We’re always talking about the players that impress us each year, but we rarely talk about the worst NFL players in the league. They don’t get any attention and while that’s for good reason, we’re going to take a step back and display some of the players that didn’t meet expectations.
Let’s be honest, the NFL is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ type of league. Those that play well are the ones that make headlines, the ones that get playing time, the ones that receive awards, the ones that sign big contracts, and the ones that get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
With that said, the worst NFL players are the ones that find themselves on the bench and eventually cut from the team when things don’t work out. It’s clear that NFL coaches don’t have time for these players and owners aren’t willing to pay them good money to under-perform.
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Who Are the Worst NFL Players of All-Time?
I’m sure you have several players roaming around inside your head that fit the description of one of the worst NFL players of all-time — I know I do. Some of them played in the league recently, while others have been out of the league for a long time. Either way, their play never sufficed.
Some players were never put in a good enough position to succeed, some weren’t committed enough, some didn’t have the talent, some couldn’t execute when their name was called, and some of them just failed to live up to the hype they received prior to entering the league.
It doesn’t matter which category they fell under, we’re going to rank who we believe to be the worst NFL players of all-time. Our list includes quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, linebackers, and even kickers — no one is safe when looking at the worst NFL players ever!
25. K Joe Danelo
Joe Danelo was drafted in the 10th round of the 1975 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins. While he never kicked a field goal for Miami, he was signed as a replacement kicker for the Green Bay Packers. In 12 games with the team, he made 11/16 field goals in his first NFL season.
Danelo went on to play a total of 10 years in the NFL for the Packers, New York Giants, and Buffalo Bills. He had some good moments, but overall he struggled to find consistency. He only made 133/228 career field goals (58.3%), including 8/21 in 1976 and 9/20 in 1979.
24. WR Alex Van Dyke
Alex Van Dyke was a wide receiver drafted in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. Though he had high expectations coming into the league, he never lived up to the hype and only lasted five years — three with the Jets and two with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In those five years, Alex Van Dyke finished with just 26 catches on 61 targets for 219 yards and 3 touchdowns. Most of that came in his first season with the Jets, finishing with 17 receptions on 43 targets for 118 yards and one touchdown. It wasn’t the type of career they were hoping for.
23. WR Kenny Jackson
Kenny Jackson was one of the best wide receivers in Penn State history, holding 27 school records by the time he left. The Philadelphia Eagles invested a lot in him, selecting him with the 4th overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft. He spent 8 years in the NFL, 7 of which with the Eagles.
Unfortunately, his college success didn’t translate to the NFL. Being picked 4th overall comes with a lot of expectations, but his 126 receptions in 8 years wasn’t what the Eagles wanted. In fact, 117 of those receptions came in his first four years, at which point he quickly declined.
22. K Neil O’Donoghue
Neil O’Donoghue was born in Ireland and is known as the tallest place kicker in NFL history. Unfortunately, his 6’6’’ frame wasn’t enough to find much success in the NFL. He was drafted in the 5th round of the 1977 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills and spent 9 years in the league.
The Bills quickly released him after only making 2 of his 6 field goals in the first five games of the season. He then went 24 of 42 over the next two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He finished his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, making 88 of 141 field goals in 6 seasons.
21. QB Mike Phipps
Mike Phipps was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 for his success at Purdue University. That success never shifted over to the big leagues, despite being selected third overall by the Cleveland Browns in the 1970 NFL Draft — two picks behind Terry Bradshaw.
The Browns were hoping Phipps was their answer at quarterback, but that never happened. He spent 7 years with the team and finished with 40 touchdowns and 81 interceptions. He then played 5 seasons with the Chicago Bears, recording 15 touchdowns and 27 interceptions.
20. QB Craig Whelihan
Craig Whelihan was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft. He didn’t see action until the 1997 season when he replaced Stan Humphries as starter midway through the season. He would then replace Ryan Leaf as starter during the 1998 season.
In his two seasons with San Diego, he had a 2-12 record as starter, totaling 14 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. San Diego released him after the 1998 season and was signed by the Oakland Raiders. He didn’t last long in Oakland and was released before the 1999 season began.
