Most Hated NFL Players of All Time
According to Pro Football Reference, nearly 27,000 men have played in at least one NFL game. Many of them have been loved and adored by fans, the media, teammates and even opponents, but let’s be honest, most of those 27,000 have achieved little to no notoriety by the average person.
However, some NFL players, including ones that have been loved by many, have also generated unfathomable amounts of hate. They could be hated for their aggressive playing styles, their eccentric personalities or simply hated because they’re just so damn good. Others have garnered hate from their sociopolitical or religious stances, as many think politics and religion should never be mixed with sports.
Whatever the reasons for the hate, the disdain from others that these players have produced should be recognized. We’ve gathered the most hated NFL players to form our ultimate hate list. Which of these players do you hate the most?
50. Shawne Merriman
Position: Defensive end/outside linebacker
Career: 8 seasons (2005-12)
Teams: San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills
Stats: 75 G, 45.5 SACKS, 196 TKLS, 8 FF
Famous words: "Football is the love of my life. I would never say I don't want to play. Somebody could say that this game is meaningless. Who is it meaningless to? I guess people who are watching the game? Or the people who are playing it? It's definitely not meaningless to us." —Shawn Merriman
Bottom Line: Shawne Merriman
Shawne Merriman was the NFL version of an Ed Hardy T-shirt — popular for a very short time in the early/mid 2000s before almost all of society turned on it.
Merriman, just like Ed Hardy gear, had no one to blame but himself. The over-the-top defensive end invented a "Lights Out" sack dance he performed seemingly without end over three steroids-laden, NFL All-Pro seasons.
Without being able to juice, we finally got to see the real Merriman on the field. After recording an NFL-high 39.5 sacks over his first three seasons, he had just 6 total sacks over his final five seasons.
49. Kellen Winslow Jr.
Position: Tight end
Career: 10 seasons (2004-13)
Teams: Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, New York Jets
Stats: 105 G, 5,236 REC YDS, 469 REC, 25 TD
Famous words: "I hate to be brash, but I think my 90 percent is still better than every tight end out there." —Kellen Winslow Jr.
Bottom Line: Kellen Winslow Jr.
For the entirety of his high school, college and NFL football career, teammates had a mantra when it came to talented tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. — "tread lightly."
Winslow's instability on and off the field was largely excused because of his lineage, as the son of one of the NFL's greatest wide receivers, and because he was good enough to be the No. 6 overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft.
That his pro career was defined more by how uncomfortable he made his teammates instead of his play was a sign of things to come. Winslow was a serial rapist who assaulted at least four different women dating back to 2003 and was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2021. Which definitely doesn't seem like long enough.
48. Freddie MItchell
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 4 seasons (2001-04)
Teams: Philadelphia Eagles
Stats: 63 G, 1,263 YDS, 90 REC, 5 TD
Famous words: "All (Freddie Mitchell) does is talk. He's terrible, and you can print that. I was happy when he was in the game." —New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
Bottom Line: Freddie Mitchell
The football world got an unwanted glimpse inside Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell's mind during the team's run to the Super Bowl in 2004.
Mitchell, who would end up with a career 1,236 receiving yards and five touchdowns, famously dubbed himself "FredEx" and despite being a nonfactor during the 2004 regular season, talked the most trash of any player before Super Bowl XXXIX against the New England Patriots, singling out their secondary in interviews.
Mitchell had just one catch for 11 yards in a 24-21 loss to the Pats.
47. Jameis Winston
Career: 7 seasons (2015-present)
Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints
Stats: 83 G, 20,982 PASS YDS, 135 TD, 91 INT
Famous words: "I plan on winning the Super Bowl next year." —Jameis Winston, February 2015
Bottom Line: Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston has been a disaster on and off the field, with a series of disturbing allegations, and flaming out after being picked No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2015 NFL draft.
Winston has done enough on the field to be hated by fans in some pretty wild ways, capped by a terrible 2019 season in which he became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30 or more touchdowns and 30 or more interceptions in a single season, including the most interceptions returned for touchdowns in a single season (7).
He also has the record for the most fumbles by a quarterback in NFL history, with 50.
46. Brandon Meriweather
Career: 9 seasons (2007-15)
Teams: New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins, New York Giants
Stats: 112 G, 485 TKLS, 17 INT
Famous words: "I guess I just got to take people's knees out. That's the only way. I would hate to end a guy's career over a rule, but I guess it's better other people than me getting suspended for longer. You just have to go low now, man. You've got to end people's careers. You got to tear people's ACLs and mess up people's knees. You can't hit them high anymore." —Brandon Meriweather
Bottom Line: Brandon Meriweather
If you just read the quote we posted from safety Brandon Meriweather, that fairly sums up why he was hated.
Why anyone would feel the need to vocalize their thoughts on ending other players' careers with low, dirty hits is beyond dumb.
It's too bad Meriweather is largely thought of because of the quote, because he had a more-than-respectable career, including back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances in 2009 and 2010.
45. Hines Ward
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 14 seasons (1998-2011)
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers
Stats: 217 G, 12,883 REC YDS, 1,000 REC, 85 TD
Famous words: "Hines Ward is the dirtiest player in the NFL, according to a Sports Illustrated poll of 296 players released this week." —Sports Illustrated, 2009
Bottom Line: Hines Ward
If your team had to face Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward during his 14-year career, you probably hated him.
It's a testament to Ward's versatility that there were actually different reasons to dislike him. Unlike many players on this list, the two-time champion and Super Bowl XL Most Valuable Player seemed to maximize his talents.
