When it comes to being successful in the NFL, you need to make sure you have both the passion and the physical skills necessary to make it. One thing that does not need to be the case, is that you need to be a good person. Sure, it doesn’t help if you’re a jerk, but as many people on this list proved, it didn’t stop them from being a successful player.
Now granted, Aaron Hernandez or Rae Carruth got to finish their career in a jail cell, but another jerk may be starting in this year's Super Bowl.
As society continues to embrace technology, these players lives are under a microscope now more than ever before. If you were playing in the '70s or '80s and you went out for a beer after the game? May not be such a bad thing. But if you have a history like Johnny Manziel, you better believe that every thing you do is being followed and scrutinized. Not so bad if you aren’t a jerk, but if you have character concerns then you better believe you won’t be getting the benefit of the doubt when more news stories emerge that are linked to you.
Some of these players may have gotten you up and cheering from your couch every Sunday, and ifso, I am sorry if I ruined the image of them being a good, clean, hard working kid. Others are jerks that everyone knows, but wouldn’t you love to hear stories as to why they’re jerks (here’s looking at you Terrell Owens!).
Whether the biggest jerk to you is on this list or not, there is no doubting that these are not 20 of the biggest jerks that have played in the NFL.
21 Aaron Hernandez
Now I’m sorry Aaron, but if you get accused of murder then you have earned yourself a place on this list of the biggest jerks in the NFL. Hernandez was charged in April, 2015 of murder in the first degree which leads to carries with it a life sentence. The victim, Otis Lloyd, was known to Hernandez for some time before the altercation that led to his killing.
The decision was a stupid one for Hernandez as well (duh) as well as costly,
“Hernandez's release (from the Patriots) meant he automatically forfeited his 2015–18 salaries, totaling $19.3 million, which were not guaranteed. The Boston Globe reported that the Patriots voided all remaining guarantees, including his 2013 and 2014 salaries, on the grounds that those guarantees were for skill, injury, or salary cap room, and did not include being cut for "conduct detrimental to the best interests of professional football." Hernandez was also indicted for a double homicide in 2012.
20 Rae Carruth
Rae Carruth was a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers from 1997-1999. He wasn’t outstanding, but posted 62 catches and 804 yards before getting released from the league. Why? Well he just happened to hire someone to shoot and murder his casual girlfriend, Cherica Adams. To make things even worse, Adams was 8 months pregnant. Adams was allegedly blocked in by Carruth’s car, when one of his associates drove by and shot into the car, hitting Cherica 4 times. The baby survived the accident, but suffered permanent brain damage.
19 Peyton Manning
I don’t blame you if your first reaction when you read Peyton’s name was to instantly call me a liar and spew off examples where he’s done something great for someone else. I’ll counter with the story of how he sexually assaulted an athletic trainer when he was in College. The story reports that Peyton allegedly was naked, and sat down on the trainers face (unsolicited) when she was trying to help him with an injury. If this report had come out in 2015, there is no doubt that this would've blown up on social media and Peyton would not have had a career in the NFL. He may have done great things for the rest of his career, but if he actually did what she says he did? That will always make him a jerk.
18 Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman is probably not the biggest jerk on this list, but that doesn’t mean people don’t think he’s a jerk. When you come out and publically trash talk your opponent, as he did to Michael Crabtree, you’re going to elicit some hate. As 5th round pick, it is easy to see where Sherman’s chip on his should comes from, but that doesn’t mean he has to be a cocky jerk about it. Hopefully as he continues to mature as a player, you’ll start to see a calmer and less volatile Richard Sherman.
17 Greg Hardy
I know you can’t really say this without knowing him personally, but man oh man, does Greg Hardy seem like a real piece of work. Hardy was found guilty of assaulting an ex-girlfriend and given 18 months probation. The incident also led to a 10 game suspension from the NFL. The report filed by the victim is enough to make your stomach turn and wonder how Hardy is still in the league:
“Hardy picked me up and threw me into the tile tub area in his bathroom. I have bruises from head to toe, including my head, neck, back, shoulders arms, legs, elbow and feet. Hardy pulled me from the tub by my hair, screaming at me that he was going to kill me, break my arms and other threats that I completely believe. He drug me across the bathroom and out into the bedroom. Hardy choked me with both hands around my throat while I was lying on the floor. Hardy picked me up over his head and threw me onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns. I landed on those weapons. Hardy bragged that all of those assault rifles were loaded.”
A traumatizing experience in it’s own right, even more when you consider the sheer size of Hardy who is 6’5 and 280 pounds.
