Just like a real life divorce, the break-up between an athlete and their team can sometimes be messy. When the separation between both sides becomes public and each side starts airing out each other’s dirty laundry, the process of each going their separate ways, can have the feel of something that is ripped out of soap opera, as the player, the team, teammates, and even fans, can be left feeling angry, sad, or even confused.
In the MLB you have Pete Rose leaving the Cincinnati Reds, Roger Clemens leaving the Boston Red Sox, or Ken Griffey Jr. saying goodbye to the Seattle Mariners. In the NHL you have Patrick Roy being traded to the Colorado Avalanche, Eric Lindros demanding a trade from the Quebec Nordiques, and of course the ‘Great One’ Wayne Gretzky being traded from the Edmonton Oilers. In the NBA you have Shaq’s trade to the Miami Heat, Shawn Kemp’s trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and of course LeBron James leaving the Cavs the first time around to go to Miami (do you see a trend here?).
Sports is full of bad breakups between players and teams. In the NFL, the average career is very short so when a team cuts a player loose and affects that player’s career, it can get even uglier than other sports.
With that said,we here give you the top 15 worst player/team breakups in the NFL.
15. Randy Moss – Minnesota Vikings
The break up so nice they did it twice. All jokes aside, the future Hall of Famer who was chosen 21st overall in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Vikes, has broken up with the franchise on two seperate occasions. The first time was in 2005 when Moss was traded to the Oakland Raiders for three players and draft picks to replace Jerry Rice who had been traded away from the black and silver the year before.
After disastrous seasons in Oakland, Moss had tremendous success in New England, but was traded back to Minnesota in 2010. While Moss had a chance to play with Brett Favre, he publicly feuded with then head coach Brad Childress and criticized teammates after losing to the Pats 28-18 in Moss’s return to Gillette Stadium. Moss was released by the team the next day. Before a Monday Night Football game, Moss would also reportedly trash the service and food of a local Minnesota restaurant that had been providing catering for the team for years.
14. DeSean Jackson – Philadelphia Eagles
Sorry Eagles fans, but the break-up of the Eagles and one of the most popular players in franchise history marked the beginning of Chip Kelly’s reign of terror. Since bursting onto to the scene, D-Jack used his blazing speed to torch secondaries. He quickly developed into a play-making machine that the Eagles had lacked. His punt and kick return abilities were just as impressive.
In the 2014 offseason, Jackson was released from his contract by the Eagles. The move signified the beginning of what would be a superstar and fan-favorite purge orchestrated by Chip Kelly.
13. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
Shady McCoy is the latest and arguably biggest name to be jettisoned by Kelly, as the Eagles’ all-time leading rusher to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso. The trade was met with anger from tons of Philly fans as not only had Kelly gotten rid of a fan-favorite in the prime of his career, but got one of his former college players in Alonso who also missed the 2014 campaign with a torn ACL.
McCoy was also angered about the trade and citing Kelly’s release of the the dynamic Jackson the year before, made allegations that his former coach had gotten rid of all the team’s good black players. While Kelly naturally denied the allegations, the topic generated a lot of attention from the media and fans.
12. Deion Sanders – Atlanta Falcons
Prime Time came to Atlanta in 1989 after being selected 5th overall in the draft. A star two-way player for the Florida State Seminoles, Sanders was the perfect mix of brash, confidence and style all at the same time. He had superstar written all over him.
Sanders boosted the Atlanta Falcons’ secondary and special teams with his interceptions and end-zone celebrations that were preceded by his infamous high-stepping on the way there. He boosted the team’s popularity through jersey sales and his self-titled hip-hop album Prime Time that was made with the help of Atlanta native MC Hammer.
The current NFL Network analyst left the Falcons in the off-season to sign a one-year deal with their former rivals the San Francisco 49ers. One of the main reasons he cited for the move to the 9ers was for a chance to compete for a Super Bowl. The move paid dividends as not only did he win his first of three championship, be he played the Falcons in Atlanta that season. In typical Prime Time fashion, he picked off a pass and strolled down the sideline for the TD while taunting his former teammates and coaches.
11. Terrell Owens – Philadelphia Eagles
Terrell Owens’s time in Philly got off to a great start with 14 TDs. Owens then suffered a fractured fibula and a badly sprained ankle that season. Owens miraculously fought his way back and suited up for his team in the Super Bowl only six weeks later. Despite his spectacular performance where he caught 9 passes for 122 yards, the Eagles would lose to the Patriots 24-21.