Unfortunately for opponents, part of that talent came with dirty play. The NFL instituted the "Hines Ward Rule" making blindside blocks illegal. It was the block that made Ward such a menace on the field. He broke Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers' jaw with a blindside hit in 2008, ending the rookie's season.
44. JuJu Smith-Schuster
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 5 seasons (2017-present)
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers
Stats: 63 G, 3,855 REC YDS, 323 REC, 26 TD
Famous words: "For me, I was dancing when we were undefeated. I was dancing when we lost our three games. I'm not going to change who I am. ... I saw it more as not disrespect, but it's for my fans on social media." —Juju Smith-Schuster
Bottom Line: JuJu Smith-Schuster
We should be talking about what a great wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has been over the first five seasons of his career. But we're not. We can't even really point to many of his highlights on the field.
That's because he's been so insufferable away from the actual games themselves. As annoying a social media presence as any player of his generation, he's more known for pregame dances on opponents' logos and an ill-advised "crate challenge" before the 2021 season.
Don't these guys have handlers?
43. Keyshawn Johnson
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 11 seasons (1996-2006)
Teams: New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers
Stats: 167 G, 10,571 REC YDS, 814 REC, 64 TD
Famous words: "Just Give Me the Damn Ball" —title of Keyshawn Johnson's 1996 autobiography
Bottom Line: Keyshawn Johnson
To explain the New York Jets’ decades of incompetence, simply point to the 1996 NFL draft.
That was when the Jets took USC wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson No. 1 overall, passing on three future Hall of Famers in offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and linebacker Ray Lewis.
While Johnson made two Pro Bowls in four seasons with the Jets, he was most known for his time there for writing an autobiography after his rookie season — "Just Give Me the Damn Ball" — in which he famously threw teammate and fellow wide receiver Wayne Chrebet under the bus.
42. Cortland Finnegan
Position: Defensive back
Career: 10 seasons (2006-15)
Teams: Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers
Stats: 133 G, 662 TKLS, 18 INT
Famous words: "This is not hockey. This is the NFL. It’s crazy to me to see people condoning this like I got what I deserved. So be it. ... I do want to apologize for the way I left ... and the waving. I guess he got his money’s worth." —Cortland Finnegan on fighting with Andre Johnson
Bottom Line: Cortland Finnegan
Cortland Finnegan’s reputation as a dirty player and trash-talker proved combustible once combined with a longstanding beef with Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson.
The sight of two NFL players with their helmets off, fighting on the field, proved infinitely rewatchable, as did the sight of Johnson, one of the most soft-spoken superstars in NFL history, pummeling Finnegan, who received little sympathy.
Both players were fined $50,000. And Finnegan's rep never recovered.
41. Jerramy Stevens
Position: Tight end
Career: 9 seasons (2002-10)
Teams: Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: 121 G, 2,217 REC YDS, 202 REC, 22 TD
Famous words: "(Stevens) is too soft to talk trash." —Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter
Bottom Line: Jerramy Stevens
Jerramy Stevens never seemed to run out of second chances. In high school, he and a friend attacked a classmate with a baseball bat and kicks to the head and broke his jaw. On probation for the attack, Stevens failed a drug test and coaches at the University of Washington vouched for him, and he was let out for training camp.
In college, Stevens was charged with rape, but the case was dropped despite DNA evidence. He's been charged a further two times for assault — of nightclub bouncers in Tampa and his wife, soccer star Hope Solo.
He's also dangerous on the road, with three DUI arrests and an incident where he drove his truck into a retirement home.
40. Jeff George
Career: 14 seasons (1990-2002, 2004)
Teams: Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Commanders, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears
Stats: 131 G, 27,602 PASS YDS, 154 TD, 113 INT
Famous words: "I'm not asking to be a starter. I just want a spot on a team. I still hold out hope I can play in this league. I'm working out three or four days a week, staying ready. Some people might laugh about it. I've been hearing the excuse, 'You're too old,' but I look at guys now playing near 40, and if you can throw it like I can throw it ... why wouldn't you take a look at me? —Jeff George, 2011
Bottom Line: Jeff George
There are some people that think Jeff George may have possessed the strongest arm in NFL history. Lots of people also think George, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts, is also one of the worst teammates of all time.
The signs on George were there early. He was named Gatorade National Player of the Year in 1985 at Warren Central High in Indianapolis, then changed his mind on going to Miami after coach Jimmy Johnson wouldn't guarantee he was going to be the starter.
George played terribly and complained constantly in four seasons with the Colts before he was traded to the Falcons following the 1993 season and played 14 seasons for seven different teams.
39. Vontaze Burfict
Career: 8 seasons (2012-19)
Teams: Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders
Stats: 219 G, 1,031 REC, 14,731 YDS, 81 TD
Famous words: "I play hard. Sometimes it gets me in trouble. My style of play is aggressive, and the game changed, and I have to change with it, and that play right there, I think if I wasn't number 55, I wouldn't have got flagged." —Vontaze Burfict
Bottom Line: Vontaze Burfict
Vontaze Burfict’s history of illegal hits dates back to his high school days in Corona, California, and he will ultimately go down as one of the dirtiest players in NFL history. What’s the evidence?
In eight seasons, Burfict was suspended for a total of 19 games for illegal hits, plus another four games for using performance-enhancing drugs. In Week 4 of the 2019 NFL season, Burfict received one of the longest suspensions in NFL history — 12 games — for "repeated violations of unnecessary roughness rules."