19. WR Renaldo Nehemiah
Renaldo Nehemiah never played football in college, but his success in track and field drew a lot of interest from NFL teams ahead of the 1982 season. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers and there was a lot of hope that his speed would translate well as a wide receiver on the field.
Unfortunately, that never happened. He spent three years in the NFL and finished his career with 43 receptions, 754 yards, and 4 touchdowns. The 49ers lost interest in Nehemiah after drafting Jerry Rice in 1985. Following his release, Nehemiah returned to track and field for five years.
18. DE Vernon Gholston
Vernon Gholston was an extremely successful defensive end at Ohio State, which led to him being drafted sixth overall by the New York Jets in the 2008 NFL Draft. He only spent three years in the NFL, all with the Jets, and is regarded as one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
Despite being known for his sacks in college, he never recorded a sack at the professional level. He played in 45 games with the Jets and only recorded 42 tackles. He was later signed by the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams, but didn’t last longer than a month with either team.
17. QB Chris Weinke
Chris Weinke spent six years in the Minor League Baseball system before becoming the starting quarterback at Florida State University at the age of 26. He not only won a National Championship, but became the oldest player to win a Heisman Trophy, at the age of 28.
The Carolina Panthers drafted him in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL Draft. He spent five years in the NFL as a backup quarterback, recording 15 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. He finished his career with a 2-18 record and has the second-longest losing streak in history (17 games).
16. QB Babe Laufenberg
Babe Laufenberg was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round of the 1983 NFL Draft. Though he spent 8 years in the NFL with five different teams, Laufenberg was never good enough to earn a consistent role in the NFL. He was frequently the odd man out on the roster.
Babe played in 16 games, had a 2-5 record, and finished his career with 5 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He had three stints with the Washington Redskins, two stints with the San Diego Chargers, and stints with the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, and Dallas Cowboys.
15. RB Michael Haddix
Despite being inducted into the Mississippi State Hall of Fame for his success in college, Michael Haddix failed to perform well at the next level. He was drafted 8th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1983 NFL Draft and never lived up to their expectations.
He played 8 years in the NFL for the Eagles and Green Bay Packers. Despite playing in 120 games and starting in 52 of them, he only recorded 1,635 yards and 3 touchdowns in his career. He holds the record for fewest yards per carry by a running back with more than 500 carries.
14. K Happy Feller
Happy Feller was the first kicker selected in the 1984 NFL Draft, going to the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round. Despite finding a lot of success in College with the Texas Longhorns, things didn’t go well for him at the NFL level. In fact, he only lasted three years in the league.
His first season was spent with the Eagles, a season that saw him make just 6 of his 20 field goals. He then moved on to the New Orleans Saints for two seasons, but only made 10 of his 22 field goals. The only positive was that he made 27 of 28 extra point attempts in his career.
13. QB Kim McQuilken
In terms of quarterback ratings, Kim McQuilken owns one of the worst at 17.9 over his 7-year career. He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the third round of the 1974 NFL Draft. Though he played in 26 games, he only started 7 of those and finished with a 2-5 record in those starts.
He also owns one of the worst TD-INT ratios in NFL history. In 26 games, he finished with just four touchdowns and an unacceptable 29 interceptions. His worst game came in 1975 when he finished with five interceptions in 26 attempts — he only had five completions in that game.
12. QB Art Schlichter
Art Schlichter was a very successful quarterback at Ohio State, consistently finishing in the top-six of voting for the Heisman Trophy. Unfortunately, his gambling addiction took precedence over his professional career, which led to his NFL career being cut short after just four seasons.
He was drafted fourth overall by the Baltimore Colts in the 1982 NFL Draft, but only played in 13 NFL games before beginning a career in the CFL. In those 13 games, he finished with an 0-6 record as a starter and threw just three touchdowns — compared to his 11 interceptions.
11. RB Rocky Thompson
Rocky Thompson was widely known for his success as a track and field star, winning the AAA Championships with a 10.1 100-meter run. He was later drafted by the New York Giants with the 18th overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft. As a first round draft pick, expectations were high.
Unfortunately, he only lasted three seasons in the NFL and never amounted to the running back New York was hoping for. In 29 games, Thompson finished his career with just 217 yards and one touchdown on 68 carries. A majority of those statistics came in his first year with the team.