Unfortunately, the occasion also signified a turning point in the relationship between Owens, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles. McNabb was seen to be the target of negative comments made by T.O. who during the offseason was in a contract dispute with his team. Owens was suspended for a week of training camp by coach Andy Reid and held the infamous shirtless workout press conference at his house with his agent Drew Rosenhaus by his side. Owens would eventually be released by the Eagles and gleefully signed with the rival Cowboys.
10. Joe Namath – New York Jets
Broadway Joe, the man behind the biggest guarantee in all of sports, and the face of the AFL and later the NFL in the 60s and 70s split with the Jets in an ugly way.
Although he was known to the public before Super Bowl III, Namath’s guarantee and the Jets’ subsequent win thrust him into super-stardom. He held the Big Apple in his hand. Unfortunately the quarterback’s age, injuries and bad play by his teams over multiple seasons led the team to attempt to trade their iconic star. After they couldn’t work out a deal, the Jets released Broadway Joe. The obvious decline in his play was evident, but the move was met with hatred and anger by Gang Green fans. Namath would finish his career with Los Angeles Rams. Despite playing in front of another gigantic media market, he couldn’t couldn’t recapture the Broadway magic. He would last one season in L.A before retiring.
9. Eric Dickerson – Los Angeles Rams
The man with the trademark glasses and neck-roll is the holder of the NFL’s single-season rushing record with 2,105 yards that he set in 1984.
Like most athletes who outperform their contract, Eric Dickerson demanded more money from the Rams after his historic season. After failing to agree to a restructured deal, the All-Pro would sit out the first two games of the 1985 season. The holdout didn’t affect him, as he rushed for more than 1,200 yards and ran for a playoff-record 248 yards against the Dallas Cowboys. The decision to skip the early season games was the beginning of a huge battle between the star and the team. The dispute would see not only both sides say disparaging remarks about each other, but would also have Ram fans look at their one-time hero as selfish, would last for three years.
Dickerson was eventually traded to the Indianapolis Colts in a blockbuster three-team, 10-player trade involving the Buffalo Bills. The Rams were never able to replace the running back until they traded for future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk in 1999 from you guessed it – the Colts.
8. Charles Haley – San Francisco 49ers
The sack master and newly minted Hall of Famer is the only man in NFL history to have five Super Bowls. In 1986, Haley registered 12 sacks, and was voted All-Rookie despite coming off the bench. His assault on quarterbacks continued when he was elevated to the starting lineup in 1988. His abilities as a pass rusher would help would help the team capture two world championships.
Haley’s relationship with the Niners ended during the 1992 offseason when the team traded the player to their arch rival Dallas Cowboys. The trade came after Haley allegedly got into an argument with George Seifert and a physical altercation with Steve Young.
The trade worked out perfectly for Haley as the Cowboys would win three Super Bowls with Haley serving as an anchor for their defense. In fact, Dallas beat the 49ers in two out of three NFC Championship Games in subsequent years.
7. Marcus Allen – Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
While many people remember the Hall of Famer from his time with the Kansas City Chiefs, the former USC Trojan had an equally illustrious career in the black and silver, highlighted by his performance in Super Bowl where he was named MVP as he rushed for a then record 191 yards.
The good times on the west coast abruptly ended for Allen when he became involved in a public feud with eccentric Raiders’ owner Al Davis over a contract dispute. The battle saw Allen benched and buried on the depth chart. He was even forced to change position from running back to fullback. The rift between both sides was highlighted by a 1992 interview with Al Michals where Allen accused Davis of trying to ruin his career.
In 1993, Allen was able to leave the Raiders as an unrestricted free agent. Surely to rub salt in the wound, he signed with Oakland’s longtime nemesis the Kansas City Chiefs. In his first season, he led the AFC with 12 touchdowns, and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He also helped the team reach the AFC Championship game. In 10 games against the Raiders as a member of the Chiefs, Allen went 9-1.
6. Steve Smith – Carolina Panthers
For more than a decade, Steve Smith was the face of the Panthers franchise. He leads the franchise in total touchdowns with 67, receiving yards with 12,197, and receptions with 836. He also helped the squad reach their only Super Bowl in 2003.
In only his second year on the job, Panthers GM Dave Gettleman who was looking to go with a younger team felt Smith was too expensive for the team and decided to release the veteran. The move came as a shock to Panther fans, as not only was Smith still very productive, but the club still had a young and developing Cam Newton with a thinned out WR corps.