38. Eli Apple
Career: 6 seasons (2016-present)
Teams: New York Giants, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals
Stats: 73 G, 286 TKLS, 5 INT
Famous words: "Idk which fan base I hate more ... prolly the saints but It’s close wit the giants it’s a toss up. New Orleans is the dirtiest smelliest city and has the worst food ever. it’s that swine and crawfish thts killin yall brains." —Eli Apple on Twitter in January 2022
Bottom Line: Eli Apple
After being selected at No. 10 overall in the 2016 NFL draft, Eli Apple has played for almost as many teams as he has NFL seasons.
Apple was booted from the New York Giants for being a "cancer" on the team, according to teammates, then was subsequently disliked in stints with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers.
After landing with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2021 and achieving some success by making it to the Super Bowl, Apple thought the best thing to do would be to take a Twitter flamethrower to his former teams and their fans. What a guy.
37. Albert Haynesworth
Position: Defensive tackle
Career: 10 seasons (2002-11)
Teams: Tennessee Titans (2002-08), Washington Commanders (2009-10), New England Patriots (2011), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2011)
Stats: 123 G, 348 TKLS, 30.5 SACKS
Famous words: "What I did out there was disgusting. It doesn't matter what the league does to me. The way I feel right now, you just can't describe it." —Albert Haynesworth after stomping on Andre Gurode's head
Bottom Line: Albert Haynesworth
Few players in NFL history have been paid as much to do as little as Albert Haynesworth, who cashed in with a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Washington Redskins (now the Commanders) before the 2009 season and only played 20 games for the franchise.
Besides the awful contract, Haynesworth's behavior on the field was also awful. In one of the worst incidents of on-field violence in NFL history, Haynesworth stomped on the head of helmetless Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode, who needed 30 stitches for his wounds.
Haynesworth was given five games for the Gurode incident, one of the league's lengthiest suspensions for an on-field incident ever. It doesn't seem Haynesworth's behavior has changed over the years. He was arrested for domestic violence in 2020.
36. Dez Bryant
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 10 seasons (2010-18, 2020)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens
Stats: 119 G, 7,506 REC YDS, 537 REC, 75 TD
Famous words: "I won’t put no names out, but they know, and I want them to know on this air I know. I’ll shoot them a text message and let them know. Little do they know is they can wear that ‘C’ (for captain) all they want to, but in that locker room, they know who they run and they talk to. They know who they communicate with. Everybody know where the real love is at, and I’m not throwing anybody under the bus, but that’s the difference between me and them." —Dez Bryant
Bottom Line: Dez Bryant
There's nothing worse than a teammate who throws you under the bus when times get tough. Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was that dude.
While Bryant was always quick to blame others for his shortcomings, he rarely owned up to his own mistakes, including multiple arrests for domestic violence, theft and property damage.
An easy way to get a fanbase to hate you is to land a big payday and never produce. Bryant put together three consecutive seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards before signing a five-year, $70 million contract with $45 million guaranteed before the 2015 season.
Over the final five seasons of his career following the contract, Bryant never got within even 150 yards of a 1,000-yard receiving season.
35. Baker Mayfield
Career: 4 seasons (2018-present)
Teams: Cleveland Browns
Stats: 60 G, 14,125 PASS YDS, 92 TD, 56 INT
Famous words: "Getting off all social media for the foreseeable future. Gotta do what's best to focus on me, my family and loved ones. Appreciate all the support. Time to get right." —Baker Mayfield
Bottom Line: Baker Mayfield
While 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield seems to constantly be hurt, more concerning is the last few years of his career, where he's also begun to lash out against the media and is continuously run down by teammates and characterized as a bad sport by opponents.
Even worse? Fellow in-state quarterback Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals made it to the Super Bowl in his second season.
We'd also like to point out it's never a good sign when an athlete or celebrity publicly announces they're taking a break from social media.
34. Richie Incognito
Position: Offensive line
Career: 16 seasons (2005-13, 2015-present)
Teams: St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders
Stats: 164 G/164 STARTS
Famous words: "His inability to control his emotions both on and off the field is such a significant concern that he'll likely slip to the later rounds of the draft." —ESPN Scouts Inc., 2005
Bottom Line: Richie Incognito
Signs of trouble with Richie Incognito began when he was at the University of Nebraska, where he had at least a half-dozen violent incidents involving his teammates, opponents and an arrest where he was charged with three counts of assault.
NFL teams have been happy to keep him in the fold the last two decades despite the fact he's a proven racist, as evidenced by his treatment of former Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin and the team's athletic training staff, where he would single out Asians and threaten them bodily harm over the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.
33. Chuck Cecil
Career: 8 seasons (1988-95)
Teams: Green Bay Packers, Phoenix Cardinals, Houston Oilers
Stats: 95 G, 461 TKLS, 16 INT
Famous words: "Is Chuck Cecil Too Vicious for the NFL?" —Sports Illustrated cover, Oct. 11, 1993
Bottom Line: Chuck Cecil
Sports Illustrated asked the question on the cover of its Oct. 11, 1993 issue: "Is Chuck Cecil Too Vicious for the NFL?"
NFL wide receivers and running backs already had their answer: Yes.
Cecil, a former University of Arizona star, became one of the most hated players in NFL history over his 11-year career because of his dirty play. There was no hit too late or too low for Cecil, who actually made a Pro Bowl in 1992.
32. Antonio Brown
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 12 seasons (2010-present)
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: 146 G, 12,291 REC YDS, 928 REC, 83 TD
Famous words: "We're playing professional sports. Not everybody in sports is gonna be your friend. Tom Brady is my friend – why? Because I'm a good football player. He needs me to play football, right?" —Antonio Brown
Bottom Line: Antonio Brown
It's a shame what Antonio Brown has done to his career. Torching every bridge he crossed on the way to essentially drumming himself out of the league, we now know of him more for his antics than for the great wide receiver he is.