10. QB Cade McNown
The Chicago Bears had a lot of faith in Cade McNown, drafting him out of UCLA with the 12th overall in the 1999 NFL Draft. He only started six games his rookie year and played in 15 games total. He finished that year with a 2-4 record — throwing for 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
He followed that up with a 1-8 record the following year, which included 8 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. During the 2001 preseason, the Bears traded him to the Dolphins, where he became the third-string quarterback. He was then traded to the 49ers, but never played again.
9. QB King Hill
King Hill could easily find himself on any list of draft busts. He was a successful quarterback at Rice Institute, but it never really transferred to the NFL. He was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals with the first overall pick in the 1958 NFL Draft — a large honor that never materialized.
Though he spent 12 years in the NFL — with the Chicago Cardinals, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, and Minnesota Vikings — he only had two seasons of more than 1,000 passing yards and finished his career with an abysmal 37 touchdowns and 71 interceptions.
8. QB/K Bob Timberlake
Bob Timberlake had a lot of success with the Michigan Wolverines — especially in 1964, which included a Big Ten Championship, a Rose Bowl victory, and finishing fourth in Heisman voting. He was drafted in the third round of the 1965 NFL Draft and 13th round of the 1965 AFL Draft.
Despite competing to be the Giants’ starting quarterback, Timberlake instead landed as the team’s place kicker for his entire rookie season. After hitting his first field goal of the season, he would miss his next 14 attempts. He was cut the following season and never played again.
7. QB Heath Shuler
The Washington Redskins viewed Heath Shuler as their quarterback of the future after selecting him with the third overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, his 4-9 record as a starter in his first two seasons with the team (13 touchdowns and 19 interceptions) wasn’t enough.
He was eventually benched in favor of Gus Frerotte in his third season and traded to the San Francisco 49ers prior to the 1997 season. He would start 9 games for the 49ers and finish with a 4-5 record (2 touchdowns and 14 interceptions). A foot injury eventually ended his brief career.
6. RB Lawrence Phillips
Lawerence Phillips enjoyed a very successful career at Nebraska, which included a 1,826-yard, 16-touchdown season in 1994. He was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. Unfortunately, he was haunted by legal troubles and a lack of work ethic.
Phillips only played three years in the NFL, including stints with the Rams, Miami Dolphins, and San Francisco 49ers. He played in 35 games, recording 1,453 yards and 14 touchdowns on 424 attempts (3.4 yards per attempt). Teams weren’t willing to take the risk due to his character.
5. QB Rusty Lisch
Rusty Lisch was drafted out of Notre Dame by the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth round of the 1980 NFL Draft. He began his career as a third-string quarterback and only played two games his rookie year — completing 6 of 17 passes (35.3%) for 68 yards and three interceptions.
Interceptions became a common occurrence for him, while touchdowns were as rare as it gets. He finished his five-year career with an 0-1 record, one touchdown, and 11 interceptions in 30 games. In his final season, he once played so badly that he was replaced by Walter Payton.
4. WR Charles Rogers
Charles Rogers is one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history. Coming out of Michigan State, he was widely regarded as the top wide receiver in the country. That led to him being drafted second overall in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions — something they’ll later regret.
Rogers spent just three years in the league due to injuries, off-the-field issues, and struggles on the field. In just 15 games played, he finished his career with 36 catches on 84 targets for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns. For reference, Andre Johnson was drafted third overall in that draft.
3. QB Akili Smith
Akili Smith was drafted third overall in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals — behind Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb. You would think that’s a good thing, considering how well he played his senior year at Oregon, but Akili Smith quickly proved many people wrong in the NFL.
Smith spent four years with the Bengals and played in 22 games — starting 17 of those games. He finished his career with a 3-14 record as a starter, recording 2,212 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Though he bounced around for several years after that, he never played again.
2. QB Ryan Leaf
Ryan Leaf is a name that often comes up when talking about the worst NFL players to ever suit up. He was drafted with the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers after a successful college career that included 59 touchdowns and 24 interceptions.
