Athletes are generally revered by fans but they can be disliked, too. While players like Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson tend to elicit positive reviews, other NFLers don’t draw the same sentiments. Whether it’s a spotty history off the field or just actions that paint them in a negative light while on the field, players find ways to be hated. Every story needs an antagonist, and without further adieu, here is a list highlighting each NFL team’s biggest villain.
New York Jets — Michael Vick
As long as Michael Vick is in the NFL, he’ll be the most hated player on whatever team he plays for. While Vick has paid his debt to society, the crimes he committed don’t just disappear. As recently as a month ago, activists created a petition to ban Vick from Jets training camp. The Vick hate isn’t going to subside any time soon.
New England Patriots — Tom Brady
Tom Brady has it all. Super Bowl rings, a mansion and a supermodel wife are just a few of the things this Patriot boasts. It’s easy to see why the average fan can’t relate to the star quarterback and, in turn, would dislike Brady. With all of his success, Brady is either admired or envied. His inclusion in this piece is an ode to the latter.
Buffalo Bills — Marcell Dareus
In less than a month, Marcell Dareus was arrested twice (on May 5 and June 3). The first incident involved the use of a controlled substance, while the latter had to do with drag racing. Dareus subsequently showed up to training camp and failed a conditioning test. While he was out getting in trouble with the law, Dareus clearly wasn’t preparing for training camp in what could be a defining season for his team. The last few months have certainly hurt his image.
Miami Dolphins — Cortland Finnegan
Since he was a member of the Tennessee Titans, Finnegan has always been known to heckle opposing receivers. Sometimes, he takes things too far. For example, it’s tough to forget the corner’s fight with Andre Johnson, but he also baited and got an unsportsmanlike reaction from Josh Morgan in 2012 after a play at the end of a Week 3 contest that ended up costing Morgan’s team the game. Finnegan thrives on the hate.
New York Giants — Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
While the majority of the football world was getting ready for the Super Bowl, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had to make things weird by talking about how he was contemplating retirement after the big game at 27 years old. Compound that with the fact that he failed to live up to high expectations in Philadelphia in 2012, and it’s easy to see why the athletic cornerback doesn’t have many fans.
Dallas Cowboys — Tony Romo
The truth is that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is actually very good overall. He typically posts impressive stat lines and seemingly always has his team in the playoff hunt. However, Romo has developed a reputation as a ‘choke artist’ and his signature late-game interceptions make him an easy target for fan ridicule. Romo’s a player that many love to hate, which is unfortunate because he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
But at the end of the day, he’s often ridiculed and is disliked by football fans—even ones in the Dallas area. Romo is seemingly always “in the wrong,” no matter what he does.
Washington Redskins — DeSean Jackson
Ever since he entered the NFL, DeSean Jackson has dazzled fans with flamboyant touchdown dances and arrogant high-steps. His antics rub some the wrong way—trotting backwards into the end zone on Sundays isn’t the most endearing thing an NFL player can do. Jackson also reportedly has ties to gangs, which makes it difficult to be a fan of his.
Philadelphia Eagles — Riley Cooper
No matter what Riley Cooper’s teammates or coaches say, the fact that the Eagles player was caught on camera screaming a racial slur in public makes him an obvious villain. There’s no excusing Cooper’s use of the derogatory term and in a league as diverse as the NFL, Cooper’s words really have no place here.
Green Bay Packers — Matt Flynn
In a meaningless Week 17 game against the Lions a few years ago, Matt Flynn looked like one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. After a whirlwind of poor performances, bloated contracts and roster cuts, Flynn is back in Green Bay as a second-string signal caller. He’s a villain because of the false hope he brought to multiple teams when the truth was that he was a below-average player who had one good game.
Chicago Bears — Jay Cutler
“Smoking” Jay Cutler makes Tony Romo look like one of the most loved players in NFL history. Cutler doesn’t cooperate with the media, seems to get injured at the wrong time every year and displays a general look of apathy when he’s on the field. Also, his interception-prone quarterbacking style is especially frustrating and it has cost the Bears many a contest.
He’s also got in the faces of his teammates and yelled at them on camera in the past, which isn’t really a great look.
Detroit Lions — Ndamukong Suh
A dirty player, Ndamukong Suh incurs countless fines and penalties. While he’s one of the league’s best at his position, Suh takes every opportunity to go after opposing players after the whistle has blown. The most famous incident of Suh’s career occurred in a game against the Packers, when the defensive lineman appeared to step on the head of Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith. As Fox Sports’ Mike Pereira said, “That’s not dirty, that’s filthy.”
Minnesota Vikings — Kain Colter
Meet the man who may be responsible for the dismantling of amateurism in college football. Former Northwestern standout Kain Colter inspired his teammates to unionize in the interest of getting college players paid. Colter’s actions have indirectly affected the future of popular video game franchise EA Sports NCAA Football, which EA chose not to continue for this season because of the fact that college players are asking to be paid for the usage of their likenesses in the game. Gamers don’t like Colter much, that’s for sure.
Carolina Panthers — Derek Anderson
To understand why Derek Anderson is the biggest villain on the Carolina Panthers, look no further than his post-game tirade after a Monday Night blowout loss against the 49ers. Anderson barked at reporters that he “doesn’t go out there and laugh” when video of the signal caller on the sideline clearly showed him chuckling during the contest. In a bottom-line business like the NFL, laughing during blowout losses is frowned upon.
Atlanta Falcons — N/A
Falcons head coach Mike Smith runs a tight ship in Atlanta and tends to stay away from players with character issues. Finding a villain on the Falcons is tough because no one on the team has made any glaring errors over the course of their professional careers that would land them on this list. Osi Umenyiora was a consideration, but the case isn’t strong enough. There’s no villain on Atlanta’s team.
New Orleans Saints — Jimmy Graham
Saints “pass catcher” (and I use that term loosely) Jimmy Graham finds himself on this list after he dragged out his contract negotiations throughout the entire offseason. It’s okay to demand money, but for Graham to ask arbitrators to change his position to wide receiver so that he could pocket some extra cash is a bit ridiculous. The Saints had to let go of a number of fan favorites, including Darren Sproles and Lance Moore, to make Graham’s big numbers work.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Dashon Goldson
The NFL is working hard to cut down on league concussion totals, but some players’ actions have proven counterproductive. Safety Dashon Goldson has developed a reputation for being a headhunter, evidenced by the dirty hit he put on Saints rusher Darren Sproles in 2013. Goldson will need to find a way to avoid fines and stop going for headshots. Also, he’s known for his trash talking when on the field.