Brown has shown he is as good at throwing teammates under the bus as he was at catching passes, starting with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh to quarterback Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.
It shouldn't go without saying that Brown likely would have been blackballed from the NFL were it not for Brady.
31. Steve Smith
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 16 seasons (2001-16)
Teams: Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens
Stats: 219 G, 1,031 REC, 14,731 YDS, 81 TD
Famous words: "I look in the eyes of all my victims before I take their lunch money." —Steve Smith
Bottom Line: Steve Smith
If you’re prone to fighting opponents, then you would probably find yourself on this list. But if you get into fights with your own teammates, then you definitely deserve a spot here. Smith drew the fury of his teammates and Panthers fans by sucker-punching his own teammate, Ken Lucas, during training camp in 2008, which earned Smith a two-game suspension.
Besides going after his own teammates, there’s also Smith’s mouth, which also didn't gain him any popularity points in the NFL. He was infamous for his trash talk and went after anybody and everybody, saying that Tim Tebow wasn’t good enough to play on his son’s flag football team and that Mark Sanchez “sucks.”
30. Jim McMahon
Career: 15 seasons (1982-96)
Teams: Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers
Stats: 119 G, 18,148 YDS, 100 TD, 90 INT
Famous words: "I'm the punky QB known as McMahon. When I hit the turf, I've got no plan." —Jim McMahon in the Super Bowl Shuffle
Bottom Line: Jim McMahon
McMahon’s lyric during the Super Bowl Shuffle pretty much summed up why he was disliked. The punky QB showed up to his first public appearance after being drafted by the Bears with a beer in his hand, and he later pranked the media by mooning them before the 1985 Super Bowl. He had a falling out with his coach and front office, which expedited his departure from Chicago, and the same happened when he left the Chargers.
But perhaps his biggest indignity came during his “celebration” of winning a Super Bowl in 1996 as a Packers backup. The team was invited to the White House, but McMahon wore the jersey of the Packers’ chief rival, the Bears, when he showed up at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Once a punk, always a punk.
29. Philip Rivers
Career: 17 seasons (2004-20)
Teams: San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts
Stats: 244 G, 63,440 YDS, 421 TD, 209 INT
Famous words: "We're not best of friends at all ... I’m just not that big of a fan of [Rivers]. I don’t like how he carries himself. I don’t like some of the stuff he does on the field." —Jay Cutler
Bottom Line: Philip Rivers
If you had to rank football positions in terms of “most likely to trash talk” to least, receivers and cornerbacks would duke it out for the top spot, and quarterbacks would be near the bottom.
That fact made Philip Rivers unique, as he was one of the biggest trash talkers in NFL history. Whether it was calling out a DB for getting burned by a receiver or mocking a defensive lineman for getting flagged by his hard count, opponents had to hear the wrath of Rivers in his Alabama twang. While some opponents would genuinely get upset at Rivers, others just laughed it off, especially since Rivers was known for never cursing while heckling.
28. Bernard Pollard
Career: 9 seasons (2006-14)
Teams: Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans
Stats: 126 G, 712 TKL, 12 INT, 10.5 SACK
Famous words: "I played the game hard. For me, I just played tough. It was crazy that a lot of the injuries happened to the Patriots when I played them." —Bernard Pollard
Bottom Line: Bernard Pollard
Pollard was a journeyman safety who never made a Pro Bowl and never spent more than three seasons with a team. But there is one segment of people that thoroughly detest Bernard Pollard, and that is Patriots fans. Here’s why:
- In 2008, Pollard was the one who tore Tom Brady’s ACL in Week 1, thus ending his season.
- In 2009, Pollard’s impending hit forced Wes Welker to make a sudden move, which tore his ACL.
- In 2011, Pollard’s hit on Rob Gronkowski in the AFC Championship Game led to a high ankle sprain for Gronk, which limited his ability in Super Bowl XLVI, a Patriots' loss.
- In 2012, Pollard’s helmet-to-helmet hit caused a concussion and fumble for Stevan Ridley in the AFC Championship Game, another Patriots' loss.
Besides that, there are really no other reasons to dislike Bernard Pollard!
27. Tiki Barber
Position: Running back
Career: 10 seasons (1997-2006)
Teams: New York Giants
Stats: 154 G, 10,449 YDS, 55 TD, 4.7 AVG
Famous words: "I'm not going to lose any sleep about what Tiki has to say. I guess I could have questioned his leadership skills last year, with calling out the coach and having articles about him retiring in the middle of the season." —Eli Manning
Bottom Like: Tiki Barber
From time to time, you’ll hear a player throw a teammate under the bus, but you rarely hear about a player throwing his own coach under the bus. But that was the case with Barber, who criticized Tom Coughlin after a Giants’ postseason loss that resulted in Barber having to apologize.
If that didn’t alienate him enough from his teammates and the Giants’ faithful, Barber then oddly decided to announce his intention to retire after the 2006 season during the middle of that season. That created a season-long distraction for the entire team, which would, perhaps coincidentally, go on to win the Super Bowl after Barber had left the team.
26. Michael Irvin
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 12 seasons (1988-99)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys
Stats: 159 G, 750 REC, 11,904 YDS, 65 TD
Famous words: "Hated [Michael Irvin] when he was a player. There was nothing more obnoxious than when he caught a pass and he got up and he signaled for a first down, and he just gave it to you right in your face." —Longtime Eagles announcer Merrill Reese
Bottom Line: Michael Irvin
Just playing for the Cowboys in itself is a reason to hate for many fans, but Michael Irvin’s flamboyant personality and brashness generated more hate than the likes of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. Irvin was one of the first receivers who would trash talk his opponents so much that it took them out of their game and led to lapses of concentration.