16 Johnny Manziel
Johnny may not be a jerk if you compare him to some of the worst people on the list, but there is no doubt that Johnny Football can rub people the wrong way. The player has had character concerns since day 1, and has since spent time in rehab for alcohol addiction, as well as a general attitude of being too cocky for his own good. Perhaps the most egregioius example is the story that broke of Johnny being out in a Vegas club the night before the last game of the regular season. While the reports were never confirmed, a waitress at Heart Bar in Planet Hollywood claimed that Manziel was there and paid in cash. The fact that this is had even the potential to become a storyline is evident of how much of a concern Johnny’s character issues are.
15 Adam Jones
Adam "Pacman" Jones has always been a dirty player out on the field, and as a result, is arguably one of the most hated players in the league. The worst thing about Pacman is that not only is he a hothead on the field, he seems to always be whining to the media. After Antonio Brown suffered a concussion during their recent playoff game, Pacman called out Brown for acting and embellishing the contact on the play. Pacman got to look like an absolute jerk yet again when Brown did in fact, suffer a concussion and had to miss the following week. Pacman apologized to Brown after realizing he was wrong, but one apology does change anything, it just makes you look stupid.
14 Adrian Peterson
Peterson is arguably the most athletic running back of all time. After an unbelievable recovery from a torn ACL, Peterson had retaken the title as being the best running back in football before his controversy started. Peterson was indicted by a grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child, after it was reported that Peterson was abusing his 4 year old son’s legs. It’s one thing to hear it, but images also emerged of the wounds on the 4 year old that make it hard to forgive Peterson’s actions. You might be great at your job, but as Peterson points out, it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily a great person.
13 LeSean McCoy
Now, I don’t know if this next part makes McCoy a jerk, but it definitely makes him creepy. McCoy wanted to hold a party in July at a private event, that sounds great right? Except on the poster it said female only, you need to submit a photo of yourself and once you enter you need to sign a confidentiality agreement. I can’t imagine what McCoy had planned, but I am sure it was an incredibly "wholesome" night. McCoy later took to Twitter to change the rules of his party to be open to everyone (how generous and much less creepy of him). There was also the story of how McCoy only tipped 20 cents on a 60+$ bill. McCoy states that the tip was a statement on how awful his service was at the restaurant, but it still wasn’t a great story for his public image.
12 Chris Culliver
One of the best things that North American sports is attempting to do, is to make the league a safe and welcoming place for players in case they want to come out. Michael Sam was the first openly gay person to be drafted, and hopefully it will be a place where future players can get support. They won’t get support from Chris Culliver though and that largely makes him a jerk.
When asked what his stance on gay individuals, Culliver stated:
“I don’t do the gay guys man… I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.”
Culliver would go onto say that if they are "gay great, they can come out of the closet 10 years after they retire." Because you know, that makes sense and is totally fair.
11 Colt Lyerla
Now, Colt is not a name that is going to jump off the page, and you know why? Because he’s kind of a jerk and it ruined his public image. During his time at Oregon, Colt posted comments on Twitter that insinuated that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a government conspiracy to further pass along an anti-assault weapon agenda. You can believe that if you want, Colt but if you’re going to go after a tragedy that saw 28 people lose their lives, you think you would do so with a bit more tact. Colt’s future in the NFL was already in question, but after this it may not be shocking to know that Colt went undrafted and was cut after a brief stint with the Packers. Lyerla has also been arrested and charged with a DUI, with the substance not being alcohol. Given that he had past cocaine issues, it would not be a leap to think that he was driving while high the substance.
10 Ray Rice
Before the video surfaced of Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend, he was arguably one of the most respected and loved players in the NFL. Rice was open in his support for his city and helped inspire many players due to his grit and passion to succeed. Rice had been in the league since 2008 before getting released after the 2013 season. For those unfamiliar, an incident between Rice and his fiancée, Janay Palmer occurred while at a Casino in New Jersey. The video shows the couple arguing in an elevator before Rice punches Palmer, knocking her out and prompting him to have to drag her out of the elevator. An ugly image that forever changed how the NFL looks at their domestic abuse policy and permanently ended Rice’s career.
9 O.J. Simpson
Even if you have never watched a single game of football, you may still know the name O.J. Simpson. Simpson was one of the most popular athletes, but in 1994 (years after retirement) he was accussed of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. In trial, while he was not convicted of murder, the jury “unanimously found Simpson liable for the wrongful death of and battery against Goldman, and battery against Brown." Simpson was ordered to pay $33,500,000 in damages and it forever impacted his image.
That was not the last of his legal troubles though. In 2007, Simpson, along with 3 other men entered a room and took sports memorabilia (which Simpson claimed was his anyway!). The men were charged with “multiple felony counts, including criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, robbery, and using a deadly weapon.”