Smith signed a three-year, $11.5 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens a day later. He wouldn’t have to wait long to get revenge on Gettleman, as the Ravens squared off against the Panthers in Week 4. Not only would he get his revenge, he ripped apart his former team’s secondary to the tune of the seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns. During the game Smith even took the time to talk trash to his former GM and club on a sideline camera.
5. Ricky Williams – Miami Dolphins
While his departure from New Orleans wasn’t pretty, at least the Saints were able to acquire four draft choices including two 1st round picks when they traded Ricky Williams to Miami.
The Dolphins had to deal with the former Longhorn’s multiple pot suspensions including a year-long ban that saw him play for the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. They got nothing but a portion of the signing bonus they gave him after he retired for the first time in 2004.
The highlight of his departure from the Fins was at a 2004 party where Miami’s Jason Taylor came dressed as his former teammate, and pretended to be high and said that he would rather smoke weed than play ball.
4. Joe Montana – San Francisco 49ers
It’s hard to believe, but the greatest quarterback of all time (sorry Brady fans, but Joe Montana doesn’t lose Super Bowls, nor does he need deflated balls) would be traded, but that’s exactly what happened when the 49ers traded the four-time Super Bowl winner to the Kansas City Chiefs. Montana was traded due to the emergence of Steve Young, who started for the 49ers while Montana was out for nearly two seasons with an elbow injury suffered against the New York Giants in the 1990 NFC Championship game. Fans and even some of the players were divided on the subject to say the least.
Despite being 37 years old in his first season with K.C, he would continue his brilliance by leading his new team to within a game of Super Bowl XXVII. He was even selected to his final Pro Bowl that year.
3. Brett Farve – Green Bay Packers
Although the drafting of Aaron Rodgers in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft factored into the equation, Farve’s indecisiveness on whether or not to retire played a huge role in the rift between him and his team. After years of speculation, the ol’ gunslinger retired for the first time in March of 2008, just a few months after his team had been eliminated by the New York Giants in the NFC Championship
Just four months later, Favre shocked the football world by announcing he was coming out of retirement. With Rodgers already set at starting QB, and Favre not wanting to return as a backup, he wrote a letter to Packers’ GM Ted Thompson asking him for his unconditional release to allow him to play for a team of his choosing. Thompson declined the request.
After finally meeting with Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers traded Favre to the New York Jets. After one year in the Big Apple, Favre retired for the second time.
Six months later, Favre un-retired again. This time however, the Jets officially cut him, meaning he was free to sign with any team. He would go on to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. The gunslinger would get revenge on his former team, beating them twice in the 2009 season. His return to Green Bay saw him getting booed mercilessly, but he would still torch his former teammates.
2. Albert Haynesworth – Washington Redskins
Blessed with incredible size, strength, and agility, Albert Haynesworth terrorized QBs with his ability to get off the ball, shed blockers, and penetrate opposing backfields. While he was known for being a dirty player he was also a heck of a player.
Haynesworth became an unrestricted free agent in 2009, and signed a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins, one of the largest contracts ever given to a defensive player. Unfortunately, for the former Tennessee Titan, his stay in Washington would only last two seasons as ineffectiveness, attitude problems, constant clashes with then Mike Shannahan, and his penchant for quitting on plays quickly wore thin.
After reporting to training camp extremely out of shape, Haynewsworth naturally failed his mandatory conditioning test. Shanahan would give the media daily updates on Haynesworth’s physique and testing, emphasizing he would not let Haynesworth play until he passed his physical. He would be traded to the Patriots the following season.
1. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens
Ray Rice used his impressive speed and strength to go around and through defenders. In six seasons Rice would record the second most rushing yards in Ravens history with 6,180, and 37 touchdowns. Rice would also help the Ravens to their second Super Bowl.
The relationship came to an abrupt end after a physical altercation occurred between the Running Back and his fiancee Janay Palmer at a Atlantic City casino. At first it appeared Rice would just be handed a two-game suspension by the NFL. However, once an online video of the event was released by TMZ, the incident was there for the world to see. Goodell in panic mode over the leniency of his original punishment, suspended Rice indefinitely.
The Ravens released Rice and pulled all of his items from their pro shop immediately. Rice filed a grievance against the Ravens for wrongful termination. He and the team would reach a settlement that saw Rice get back the money he lost in the form of game salary during the suspension.
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