Let’s also not forget the fact that he was a great player even without his mouth running, but his cockiness and play often made him the target of opposing teams’ fans. That is best exemplified when Philadelphia fans cheered when Irvin was injured and laid motionless on the turf of Veterans Stadium in what proved to be a career-ending injury.
25. Brett Favre
Career: 20 seasons (1991-2010)
Teams: Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings
Stats: 302 G, 71,838 YDS, 508 TD, 336 INT
Famous words: "I love Brett. I always had a great appreciation for him, but we were caught in the middle of a power struggle that unfortunately broke apart Brett and the Packers and Brett and myself." —Aaron Rodgers
Bottom Line: Brett Favre
As a three-time MVP, Favre’s play was enough to warrant hate from the fans of opposing teams. But his waffling on retirement, seemingly every year, actually brought upon hate from even his team’s fans. The most infamous “retirement” of Favre came in 2008 when issued a statement announcing his retirement only to call the Packers back four months later saying he wanted to return.
He then forced a trade to the Jets where he played for one year before signing with the Packers’ rival, the Minnesota Vikings. That seemed to be a way to get back at the Packers, but the Green Bay fans showed their displeasure for their once-icon by doing something we thought we would never see — lustfully booing Brett Favre at Lambeau Field.
24. Steve Wisniewski
Career: 13 seasons (1989-2001)
Teams: Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
Stats: 206 G, 8-time Pro Bowler, 2-time First-team All-Pro, 1990s All-Decade Team
Famous words: "He chops from behind. He'll shoot knees. ... I'll take sides with any old lineman, but this m----------- had me cursing and swearing on TV. I couldn't believe the shots he took." —An unnamed opponent of Steve Wisniewski
Bottom Line: Steve Wisniewski
Roughly 99 percent of NFL fans pay no attention to offensive linemen and only hear about them when they’ve been flagged. But defensive linemen are well aware of the dirty tricks that offensive linemen use, and those tricks earned Wisniewski a reputation as a dirty player.
Even one of Wiz’s Raider teammates said he’s probably the dirtiest player of all time, and Wisniewski was known for giving "attitude adjustments" to teammates who he felt weren’t playing hard enough. Those consisted of Wiz and two of his linemen buddies pinning the offender against his locker until he apologized and promised to play harder.
23. Richard Sherman
Career: 10 seasons (2011-present)
Teams: Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers
Stats: 139 G, 374 TKL, 36 INT, 115 PD
Famous words: "My dad taught me at a young age to play with class and respect and give my opponents respect." —Tom Brady on Richard Sherman trash-talking after a game
Bottom Line: Richard Sherman
Many players on this list derive hate from their style of play, but as a cornerback, Sherman’s hate comes from his mouth. He’s a great player, and he has no shame in telling everyone he’s a great player.
The best example of that came in his infamous post-game interview with Erin Andrews. Sherman declared himself the best in the game in the interview, and his aggressive tone also turned off many fans who want nothing more than scripted and cliche answers.
22. Jay Cutler
Career: 12 seasons (2006-17)
Teams: Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins
Stats: 153 G, 35,133 YDS, 227 TD, 160 INT
Famous words: "He’s the best quarterback when it comes to accuracy, power, knowledge of the game. … Now, when it comes to leadership? The worst. … He don’t know how to communicate. He don’t know how to get his teammates involved." —Former Bears Teammate Devin Hester
Bottom Line: Jay Cutler
The unquestioned King of Bad Body Language, Cutler had all the talent in the world but only used roughly 30 percent of it, which infuriated fans. Also, despite playing the most important position in sports, he had no inclination to bring people together and foster relationships with teammates.
One former teammate called him unsociable and said he would even pick favorites and only throw them the ball instead of hitting the open man. Yet, NFL teams would somehow overlook these intangibles, which is how Cutler made more than $122 million during his career.
21. Odell Beckham Jr.
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 7 seasons (2014-present)
Teams: New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams
Stats: 96 G, 531 REC, 7,367 YDS, 56 TD
Famous words: "You know you don't train like that. That's not you. That's not who you are. You're going to be Michael Jackson and go around and dancing and playing and a lot of other stuff and not be a football player and not train the way you're supposed to train." —Josh Norman
Bottom Line: Odell Beckham Jr.
OBJ has never been arrested, donates to several charities and is a phenomenal football player. However, as evident in the previously mentioned famous words about him, many people see Beckham as more of an entertainer than a football player.
Whether it be the flowing blond locks, the numerous commercials or his attempts to build his brand, Beckham just rubs some people the wrong way with his antics. But others enjoy the flair he brings to the game, both on and off the field, and OBJ would also make just about anyone’s list of the Most Popular NFL Players of All Time.
20. Warren Sapp
Position: Defensive tackle
Career: 13 seasons (1995-2007)
Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders
Stats: 198 G, 578 TKL, 96.5 SACK, 4 INT
Famous words: "I’m going to make you say 'please.' I’m going to make you say it, and then I’m going to leave half the autograph off." —Warren Sapp on fans asking him for autographs
Bottom Line: Warren Sapp
Warren Sapp has a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but the most infamous play of his career is one even he wishes never happened. In 2002, he leveled a blindside hit on the Packers’ Chad Clifton that resulted in a pelvic injury and left Clifton unable to walk without assistance for a month.
To add insult to injury, after the game, Sapp challenged Clifton’s nearly 50-year-old head coach to "put a jersey on" for sticking up for his injured player, which got him blasted for picking on someone he knew wouldn’t fight back.