I’m not saying being a criminal automatically makes you a jerk, but it’s hard to deny that O.J. isn’t.
8 Warren Sapp
Sapp was a tremendous defensive player and was well deserving of his enshrinement in the NFL Hall of Fame. Yet, Sapp is also a notorious jerk, and this came even more to light after he was fired from the NFL Network after being arrested for soliciting prostitues. The general theme around the office was one of joy as many employee’s complained about Sapp’s attitude and how he was a nightmare to work with.
The staff went as far to say that there were certain rules that you had to follow when around Sapp, such as:
“-Don’t look Warren in the eyes (seriously).
-Introduce yourself, but DO NOT try to befriend him.
-Call him Warren. NEVER call him “Sapp.”
How big of a jerk do you have to be that you literally have don't want people to look at you?
7 Rex Ryan
Rex might not be the biggest jerk on this list, but he does have the distinction of being the only head coach to make it! Ryan is brash and loud, and his cocky demeanour cuasing him to seemingly predict that he will win the Super Bowl every single year. There’s nothing wrong with being confident, but Rex doesn’t have the background to be as arrogant as he is. It almost made it worth seeing Brady dominate the Jets for countless years, knowing how upset it must have made Rex. He’s clearly not changed his ways for the Buffalo Bills, but lets see if bringing in his brother Rob (whose the former defensive coordinator of the Saints) will make him less of a jerk (…I’m going with no).
6 Richie Incognito
In the world of professional sports, the role of hazing is always a tricky concept to talk about. You can make the argument that is just good fun and can be huge in building team morale. Then you have the example of Incognito who 'hazed" fellow teammate Johnathan Martin. When the story became public, the league investigated to try and get to the bottom of it.
It was “concluded that Incognito, Jerry (other player), and Pouncey (other player) made severe racial slurs towards the assistant trainer, and Incognito and Jerry even taunted him by saying that they had sex with his girlfriend. On December 7, 2012, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Incognito, Jerry, and Pouncey donned traditional Japanese headbands featuring a rising sun emblem (which the assistant trainer had given them) and jokingly threatened to harm the assistant trainer physically in retaliation for the Pearl Harbor attack.”
If you are bullying your teammate and staff to this extent, it’s not only clearly unacceptable but it clearly makes you a jerk.
5 Terrell Owens
There was no doubt that Terrell Owens is one of the most entertaining players to ever be in the NFL. He was over the top, in your face, and immensely talented. Thank God for Owens, he was talented or his attitude that got him booted from several teams would have gotten him booted out of the league much earlier. The biggest example of Owens being a jerk comes from his time when he was a Philadelphia Eagle. In 2005, Owens was complaining about his contract and it led to a dispute at the teams training camp. Owens weas finally kicked out after an exchange with Head Coach, Andy Reid. It was also reported that Owens went up to their offensive coordinator ,Brad Childress and demanded that he not speak to him unless spoken to first. Talk about an ego on a guy that was big enough to cause headaches wherever he went.
4 Ben Roethlisberger
There is no doubting that Big Ben is not one of the most physically intimidating players in the NFL. Hard to take down and always strong to get back, it was only a controversial story around his image that seemed to slow down, Ben. Ben has been accused of sexual assault on two different occasions. The first was back in 2008 in which a woman stated she was assaulted by Roethlisberger while staying at a Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino. The second report came out in 2010 from a woman who stated that she was sexually assaulted by Big Ben after meeting him at a nightclub in a Georgia college town. Where there is smoke, there may be fire, but at the very least, Ben does not seem like a great guy to have around if you want to go and have a night out on the town.
2 Darren Sharper
Darren Sharper was an outstanding defensive player for 14 seasons in the NFL, which included winning a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints. While Sharper retired in 2010, his image forever got altered in 2014. Sharper was arrested and accused of a sexual assault that occurred in California. Shortly after that, women came forward in Louisiana, Arizona, and Nevada. Sharper pleaded guilty to the rape charges of 9 different women and was sentenced to twenty years In prison. Sexual assault can be incredibly damaging to the victim, and it is awful to know that someone who was so respected, ended up being such a jerk.
1 Michael Vick
You don’t get to be convicted of organizing a dog fighting ring and not make it on this list in the top spot. For those unaware, Vick had apparently operated the dog fighting ring for 5 years before it came to light. The story went onto say that Vick “promoted, funded, and facilitated a dog fighting ring on his property, and had engaged in hanging and drowning dogs who did not perform well.” This led to him receiving 21 months in prison. While Vick claims to have changed his stripes, you do not have to be a good person to realize dog fighting is wrong. But you really have to be an enormous jerk if you did it for FIVE YEARS.