Being hated among your competitors is not necessarily a bad thing, as success is a great contributor to gaining detractors in the NFL. Over the course of history we’ve seen successful players falter during high pressure situations because, after all, they are human too, and we all fail at times. Critics of successful athletes will single out these shortcomings and magnify them in order to create a story or to give someone a “choke artist” tag hoping it sticks.
If you were to ask any teammate of Peyton Manning’s, they will highlight his understanding for the game, his work ethic, his cerebral approach, and his desire to win at all costs. Despite these positive attributes, legions of fans hate him because of how many times he’s defeated their teams, or knocked them out of the playoffs. For all of his success, Peyton’s historic struggles during the postseason are echoed every year by his critics.
Success isn’t the only factor that breeds a gaggle of haters. Sometimes it’s as simple as a particular athlete just being an overall jerk or exhibiting chronic displays of boneheaded decisions. One look at all the violations and legal issues Adam “Pacman” Jones has on his resume and it’s hard to believe he’s liked by anyone besides his own mother.
The following is a collection of the most hated NFL players currently in the league, with exception to a few polarizing figures hated by so many, they just couldn’t be excluded.
20. Michael Irvin
Michael Irvin is a Hall of Fame wide receiver who played all 11 years of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, and is perhaps the original "diva wide receiver" we see so often in the NFL these days. In 1996 celebrating his 30th birthday, Irvin was found in a hotel room with cocaine, marijuana, and topless "models". Irvin was also allegedly involved in an altercation with teammate Everett McIver, where Irvin felt he had the right to have his hair cut before the rookie, resulting in Irvin stabbing him with a pair of scissors.
17 Tim Tebow
As a collegiate player, Tebow was a dynamic talent due to his mobility and size for a quarterback, which earned him the Heisman Trophy for his 2007 season. His transition to the NFL proved to be very difficult, and while he had some success, the peak of which was a playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 season, his poor completion percentage created a cloud over his future as a starting quarterback. Most of Tebow’s critics are not due to his on-field performance, but rather due to how outspoken he is about his Christain beliefs. Tebow would often be seen on the field with bible verses written on his eye-black, which the NCAA later banned, and the rule became known as the “Tebow-Rule”.
16 Tony Romo
The Dallas Cowboys are a polarizing franchise. Headed by controversial GM/Owner Jerry Jones, there is always someone associated with the Cowboys involved in media discussions. It’s pretty easy to hate Tony Romo. He’s the quarterback for “America’s Team”, he dates beautiful women (e.g. Jessica Simpson and Carrie Underwood), he gets paid $18 million per year, and to top it all off, he’s actually good at golf too. On the field, while Romo is a statistically great quarterback, his 2-4 playoff record has given him the “choke artist” label. Overall, Romo’s detractors hate him more out of envy than anything else.
15 Johnny Manziel
Manziel’s story is similar to Tebow’s, as they were such beloved collegiate players with tremendous success, in addition to winning the Heisman Trophy. Manziel, also known as “Johnny Football”, has a large fan base due to his college years at Texas A&M, and an equally large critic base for his overall cockiness. Former NFL coach Barry Switzer said of Manziel “I don’t like his antics. I think he’s an arrogant little prick.”
Other immature displays that continue to plague Manziel include getting busted with a fake I.D., departing early from the Manning Passing Academy, being suspected of receiving money for autographs and memorabilia, getting kicked out of a fraternity party, and flashing the “money sign” with his hands during draft day. All of this culminating with Manziel checking into a rehabilitation center for alcohol addiction in 2015.
16. Rae Carruth
Rae Carruth is a former NFL wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, whom he played with from 1997-99. He showed some promise as a rookie, hauling in 44 passes for 500-plus yards and 4 touchdowns. In 1999, Carruth was involved in a truly heinous act, where he hired someone to murder a woman pregnant with his child, reportedly because she refused to have an abortion. Carruth was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, and he is currently serving his sentence, with an anticipated release date in 2018.
14 Adam “Pacman” Jones
It’s impossible to have a list like this without mentioning Pacman. This guy has so many past issues and violations, you would assume it were for an entire NFL team. When he was drafted 6th overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2005, he was already on probation for a fight he was involved with in West Virginia. A year later a vehicle with his “Pacman” nickname embroidered on the headrests was seized in relation to a cocaine drug bust.
Perhaps his most notorious issue occurred at a Las Vegas nightclub, where Pacman was in attendance with this crew. A dancer had began collecting dollar bills which Jones and his crew had “made it rain” with. Apparently Pacman is not familiar to nightclub etiquette, and was irritated with the dancer picking up the money. He subsequently grabbed her by the hair and slammed her head on the stage several times. Just before departing, a member of his crew fired several shots into the nightclub, where one of the bullets hit a man and paralyzed him.