He would go on to play three years in the league — two with the Chargers and one with the Dallas Cowboys. He played 25 games and started 21 of them — finishing with a 4-17 record as a starter. His 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions were far from what was expected at the time.
1. QB JaMarcus Russell
JaMarcus Russell had everything he needed to succeed as a quarterback in the NFL — he had size, he had an arm, and he could run the ball. He was also drafted first overall in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately, his inconsistent play led to a very brief career.
He went on to play three years with the Raiders, playing in 31 games and starting 25 of them. He finished with a 7-18 record, 18 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, and 4,083 yards. He was sacked 70 times (64 in his final two seasons) and averaged just 131.7 yards per game.
Not All NFL Players Find Success In the Big Leagues
Every football player dreams of one day earning their spot among the greatest to ever play. Unfortunately, that’s something only a very few players will accomplish in their careers. In fact, most players will wind up with forgettable careers as some of the worst NFL players ever.
It’s a harsh reality, but a reality nonetheless. That’s what makes the NFL such a tough sport to compete in — with so many players trying to make a name for themselves, it’s not going to happen for everyone. Of course, that’s why we need to tip our hats to those that succeed.
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Although the 25 players listed above are regarded as some of the worst NFL players ever, that doesn’t mean the modern era won’t usher in some new names. Every single year we see players fail to live up to expectations and you truly never know who will be next to do so.
20 of the Most Hated NFL Players in History
Of all the most hated NFL players in history, is there one that you hate more than the others? Maybe one player that gave your favorite team the most trouble over the years? Or one that went against your personal beliefs? Don’t worry, it’s more common than you think.
Hate is a strong word, but it lives rent-free in the heads of football fans and players around the world. It doesn’t matter who you are, there’s at least one player in the NFL that you can’t stand to hear or talk about. Just the sound of their names will make you cringe without hesitation.
The most hated NFL players in history are often some of the best at their respective positions. We have no idea why it works out to be this way, but it goes to show you that even the greatest have haters and if you’re going to find success in this league, you have to swallow a lot of ‘haterade.’
Who Are the Most Hated NFL Players in History?
If you look around the league, you’ll find a wide range of unique personalities, talents, skill levels, and characters. It’s what makes the NFL one of the most interesting and exciting professional sports leagues in the entire world. You truly never know what you’re going to get each week.
Although hate is thrown around often in the NFL, there are some players that receive it more than others.
Some people hate these players due to their on-field antics, whether it be frequent dirty plays, constant trash talk, or simply the fact that they’re too good. Other people hate players due to their off-field antics, whether it be crimes they’ve committed or crimes they were accused of.
In fact, some players have received hate for doing the right thing and standing up for what’s right. At the end of the day, there are a million reasons why some players receive hate — sometimes it’s warranted and other times it’s not. Either way, there’s no avoiding it in the NFL.
Without further ado, let’s go through our top-20 list of the most hated NFL players in history — starting with some honorable mentions.
Honorable Mentions: Jack Tatum, Chad ‘Ochocinco’ Johnson, Rodney Harrison, Tim Tebow, Tony Romo, Lyle Alzado, Warren Sapp, Steve Wisniewski, Brett Favre, Tiki Barber, and Albert Haynesworth
20. Cam Newton
Cam Newton entered the league in 2011 as a freak athlete and versatile quarterback that loved to entertain — and nothing has changed since. He has an iconic personality and never backs down from being himself. He’s a former MVP and Offensive Player of the Year.
Unfortunately, many players and fans aren’t impressed with the way he carries himself off the field — especially after his sexist comment towards a female reporter during a press conference. The hate runs even deeper now that he’s a free agent and has struggled when on the field.
He’ll likely find his way back on an NFL roster and while it remains to be seen if he’ll return to his MVP form, it’s clear that the hate isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
19. Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown was never expected to be the stat-sheet-stuffing player he eventually became. He was a sixth-round draft pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, but it didn’t take long for him to gain explosive chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger. He was the best receiver in the league for a while.
In his 9 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he totaled 837 receptions, 11,207 yards, 74 receiving touchdowns, and 4 punt return touchdowns. Unfortunately, his time in Pittsburgh grew extremely sour at the end of the 2017 season and he eventually requested a trade after the 2018 season.
