the 2016 season. Casey, a former fourth round pick of the Eagles, won’t be setting records anytime soon. Casey played four seasons with the Eagles and one with the Vikings, and the current Canadian Football League player has just 2.5 career NFL sacks.
13 Darren Sharper
So far on the list, the brothers on the lower end of the totem pole have barely registered on the NFL radar. For a time, though, Jamie Sharper was actually a solid player. Jamie was a second round pick for the Ravens out of Virginia in 1997 and he stuck around in the NFL until 2005, ending his career in Seattle. Jamie, a linebacker, recorded nearly 900 tackles and had one season where he led the league in the category, and he also registered 25.5 sacks.
If this were a list of NFL players that were better people than their siblings, then Jamie Sharper would probably be number one, but Darren Sharper was without a doubt the better football player. Darren was a member of the All-Decade team for the 2000s and he spent 14 seasons in the NFL with the Packers (yes, them again), the Vikings and Saints. Darren was a five-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro, leading the league in interceptions in 2005 and finishing with 63 in his career.
12 Randall Cunningham
A lot of younger fans know about Randall Cunningham, but you have to really have a good memory to remember his older brother playing in the league. Sam Cunningham spent all nine of his NFL seasons with the New England Patriots after being the 11th overall pick out of USC in 1973. Sam was a solid running back in his day, racking up 5,453 career rushing yards and 43 touchdowns, making one Pro Bowl appearance in 1978.
Sam’s career would end up being overshadowed by his playmaking little brother out of UNLV that was a second round pick by the time Sam was out of the league. Randall Cunningham was a human highlight reel that threw for nearly 30,000 yards and more than 200 touchdowns. Along the way, Randall was named to four Pro Bowls, four All-Pro teams and he was the Most Valuable Player in both 1990 and 1998.
11 Bob Golic
Both Bob Golic and his younger brother Mike played defensive tackle at Notre Dame. Mike is the name that everyone knows now because of his current career as an analyst for ESPN and the host of the popular “Mike & Mike in the Morning.” Any Notre Dame fan (or Cleveland Browns fan) can tell you that Bob was clearly the better football player of the two, though. Mike had a decently lengthy NFL career, playing with the Oilers, Eagles and Dolphins from 1985 to 1993, but didn’t have a lot of accolades.
Bob, on the other hand, was an All-American in college and was drafted eight rounds earlier than his brother. Bob played from 1979 to 1992 with the Patriots, Browns and Raiders. Bob wasn’t a sack machine, notching 22.5 in his career, but he was definitely a playmaker in the middle of the defensive line. Bob was named to three Pro Bowls in his career, as well as two All-Pro teams.
10 Jonathan Ogden
In 2013, Jonathan Ogden became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he is widely considered to be one of the best offensive linemen to play in the NFL over the past quarter century. Ogden spent his entire career with the Ravens after being selected fourth overall in 1996 and he was an absolute monster, never missing more than four games in a season until his final year in 2007. Ogden was named to a stunning 11 Pro Bowls to go along with four First Team All-Pro teams. Ogden also won a Super Bowl and was selected to the All-2000s Team.
Ogden’s little brother,Marques ? Not so much. Marques, who is now 35 years old, was a sixth round pick out of Howard in 2003 by the Jaguars. After two seasons, Marques was playing in NFL Europe before returning to the NFL from 2005 to 2007. Marques is now a free agent, but hasn’t played in the league since his brother retired, instead playing for teams like the Reading Express and Triangle Torch.
9 Michael Vick
Who could forget just how exciting Michael Vick was to watch in college and then in his first few years in the NFL before his arrest? Vick was a playmaking stud for the Hokies and was the first overall pick by the Falcons in 2001. Vick made three Pro Bowl teams with Atlanta (and then another one with Philadelphia in 2010) and changed the dynamic of modern quarterback play, setting the record for most rushing yards from the position.
Michael’s younger brother Marcus had some big shoes to fill at Virginia Tech and was never able to live up to the hype that was set. Marcus had his off the field issues as well and he went undrafted in 2006. While Michael was donning the cover of “Madden NFL,” Marcus was hoping to just get a job. Marcus was picked up by the Dolphins, but appeared in just one regular season game and never threw an NFL pass.
8 Matt Hasselbeck
Pretty much the only things that Matt and Tim Hasselbeck have in common is that they played quarterback at Boston College, made NFL rosters, have no hair and now work for ESPN. What sets Matt apart from his brother is his play once he made the NFL when he was a sixth round pick in 1998 by the Packers. Hasselbeck got his chance to be a starter in Seattle, reaching three Pro Bowls with the team and winning the 2005 NFC Championship.
Matt would keep playing until the 2015 season when he was actually still making an impact for the Colts behind Andrew Luck. As for Tim, well, at least he married that one girl that was on Survivor. Tim was on several NFL rosters and got his first starting chance with the Redskins, but didn’t make the most of it. By 2007, Tim was out of the league after just six years, but at least he won World Bowl X with the Berlin Thunder.
7 Terry Bradshaw
Much like the Hasselbecks and the Vicks, both Terry Bradshaw and his brother Craig attended the same college at Louisiana Tech. Craig would do so much later and actually ended up graduating from Utah State. Terry was the first overall pick in 1970 and he spent all 14 of his NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Terry would end up winning an MVP award, four Super Bowls (including two MVPs) and made three Pro Bowl teams en route to a Hall of Fame induction in 1989.