13 Michael Vick
At some point or another, we’ve all seen a movie where a dog or beloved animal was killed (e.g. Old Yeller). Don’t “spoilers!” me, that movie is almost 60 years old. Very few cinematic sequences give its audience that same heart retching feeling. When it was announced Michael Vick was arrested for involvement in a dog fighting ring, the world felt that heart retching, which turned into hatred toward Vick. He ended up serving 18 months in prison for his involvement, and seems to be on his way back to earning the public's forgiveness, but he will forever have the “dog killer” label attached with his name.
13. Bill Romanowski
Nobody will ever accuse Romanowski of not caring about winning. He's won four Super Bowls, and is a two-time Pro Bowler as a member of the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. However, he has a long history of incidents with opponents and teammates alike. In 1995, he was fined and thrown out of game for kicking fullback Larry Centers in the head. In 1997 he was fined $20,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on quarterback Kerry Collins, who also suffered a broken jaw. His most notorious incident came in a scrimmage game in 2003, where he ripped off teammate Marcus Williams' helmet and punched him in the eye. The blow crushed Williams' eye socket, and forced him to retire.
12 Jay Cutler
It’s tough to find a player in the NFL who is hated as much by opposing fans, just as much as he is hated by fans of his own team. Regardless of your stance on Jay Cutler, it’s hard to argue with the smug, pouty look he seems to have at all times throughout the game. Cutler also seems to piss people off wherever he goes. While on the Denver Broncos, Cutler demanded to be traded when the team attempted to acquire Matt Cassel. As a member of the Chicago Bears, Cutler has voiced displeasure with several head coaches and offensive coordinators, in addition to irritating fans with his penchant for throwing interceptions. It’s safe to say that everybody hates Jay.
11 Chad Ochocinco
Ocho has always been an outspoken guy, but some of his antics, depending on how you feel about touchdown celebrations, can rub people the wrong way. Some of his more notable celebrations include river-dancing, proposing to a cheerleader, throwing on a “Hall of Fame” jacket, performing CPR on a football, and using a pylon to putt the football into an imaginary hole and doing the famous Tiger Woods “fist pump”. If you didn’t hate him for those celebrations, perhaps the icing-on-the-cake moment came when he was arrested in August of 2012 for head-butting his wife. Keep it classy, Ocho.
10 Ben Roethlisberger
“Big Ben” finds himself hated for a mixed bag of reasons. If your team happens to play in the AFC North, chances are you hate him because the Pittsburgh Steelers have six playoff appearances and two Super Bowls in the past decade. Regardless of your allegiance, it’s Roethlisberger’s off-field issues that have caused most people to hate him. In 2009, Ben was accused of sexually assaulting a women in his hotel at a Lake Tahoe celebrity golf tournament. The next year, Roethlisberger was once again in the spotlight for sexual assault, this time for the rape of a 20-year-old in Georgia. The accuser said Roethlisberger raped her in the bathroom of a nightclub, but due to lack of evidence, he was not charged.
9 Peyton Manning
Peyton is a prime example of being hated due to success. He is second all-time in regular season career wins as a quarterback with 179. Assuming he stays healthy in the 2015-16 season, he will eclipse Brett Favre’s record of 186. Peyton is also the all-time leader in touchdown passes. Unless you were a Colts fan (or Bronco fan the past few seasons), Peyton has assuredly driven dagger after dagger into your heart with each touchdown pass. On the field, Peyton is known for calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, which is incredibly frustrating for the opposition because they have to change their entire defensive scheme on a whim. If he’s not on your side (or fantasy team) chances are you hate Peyton Manning.
8 JaMarcus Russell
One of the most infuriating things in sports is seeing a player with tremendous talent who never lives up to their potential, and JaMarcus Russell is the poster boy for wasted talent. Coming out of two successful years at LSU in 2007, Russell had the incredibly rare combination of arm-strength and size that NFL teams would kill for, and was promptly selected first-overall by the Oakland Raiders. The issues started almost immediately, as Russell held out of training camp his rookie year because he couldn’t come to a contract agreement with the Raiders. Russell floundered when he was finally given the reigns, finishing with a 18-23 career touchdown-interception ratio, and is considered by many to be the biggest bust in NFL history. Notable names drafted after Russell; Calvin Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, and Adrian Peterson. Ouch.