19. Lyle Alzado
Position: Defensive end
Career: 15 seasons (1971-85)
Teams: Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Raiders
Stats: 196 G, 23.0 SACK, 20 FR, 2-time Pro Bowler
Famous words: "I called him 'Three Mile Lyle' because he was a lot like a nuclear reactor." —Former Raiders teammate Howie Long
Bottom Line: Lyle Alzado
Alzado was known for having a short temper on the football field, and he actually inspired the NFL’s rule against throwing helmets after he did so to an opponent’s.
But Alzado ruffled the feathers of several players after he retired and admitted he took steroids while playing. "Ninety percent of the athletes I know are on the stuff," he told Sports Illustrated.
He also admitted taking steroids starting in the late 1960s, and his words resulted in increased pressure on the NFL in regard to banned substances.
18. Ben Roethlisberger
Career: 17 seasons (2004-present)
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers
Stats: 233 G, 60,348 YDS, 396 TD, 201 INT
Famous words: "[Roethlisberger’s] a drama king." —Former linebacker Bart Scott
Bottom Line: Ben Roethlisberger
Quarterbacks are often referred to as many things, such as "face of the franchise" or "team leader." Rarely ever does a QB get called a "drama king" or a "diva" the way that Ben Roethlisberger has been referred to by many.
The names stem from Big Ben’s penchant to embellish injuries in order to make him appear even tougher than he really is. Coach Mike Tomlin was once caught on camera telling Big Ben "No John Wayne today," so even his coach admits Roethlisberger likes to revel in the tough-guy role.
17. Jack Tatum
Career: 10 seasons (1971-80)
Teams: Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers
Stats: 136 G, 37 INT, 10 FR, 1 TD
Famous words: "I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault." —Jack Tatum
Bottom Line: Jack Tatum
You often hear retired NFL players saying, "Oh, I couldn’t play in today’s game," and that quote is usually hyperbolic. But if Tatum said it, it was most definitely true, as he was a ferocious safety who enjoyed blowing up any receiver who came across the middle.
Tatum was nicknamed "The Assassin" for his hard-hitting style, and his most infamous hit came in 1978 when he collided with Patriots’ receiver Darryl Stingley. The hit ended up paralyzing Stingley and made him a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
Tatum drew ire from the entire NFL community by never apologizing for the hit or the result.
16. T.J. Duckett
Position: Running Back
Career: 7 seasons (2002-08)
Teams: Atlanta Falcons, Washington Football Team, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks
Stats: 93 G, 2,814 YDS, 44 TD, 3.9 AVG
Famous words: "Thanks a bunch Seattle for cutting TJ Duckett. Now he's a free agent, and we have no clue whose TDs he'll vulture." —@rambodanbo from Twitter
Bottom Line: T.J. Duckett
There’s really only one segment of people that hate T.J. Duckett, and that segment plays fantasy football. During his four years with Atlanta, Duckett was the ultimate touchdown vulture, as either Warrick Dunn or Michael Vick would do the heavy lifting in running the ball, only for Duckett to get the glory with goal-line carries.
Twenty of his 31 touchdowns with the Falcons were 2 yards or fewer, which led to many expletives for the fantasy owners of Dunn or Vick.
15. Chad Johnson
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 11 seasons (2001-11)
Teams: Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots
Stats: 166 G, 766 REC, 11,059 YDS, 67 TD
Famous words: "[Chad Johnson] literally started crying after practice one day because they didn’t throw him enough passes, and he’s begging Marvin [Lewis], 'Coach Lewis can we please just … can we extend practice 30 more minutes?'… He’s literally that upset that he didn’t get the football that day." —Former Bengals teammate Andrew Whitworth
Bottom Line: Chad Johnson
From the perspective of a fan, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson was mostly harmless, and we enjoyed his ability to both entertain and play football. But for those who shared a locker room with Johnson, he was often a distraction and a “me-first” type of player, as evident by his former teammate's famous words.
Johnson was one of the best receivers of his era and was a six-time Pro Bowler, but he could have been a legendary player if he had fully committed himself to playing football. For all his success on the field, it’s hard to be your absolute best when at the same time you’re also racing thoroughbreds, starring in your own reality TV dating show, riding bulls at PBR events and trying out for MLS teams.
14. Conrad Dobler
Career: 10 seasons (1972-81)
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills
Stats: 129 G, 125 GS, 1 TD, Three-time Pro Bowler
Famous words: "What you need when you play against Dobler is a string of garlic buds around your neck and a wooden stake. If they played every game under a full moon, Dobler would make All-Pro. He must be the only guy in the league who sleeps in a casket." —An unnamed rival
Bottom Line: Conrad Dobler
Some players may hate being hated, but Conrad Dobler embraced it and didn’t shy away when Sports Illustrated labeled him “Pro Football’s Dirtiest Player.” He said he would do anything he could get away with, and that included eye-gouging, twisting face masks, leg whipping and biting.
When you have the reputation that Dobler had, referees would focus on his every move to see if anything was against the rules. With that kind of spotlight, most teams would get rid of the offending player, but Dobler was so good at what he did that teams were willing to take the bad with the good.
13. Deion Sanders
Career: 14 seasons (1989-2000, 2004-05)
Teams: Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Football Team, Baltimore Ravens
Stats: 188 G, 53 INT, 512 TKL, 22 TD
Famous words: "If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good." —Deion Sanders
Bottom Line: Deion Sanders
Sanders angered many football purists who hated his flashy play and attitude. He would routinely high-step before he even reached the endzone, which then was followed by a touchdown celebration that was still uncommon in the early 1990s. Sanders’ famous words also ticked off many people who felt that he was more about style than substance even though that substance was damn good, as he was the best cornerback of his era.