That’s when things took a turn for the worse. He was constantly complaining, frequently fined, always facing a suspension, and became a nuisance everywhere he went. His lack of commitment and social media rants overshadowed his obvious talent and skill.
18. Ben Roethlisberger
Speaking of the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s only right that we mention Ben Roethlisberger. Despite being one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, he’s also one of the most hated players in history. Some hate him for his dominant play, while others hate him for more serious reasons.
In 2008, Roethlisberger was accused of rape by a Harrah’s hotel employee. He was accused of sexual assault again in 2010 by a college student. Although he was never charged for either incident, he still receives a great deal of hate from around the league — especially from females.
Roethlisberger remains in the league and is beloved by Steelers’ fans for his two Super Bowl victories, but it doesn’t change what he’s been accused of and that’s why he’s on this list.
17. Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders is one of the greatest cornerbacks ever, earning the nickname ‘Primetime’ over his 14-year career. While his play made opposing fans angry, it was his cocky attitude and electric personality that truly rubbed people the wrong way, no matter where he played.
He was known for his trash talk on the field and later in press conferences. His celebrations were uncalled for back in the day, which generally began by high-stepping before he entered the end zone. His fashion and love of hip-hop were also rare in the league back in the day.
Of course, moving from the San Francisco 49ers to the Dallas Cowboys at the heart of their rivalry won’t win many people over, either.
16. Johnny Manziel
The hate for Johnny Manziel started during his college days at Texas A&M, where he earned the nickname ‘Johnny Football.’ There’s no denying his talent and he garnered a lot of attention for his play, but he was quite the cocky player and wasn’t shy about speaking his mind.
While some players can get away with this, Manziel never found his footing in the NFL and was a true bust for the embarrassing Cleveland Browns. To make matters worse, he partied more than he practiced and struggled with drug and alcohol abuse during his time in the league.
If that wasn’t enough, his ex-girlfriend accused him of hitting her, which led to a misdemeanor defense. Although charges were dismissed, it didn’t sit well with NFL fans.
15. Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones
Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones was one of those NFL players that couldn’t stay out of trouble, no matter how hard he tried. He was the epitome of being at the wrong place at the wrong time frequently. The number of suspensions, fines, and off-the-field incidents he was involved in was crazy.
He was arrested in 2005 for assault and vandalism, was arrested three times in 2006, and involved in a fight that led to a shooting in 2007 — which resulted in a year-long suspension. Despite vowing to change his image, Jones was still featured in countless headlines.
After being traded to the Cowboys in hopes of resurrecting his career, he was involved in an alcohol-related incident just months later. Later in his career, he got into a scuffle with Amari Cooper, which led to a $35,000 fine. There seemed to be no end to his incidents.
14. James Harrison
Every now and then, a player enters the league that instills fear in every single opponent they line up against. James Harrison was one of those players. Known as one of the nastiest NFL linebackers ever, he was looking to land a vicious hit every time he stepped on the field.
Of course, that led to a wide variety of dirty plays, four of which came in the 2010 season and resulted in $100,000 in fines. One of those dirty plays included body slamming Vince Young into the ground during a sack. He also drew a $20,000 fine for a hit on Drew Brees in that season.
To make matters worse, there were accusations of him using performance-enhancing drugs and was also arrested in 2008 for domestic abuse against his girlfriend.
13. Josh Gordon
Josh Gordon entered the league in 2012 and quickly earned the nickname ‘Flash’ after posting 137 receptions, 2,451 yards, and 14 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately, his third season in the league began a long string of suspensions.
He was arrested for driving while impaired in 2014 and suspended for 10 games that season. After returning for five games, he was suspended by the team for the final game of that season. He was suspended for another year in 2015 after testing positive for alcohol use.
In 2016, he applied for reinstatement, but it was denied after a failed drug test. He applied again in 2017 but was denied until November of that year. After making a return, he was suspended and reinstated in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. It has been a never-ending cycle his entire career.
12. Michael Irvin
As a member of the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s, it’s no wonder that Michael Irvin finds himself on this list. It was easy to hate the Cowboys during this era, but Irvin was at the center of it all and made it that much easier with his trash talk, cocky attitude, confidence, and personality.