Craig Bradshaw went very much the same route as Marcus Vick, never really living up to his older brother’s expectations. Craig was a seventh round pick in 1980 by the Oilers and he appeared in just two games. Craig doesn’t have any passing statistics in the NFL, though he did make history by being only the second person to square off against his bigger brother when the Oilers played the Steelers in 1980.
6 Brian Westbrook
If you go to an Eagles game to this day, you will undoubtedly see at least a handful of Brian Westbrook jerseys. If you go to a Redskins game, you will probably not be seeing any Byron Westbrook jerseys. As a matter of fact, you probably have a better chance of seeing Michael Westbrook (no relation) jerseys at FedEx Field. Brian, a Villanova product, was one of the more exciting running backs to watch during the first decade of the 2000s.
Brian would end up finishing his career with 6,335 rushing yards and 3,940 receiving yards to go along with it. Brian was a two-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler, while his younger brother went undrafted. Byron played cornerback for the Redskins from 2007 to 2011, but never really had an impact. Byron didn’t record a single interception during his short career, and he’s not in his franchise’s Ring of Fame like his brother.
5 Rob Gronkowski
So far, every player on our list has had just one brother that played in the NFL. Not Rob Gronkowski, though; he has had three. Far and away, Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL right now and has racked up an incredible 65 touchdowns over just six seasons with the Patriots. If you follow Gronk on Instagram, you have probably seen his brothers, but don’t remember their NFL careers.
The first in line is Dan Gronkowski, a seventh round tight end out of Maryland that played with four different NFL teams from 2009 to 2013. Dan finished with a total of 69 receiving yards. Then we have fullback Chris who went to Arizona with Rob. Chris played from 2010 to 2013 with four teams, notching a total of 63 total yards. Finally we have Glenn, an undrafted fullback from Kansas State that will be making his debut in 2016 with Buffalo. Will he be as good as Rob? We can’t say for sure, but betting on it would be unwise.
4 Champ Bailey
If you ask someone in their 20s who the best cornerback they watched while growing up was, there’s a decent chance that they are going to say Champ Bailey. If you ask them the same question about linebackers, none of them will say Boss Bailey. Champ was a member of the Redskins and Broncos from 1999 to 2013 and had more Pro Bowl appearances than any other cornerback in history with 12. He was also named to seven All-Pro teams as well as the All-Decade Team in the 2000s with 52 career interceptions.
Boss went to Georgia like his brother and was drafted in 2003’s second round by Detroit to play linebacker. Boss had a decent rookie season with Detroit, but was never close to being the talent that his older brother was. Despite being drafted four years after his brother, Boss was already done in the NFL five years before Champ.
3 Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer was a huge name coming out of USC after winning the 2002 Heisman Trophy and he was selected first overall by the Bengals the next year. Palmer is still slinging in the NFL today with the Cardinals after spending the first 10 seasons of his career with Cincinnati and Oakland. Palmer has been named to three Pro Bowl teams, an All-Pro team and he once led the league in touchdown passes in 2005. So far, Palmer has 259 career passing touchdowns.
That is exactly 259 more than his younger brother Jordan has. Jordan was drafted in the sixth round by the Redskins, but never made it to the regular season roster in 2007. The next year, he was signed to be his older brother’s backup in Cincinnati. Jordan has played for three NFL teams in his career, with the most recent being Tennessee in 2014. Jordan has a total of 66 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. At least that number is lower than Carson’s.
2 Aaron Rodgers
Carson Palmer isn’t the only good NFL quarterback with a younger brother named Jordan that has barely registered on the league radar. Aaron Rodgers is considered by a lot of people to be the best quarterback in the NFL right now. It’s hard to argue against that since he has won a Super Bowl, has been named to five Pro Bowls, was selected for three All-Pro teams and won two MVP awards. On top of all of that, Aaron has some mind numbing stats with 32,399 passing yards, 257 touchdowns and just 65 interceptions.
Jordan wasn’t drafted in the first round like his brother, and wasn’t even drafted at all out of Vanderbilt. The Jaguars picked up Jordan out of college, but he didn’t make it out of camp and then went to the Buccaneers roster. The next season, Jordan was with the Miami Dolphins, but again didn’t see the field. After joining a CFL practice squad, Jordan quit football. His career highlight so far is being on the 12th season of The Bachelorette where he dumped out some family secrets.
1 Walter Payton
Our list concludes with a player that many believe is the best to ever play running back in the NFL, Walter Payton. Payton was the fourth overall pick in 1975 out of Jackson State, and he spent his entire 14 year career with the Chicago Bears. Payton set all sorts of rushing records during his time in Chicago and helped the Bears win Super Bowl XX. Payton was an eight-time All-Pro, two-time MVP and led the league in career rushing yards with 16,726 when he retired.
Many younger brothers don’t live up to the older one’s expectations, but Walter certainly did. Eddie Payton is the older brother in this situation, and he went undrafted in 1973 and didn’t make his NFL debut until 1977. Eddie stuck around until 1982 and he finished with just 28 rushing yards and 10 receiving yards. He was a decent kick returner for the Chiefs, Browns, Lions and Vikings during the early 1980s, but not a legend like Walter.
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