From the way he dressed to the people he hung out with to releasing his own rap album, Prime Time was one of the first NFL players to identify with the hip-hop culture. That led to some pushback back in his day, but he’s been arguably one of the most influential people for today’s generation of athletes.
12. Terrell Owens
Position: Wide receiver
Career: 15 seasons (1996-2010)
Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals
Stats: 219 G, 1,078 REC, 15,934 YDS, 153 TD
Famous words: "I don't have no friends. I don't want no friends. That's how I feel." —Terrell Owens
Bottom Line: Terrell Owens
For a guy who never had a run-in with the law during his playing career, TO still evoked lots of hate from lots of people. His flamboyant personality and attitude were the main drivers of hate as he burned bridges at every stop of his Hall of Fame career.
Notable examples include Owens implying 49ers QB Jeff Garcia was homosexual, Owens getting into a fight with Eagles ambassador Hugh Douglas and Owens saying the Cowboys had a “TR” problem instead of a “TO” problem, thus throwing Tony Romo under the bus.
11. Ndamukong Suh
Position: Defensive tackle
Career: 11 seasons (2010-present)
Teams: Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: 191 G, 590 TKL, 70.5 SACK, 9 FR
Famous words: "I run this defense, I'm going to be here for the next five years, there is no guarantee any of you will be as well. Only a handful of guys are good enough to play with me right now." —Ndamukong Suh
Bottom Line: Ndamukong Suh
Suh thinks of himself as a team leader, but his included famous words indicate he doesn’t understand what leadership is. He made that quote during his first year in Miami when he was the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, and telling your teammates they’re not good enough to play with you isn’t exactly inspiring.
Suh is also hated for his dirty style of play, which included him stomping on a Packers’ lineman in 2011, netting him a two-game suspension. He’s been fined over $600,000 due to personal foul penalties and was named the league’s least liked player by Forbes.
10. Cam Newton
Career: 10 seasons (2011-present)
Teams: Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots
Stats: 148 G, 32,382 YDS, 194 TD, 75 RTD
Famous words: "I see myself not only as a football player but an entertainer and icon." —Cam Newton
Bottom Line: Cam Newton
Before he even played his first NFL game, Newton uttered his famous words, and some have viewed him in a certain light ever since. They wondered if he was a me-first player, and even after a decade in the NFL, winning an MVP and setting the quarterback rushing touchdown record, some still don’t like the “style” in which Newton acts.
And it’s not just the old-school, "get off my lawn" crowd that has gone after Newton, as even high schoolers have done the same. At a camp hosted by Newton, a teenage player went after Newton to earn himself his 15 minutes of fame on social media.
9. Tony Romo
Career: 14 seasons (2003-16)
Teams: Dallas Cowboys
Stats: 156 G, 34,183 YDS, 248 TD, 117 INT
Famous words: "Ten years as a starter, you're 2-4 in the playoffs. You ain't won nothing. Come on man, you know you never won the big one. You know you never won the big one … Nineteen (interceptions) in 2012, come on man, you threw to everybody but me." —Deion Sanders
Bottom Line: Tony Romo
The spotlight is always on you when you’re the starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, as you’re just as much a celebrity as a football player. Because of that, Tony Romo got many opportunities that others wouldn’t have gotten, including endorsements and a comfy TV job, following in the footsteps of Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach and Don Meredith.
But those three predecessors of Romo combined for nine NFL championship/Super Bowl appearances and five rings while Romo never even reached an NFC championship game.
Still, he’s one of the most popular and wealthiest football players alive simply because he had a star on his helmet and that doesn’t sit well with many.
8. Rodney Harrison
Career: 15 seasons (1994-2008)
Teams: San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots
Stats: 186 G, 1,206 TKL, 34 INT, 30.5 SACK
Famous words: "That's not a surprise. I would have bet my life savings on that one." —Receiver Brandon Stokley on Rodney Harrison being voted NFL’s dirtiest player
Bottom Line: Rodney Harrison
The hate for Harrison is derived from many different sources. One is that he played for the Patriots, which generates hate from all non-Patriot fans. Another is that he was suspended for using HGH during the 2004 season, including for the Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXVIII victory.
But the biggest source of hate for Harrison revolves around his reputation as being one of the dirtiest players in NFL history. The former All-Pro safety was voted the “dirtiest player” in the league not once, not twice, but three times in his career. He received the dishonor in 2004, 2006 and 2008 with the first two in a vote by fellow players and the last coming from a vote by NFL coaches.
7. James Harrison
Career: 15 seasons (2002, 2004-17)
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots
Stats: 193 G, 811 TKL, 84.5 SACK, 34 FF
Famous words: "Roger Goodell, who's a crook and a puppet, said I was the dirtiest player in the league. If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn't do it. I hate him and will never respect him." —James Harrison
Bottom Line: James Harrison
Nicknamed Deebo after Friday fame, Harrison was the biggest bully in the most testosterone-driven sports league in the world. He had that old-school mentality of “kill or be killed” and once said if he ended up with brain damage for his vicious hits, “so be it.”
Harrison’s quote about Goodell also didn’t do him any favors in the NFL’s eyes, as it seemed that Harrison would get flagged for even breathing on an opposing player after saying that.