7 Randy Moss
Before ever setting foot on an NFL field, Randy Moss was a red flag. Out of high school, Moss signed a letter of intent to play for Notre Dame, however, he was involved in a racially-fueled fight at school that left someone hospitalized, and he was subsequently denied enrollment. Moss was later accepted by Florida State, but while he was on probation, he tested positive for marijuana and was dismissed. One of Moss’ most infamous moments came as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, playing against division rival Green Bay Packers for a playoff berth. Upon catching his second touchdown of the game, Moss turned his back to the fans in the end zone and pretended pull down his pants and “moon” them. Despite being one of the best receivers in NFL history, Moss will always be known for his off-field issues and antics.
6 Adrian Peterson
There was a time where AP was seen as a squeaky clean athlete and one of the best running backs in the NFL. That all changed in 2014 when a story surfaced that Adrian Peterson was associated with child abuse. The details released following his arrest were pretty gruesome when you consider his child was just four years old. Peterson used a “switch”, which is a thin stick of sorts to repeatedly hit his child with, causing injury to his back, genitals, ankles, buttocks, and legs. Whatever your stance is on reprimanding your child, there is no doubt Peterson’s actions were excessive and brutish. Later that same year, it was alleged that Peterson had used funds from his charity, All Day Inc., to pay for an orgy with four women and his underage brother.
5 Tom Brady
Much like previous entry, Peyton Manning, a vast majority of Brady’s haters stem from his success on the field. As a member of the New England Patriots, Tom Brady has four Super Bowl wins, and a regular season win-loss record of 160-47 (good for 3rd all-time). Off the field, Brady is married to one of the most beautiful women on the planet in Gisele Bundchen, and has a freaking moat around his mansion. If you didn’t hate Brady out of sheer jealousy yet, perhaps the recent “deflategate” scandal, where it was determined the footballs Brady was using during the 2015 postseason were below the legal PSI limit, will change your mind.
4 Ray Rice
During Rice’s first few seasons as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, it was hard not to root for the guy. Although he’s listed at 5-foot-8, that seems like a generous measurement if you’ve seen him scurry all over the field, evading defenders seemingly twice his size. However, a surveillance video in the elevator of an Atlantic City hotel showed gruesome footage of him punching his then-fiancee (now wife) in the face, leaving her unconscious. Rice initially only received a two-game suspension from the NFL for this incident, which created a whirlwind of controversy about their lack of punishment for domestic violence issues. Everything changed once the video emerged, as Rice was suspended indefinitely and a new policy on domestic violence was created.
3 Terrell Owens
Owens is without a doubt going to be a member of the NFL Hall of Fame. He is second all-time in reception yards, and sixth all-time in number of receptions. Despite his success, Owens is notorious for his flamboyant touchdown celebrations. While he was a member of the 49ers, playing against the Dallas Cowboys, Owens caught a touchdown pass and proceeded to run to mid-field and celebrate on the Cowboys star emblem. In the same game, T.O. caught another touchdown pass and ran to celebrate on the Cowboys star again, but was tackled by a member of the Cowboys. Owens is also notorious for burning bridges with every team he played for, including the 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, and even the Indoor Football League.
2 Ndamukong Suh
With a villainous sounding name like Ndamukong Suh, it’s no surprise to find him toward the top of this list. Suh is a massive human being at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, and his speed (4.98 in the 40 yard dash) truly defies his size. Those combinations make him a terrifying force on the field. Throughout his career thus far, Suh has made highlights with hard hits and tackles, however, many of his hits have been unsportsmanlike, causing him to accrue over $280,000 in fines. Some of the more well-documented incidents include stepping on the leg Aaron Rodgers after a whistle, slamming an opposing lineman’s head in the ground several times after a whistle, and kicking Matt Schaub in the groin. Suh is widely regarded as the dirtiest player currently in the NFL, making him incredibly easy to hate.
1 O.J. Simpson
One would assume a player who has won the Heisman Trophy, made six Prow Bowl appearances, was NFL's leading rusher four times throughout his career, and has starred in several major motion pictures would be a much more beloved figure. Not in O.J.'s case. Despite the murder of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman occurring 20 years ago, no athlete scandal has ever come close to the controversy and shock as the O.J. murder trial. Unbelievably, O.J. got away with murder despite mounds of evidence supporting the prosecution. What really rubbed people the wrong way was that O.J. was in the works of publishing a book "If I Did It, Here's How It Happened". If that wasn't enough for you, he recently was involved in an armed robbery incident, as well as kidnapping, and is currently serving his sentence, with an eligibility of parole coming in 2017.