He was hated so much that when he suffered a career-ending cervical spinal cord injury in 1999 against the Philadelphia Eagles, fans began to cheer at his misfortune. While injuries, especially career-ending ones, are never wished upon, things were different on that unfortunate day.
Of course, Irvin also had a history of drug possession, being indicted for cocaine and marijuana possession in 1996 — which didn’t win many fans over in the late-1990s.
11. Richie Incognito
Richie Incognito has a history of being a dirty player both on and off the field. For example, he was issued a $35,000 fine for violations made in a 2008 game. During the 2009 season, he was benched twice for losing composure, including headbutting players and confronting his coach.
After a 2012 season that resulted in him being named to his first Pro Bowl, things started taking a turn for the worse. In 2013, he was suspended for hazing and harassing his teammate, Jonathan Martin. He wouldn’t play the entire 2014 season and later signed with the Bills in 2015.
Although he resurrected his career in Buffalo, he was involved in several incidents, including being accused of making racial comments during a game in 2017. He was suspended again in 2019 due to violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
10. Ndamukong Suh
There aren’t many players that have been fined as much as Ndamukong Suh has. According to Spotrac, he has accrued a total of over $680,000 in fines — more than $600,000 of which came in his first five years in the league. It’s a large reason why Suh is labeled as a dirty player.
Those fines include body slamming Jake Delhomme, roughing up Jay Cutler, stomping on Evan Dietrich-Smith’s arm, kicking Matt Schaub in the groin, stepping on Aaron Rodgers’ leg, and more. Despite being a dominant player on the defensive line, he certainly plays dirty often.
Although he has cleaned up his act over the past few years, he has been fined for roughing up Russell Wilson in 2018, a horse-collar tackle on Zach Zenner in 2018, and roughing up Baker Mayfield in 2019.
9. Conrad Dobler
Well before Ndamukong Suh entered the league, there was one man in-particular that made a name for himself as a dirty player — Conrad Dobler. In fact, Dobler was very transparent about his intentions to hurt anyone he lined up against. He did anything he could get away with.
This included, but wasn’t limited to eye-gouging, twisting his opponent’s face mask, biting, and tripping opposing players. Even worse, he wasn’t apologetic about it at all and called it ‘controlled violence.’ Despite being one of the best guards ever, there’s a reason they called him dirty.
Dobler wasn’t just one of the most hated NFL players in history, but he was one of the most feared. In fact, some players did their best to stay away from Dobler when on the same field as him.
8. Ray Rice
Ray Rice entered the league in 2008, but didn’t earn a consistent starting role until 2009. Once he did, he became one of the most consistent running backs in the league, posting four-straight 1,000+ yard seasons in a row from 2009-2012. He took a step back with just 660 yards in 2013.
Things took a turn for the worse in 2014 when he was arrested, charged, and released from jail after getting in a fight with his fiancee. Although described as a minor altercation at the time, a video was released and it was clearly much more than that — leading to widespread uproar.
It was later revealed that Ray Rice knocked his fiancee unconscious and dragged her across the floor. He was eventually released by the Ravens before the start of the season and Rice hasn’t been in the league since.
7. Colin Kaepernick
To some, Colin Kaepernick is revered for his ability to stand up for the things that matter most. To others, he is a disrespectful player that never did anything good for football. Whatever end of the spectrum you land on is up to you, but there’s no doubt he’s one of the most hated players.
In fact, hate for Colin Kaepernick started well before his social justice days. Many fans couldn’t stand his style of play and off-the-field ‘swag’ as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. And at the time, he was successful at it — which only made people hate him even more.
Things took a turn for the worse in 2016 when he decided to kneel during the National Anthem in protest of the police brutality sweeping across the nation. His actions led to so much hate that he has been blacklisted by the NFL and owners want nothing to do with him.
6. Greg Hardy
Greg Hardy entered the league in 2010, but it took him a few years to finally have that breakout season players always hope for. In 2013, he broke the Carolina Panthers’ all-time record for most sacks in a season with 15 and was named to his first and only Pro Bowl of his career.
The following season, Hardy was accused and found guilty of assaulting and communicating threats to his girlfriend. Although those charges were eventually dismissed and expunged from his record, the Panthers decided to cut ties with Hardy — as did most football fans.