6. Tom Brady
Career: 22 seasons (2000-present)
Teams: New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stats: 318 G, 84,520 YDS, 624 TD, 203 INT
Famous words: "I don't like him, he don't like me. I don't like his hair." —Terrell Suggs
Bottom Line: Tom Brady
Some people hate goat cheese while others simply hate GOATs. And that's definitely the case for Tom Brady. If you’re a fan of one of the teams he’s beaten (basically all of them), you probably hate his guts. In a league built for parity, Brady has been to 10 Super Bowls, winning seven of them, and now winning with two different franchises.
Even some New Englanders who always rooted for Brady now have some hate for him. Brady winning with the Bucs proved that the Patriots’ success was more about him than about the team itself, which has some Pats fans hating Brady for the fact that he’s no longer with their team.
A poll just before the 2020 playoffs showed that the hate for Brady runs deep and wide. Wide as in coast to coast, as Brady was voted the NFL’s most hated player by an overwhelming majority of the country.
5. Bill Romanowski
Position: Outside linebacker
Career: 16 seasons (1988-2003)
Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders
Stats: 243 G, 1,118 TKL, 39.5 SACK, 18 INT, 18 FR
Famous words: "It's about trying to make big hits, like when you hit someone so hard he doesn't get up. Those are the kind of hits you like." —Bill Romanowski
Bottom Line: Bill Romanowski
Whether it was admitting to using steroids, spitting on opponents, kicking players in the head, racism allegations or breaking the eye socket of his own teammate, there are lots of reasons to dislike Bill Romanowski.
In 1997, Romanowski was fined $7,500 for spitting in the face of receiver JJ Stokes, and his then Broncos teammate Shannon Sharpe said the fine would have been higher if Romo was Black. Romanowski clearly didn’t like Sharpe’s comments, and a few years later when they were opponents, Romo blatantly dislocated Sharpe’s elbow during a game.
It comes as no surprise that when Sharpe was asked who the dirtiest player in the NFL was, he responded "Romo No. 1 and 2, 3 and 4."
4. Ray Lewis
Career: 17 seasons (1996-2012)
Teams: Baltimore Ravens
Stats: 228 G, 2,059 TKL, 41.5 SACK, 31 INT
Famous words: "We’ve talked about so much the last couple years of my career. He just helped me get through a lot of hard times, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him." —Michael Phelps, a Baltimore native
Bottom Line: Ray Lewis
Why is someone like Ray Lewis, who had murder charges dismissed against him, hated by some people more than Rae Carruth, who was found guilty of murder conspiracy charges? Because Carruth put on an NFL jersey just a handful of times while Lewis spent 17 years destroying offenses.
Part of the reason why so many outside Baltimore despise Lewis was because he was arguably the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history. But another big reason why Lewis was hated was due to his penchant to invoke God’s name as a reason for everything.
An example of that came when Lewis was asked what he would say to the families of the slain men at the center of his murder case to which Lewis responded: "God has never made a mistake … If you really knew the way God works, He don't use people who commit anything like that for His glory.”
3. Tim Tebow
Career: 3 seasons (2010-12)
Teams: Denver Broncos, New York Jets
Stats: 35 G, 2,422 YDS, 17 TD, 9 INT
Famous words: "I have mouths to feed. I don't need a-come-to-Jesus meeting in the huddle. I need you to give me the play, and let's get out there and let's see what the defense is doing." —David Anderson, former Broncos teammate of Tim Tebow
Bottom Line: Tim Tebow
Many fans consider Tebow to be possibly the greatest college quarterback of all time, while also simultaneously the worst pro quarterback of all time. But what really alienated him from several of his NFL peers was his faith and his desire to profess it publicly.
An example came when Tebow was at the NFL combine in 2010, and he and others were set to take the Wonderlic Test. Just before beginning, Tebow asked everyone if they could bow their heads and pray, to which one of the other players responded, “Shut the f--- up,” which elicited laughter in the room.
2. Colin Kaepernick
Career: 6 seasons (2011-16)
Teams: San Francisco 49ers
Stats: 69 G, 12,271 YDS, 72 TD, 30 INT
Famous words: "I cannot say it in the strongest, most direct way, that it’s an embarrassment and it’s about as disrespectful as any athlete has ever been. ... I don’t care what the cause is. The NFL football field is not a place for somebody to further their political ambitions." —Boomer Esiason on Kaepernick kneeling
Bottom Line: Colin Kaepernick
No NFL player has been more polarizing than Colin Kaepernick. Some people love him for his courage to protest police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem, but many others did not support his actions — to the point that they protested watching the game altogether.
A poll conducted right after he started kneeling had him as the NFL’s most disliked player, with 29 percent of respondents saying they disliked him a lot compared to just 6 percent before he knelt. But “dislike” is a mild term to use in regard to how many people felt (and, in some cases, still feel) about him, as Kaepernick received death threats “via multiple means.”
That hate meant he lost out on millions of dollars from pulled endorsements and was blackballed from the NFL, all for being the face of a social justice movement that the league eventually would embrace.
1. Aaron Rodgers
Career: 17 seasons (2005-present)
Teams: Green Bay Packers
Stats: 213 G, 55,360 YDS, 449 TD, 93 INT
Famous words: "I'm immunized." —Aaron Rodgers
Bottom Line: Aaron Rodgers
Following the 2020 season, you could have made a good argument that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was actually one of the most loved players in NFL history.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. It began with Rodgers nuking the 2021 NFL draft by leaking news he wanted to be traded at the same time the picks started. Then, he lied about his vaccination status. Now, he just crafts one cringeworthy moment after another during podcast interviews.
Things really have changed as far as the public perception of the three-time NFL Most Valuable Player. Is it fair? Rodgers is the best NFL example of "you either die the hero or live long enough to be the villain" we can remember.