Hardy showed no remorse for his actions and that didn’t help him win over any fans, either. He would later join the Cowboys, but was released due to inappropriate comments and being a bad influence to younger players. He’s now fighting in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
5. Tom Brady
Tom Brady is truly the only player on this list for all the right reasons. He’s the greatest quarterback to ever step foot on a football field, which comes with a great deal of hate. Of course, most of that hate stems from Buffalo Bills’ fans that got sick of losing to him.
If you’re a New England Patriots fan (or Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan), you have no bad blood with Tom Brady. If you’re a fan of any other team in the NFL, you hate Tom Brady with a passion. There’s no in-between. He has more championships himself than any NFL franchise.
The only negative against Tom Brady is the cheating allegations, but those are likely nothing more than fans trying to make an excuse as to why he keeps winning in this tough league.
4. Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis is arguably the greatest middle linebacker in the history of the NFL — one that was recently named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. He was a leader for the Baltimore Ravens throughout his 17-year career and was beloved by most of his teammates.
With that said, he was quite the pest to opposing fanbases, largely due to how dominant he was at the MLB position. And if you didn’t hate him for his play, you likely hated him for being accused of murder in 2000. Although he was found not guilty, many are wary of that decision.
Either way, he’s a player that many hate, even for his consistent and frequent religious comments. He was known for mentioning ‘God’ in almost every sentence he spoke.
3. Bill Romanowski
Nicknamed ‘Romo’ and ‘RomoCop,’ Bill Romanowski was another linebacker that was feared by many — both teammates and opponents. He was involved in numerous incidents throughout his career, leading to plenty of fines and suspensions. He wasn’t just dirty, he was filthy.
For example, he kicked Larry Centers in the head in 1995, spit in J.J. Stokes’ face in 1997, punched Tony Gonzalez in 1999, and crushed his own teammate’s eye socket in 2003 — forcing his teammate to retire. Romo also admitted to using steroids during his time in the NFL.
If that’s not enough to burn a bridge, Bill Romanowski was also accused of being racist throughout his career and even after retirement. It seems like there was always something to hate with RomoCop.
2. Michael Vick
In his prime, Michael Vick was one of the most versatile quarterbacks to ever play the game. He could throw the ball as very few quarterbacks could, but he had the added ability to outrun any player on the field. He was a joy to watch for the first six years of his NFL career.
Unfortunately, that all came to a screeching halt in 2007 when he was found guilty for his involvement in dogfighting. He ended up serving 21 months in federal prison and his NFL career was put on hold for two years. As you can imagine, this angered just about every fan.
Although he returned to football in 2009 and recorded career-bests in several different categories, his dogfighting involvement followed him the rest of the way.
1. Terrell Owens
Terrell Owens is one of the top-five greatest wide receivers of all time and could arguably be in the top three. He was able to do things not many could do at the wide receiver position, but that didn’t stop people from hating him from the moment he entered the league until he retired.
He had a big personality, was constantly involved in drama, was cocky, outspoken, selfish,, and was known for burning bridges everywhere he went. He was easy to dislike and made it known he didn’t care how others felt. He knew he was the best and that’s all that mattered.
Even the NFL showed a distaste for Terrell Owens by snubbing him from the Hall of Fame until 2018. Once he was finally inducted, he decided not to show up to the ceremony — which angered fans even more, despite not being in the league anymore.
Hate Still Reigns Supreme in the NFL Today
A majority of the players listed above are no longer in the NFL or are nearing the end of their careers, but that doesn’t mean modern-day players aren’t hated. In fact, there’s plenty of ‘haterade’ to go around and that’s something the NFL will experience for the rest of time.
For example, some of the most hated players today include Vontaze Burfict, Odell Beckham Jr., Kareem Hunt, Jalen Ramsey, Josh Norman, Richard Sherman, and Baker Mayfield — just to name a few. In fact, they could find themselves on the list of most hated NFL players in history.
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Only time will tell just how hated these new-age players will become. What we do know is they’re hated now and that’s something that’ll likely follow them the rest of their careers — much like it has for everyone else listed above, even the greatest players of all time.
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