NFL Greats Who Were Disliked By Their Peers

Mike - August 9, 2019

NFL Greats Who Were Disliked By Their Peers

Mike - August 9, 2019

The National Football League (NFL) is undoubtedly full of colorful, over-the-top personalities. In fact, those personalities are a big part of what makes the league so much fun for its millions of fans. However, while many top-level stars are beloved for their own unique traits, there are just as many (or maybe even more) who are indeed hated for how they behave on and off the field.

Some are raked over the proverbial coals for their dirty play. Others didn’t necessarily play dirty on the field, yet were and are hated by fans due to several other aspects. It could be their brash trash talk, their association with a certain team or teams, or simply the fact they were winners. In any case, the list of the most hated players in NFL history is a detailed one, and it includes many you’d consider superstars. Check it out starting right here:

Sports Illustrated

33. Brett Favre:

Compared to many of the fiercely-hated names on the rest of this list, Favre is a relatively calm example. He’s largely been portrayed as the fun-loving, gun-slinging quarterback from the South who just loved to play him some football.

Wall Street Journal

However, there was a time late in his career when his yearly indecision over retiring or coming back to play just got annoying. And that probably pales in comparison to the bad publicity Favre heaped on himself when he sent some lewd pictures to reporter Jenn Sterger. Not the most hated NFL player ever, but one that definitely drew some groans from fans and players alike at times.

32. Rob Gronkowski:

Most of the players on this dubious list have earned their spot due to dirty play on the field or truly heinous acts off of it. Although Gronkowski was suspended for a dirty hit on Buffalo Bills safety Tredavious White, it’s more of the fact he’s one of the biggest stars on the Patriots that makes him hated.

The Pewter Plank

“Gronk” maintains an over-the-top, fun-loving attitude that many don’t like. Perhaps they wish they could do what he does, or maybe they just can’t stand a winner having fun. It’s easy to hate a winner. Love him or hate him, Gronkowski is just that. He recently retired after winning the 2019 Super Bowl with New England. He’ll go down as one of the more hated players in NFL history – and one of the best tight ends ever as well.

Cowboys Wire – USA Today

31. Michael Irvin:

True, Irvin rose to fame as the best pass catcher of the Cowboys’ dynasty of the 1990s. But while that earned him a large number of fans, it also saw him gain a comparable number of haters.


“The Playmaker’s” over-the-top, loud style of self-promotion rubbed many the wrong way, even if they couldn’t deny his on-field success. So when Irvin got into some hot water involving some unsavory off-the-field stuff like cocaine and prostitutes, many were happy to see him fall. He rebounded and enjoys a prominent position as an NFL analyst on television today, yet remains one of the most polarizing players of the 90s.

Sports Illustrated

30. Ricky Williams:

Maybe Williams was doomed from the start, as the New Orleans Saints traded their entire draft to select the University of Texas running back. While he was effective enough on the field, his career took a strange turn that caused him to be hated.

The Desert Sun

After he was traded to the Miami Dolphins, Williams was eventually suspended for an entire season when his chronic marijuana use became well known all over the world. He clearly had all the talent in the world and was one of the best running backs in the NFL at the time. However, he chose to ditch the rigorous grind of professional football to smoke his grass and teach yoga instead. This prompted many fans – especially those in Miami – to turn against Williams rather quickly. Maybe he was just misunderstood. But he was certainly one of the NFL’s most hated players.

29. Keyshawn Johnson:

A supremely talented receiver like many on this list, it was Johnson’s ego that pushed him into hated status. He also found on-field success, yet was forced out of New York when his poor attitude affected his standing with the Jets.


Johnson latched on with Jon Gruden’s Tampa Buccaneers, and the two won a Super Bowl together. That would suggest things were going quite well for the pairing. But like many coach-diva receiver combos, looks only go so far. Scandal arrived when Johnson was shown yelling at Gruden on the sidelines, resulting in him being deactivated for the final seven games of the 2003 season. He was later traded to the Dallas Cowboys. Despite his immense talent, Johnson only posted four seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards. That’s the same amount of teams he played for during his 11-year NFL run.

Prime Time Sports Talk

28. Marshawn Lynch:

Lynch was loved by many and perhaps hated by even more. He maybe didn’t do himself any favors by refusing to talk to media for a large portion of his career, especially before the Seahawks’ Super Bowl appearances. His infamous, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” line will go down in NFL history if you loved it or hated it.

The Seattle Times

Overall, Lynch was more than effective on the field and owns some truly iconic runs like his “Beast Quake” and “Beast Quake II” scores that put big games on ice for Seattle. But despite his star potential, he was held back. Many still throw around the conspiracy theory that the Seahawks didn’t give the ball to Lynch in scoring position during the 2015 Super Bowl because they didn’t want him to get all the credit. They threw the ball and lost. Whether or not that theory holds any water, it shows just how hated “Beast Mode” was by many.

The Denver Post

27. James Harrison:

Harrison is a physical marvel who parlayed his rigorous workout program into a long and successful career in the league. But he was still known as one of the dirtiest players in the NFL while he was active.

Bleacher Report

Harrison was well known for hunting his opponents’ heads; exactly the type of play the NFL is fighting hard to curb as concussions became one of the most discussed issues surrounding pro football. His illegal hits resulted in multiple fines and penalties, marring a career that was full of good moments.


26. Conrad Dobler:

We’ve noted that many players don’t necessarily become one of the most hated in the NFL merely by playing dirty on the field. They can earn that role with trash talk or off-the-field incidents as well. Dobler was not one of those players.

Sporting News

He earned his reputation as one of the dirtiest NFL players of all-time. And even though he played in the 1970s, he’s still considered up amongst the worst in that regard. Perhaps what Dobler so despised was the fact that he not only tried to hurt his opponents on the field, which he was very good at. He also bragged about doing just that in the public eye. A throwback who will always be among the most hated in league history.

Yahoo Sports

25. Rodney Harrison:

Harrison was a hard-hitting, head-hunting safety during his early-career days with the San Diego Chargers. It’s questionable enough if he would have gained a spot on this list based on that alone, yet he certainly cemented himself here when he joined the New England Patriots.


True, the Pats are hated league-wide simply because they’re far and away the best team. Fans are sick of seeing them in the Super Bowl year after year. But Harrison didn’t do himself any favors by maintaining his reputation as one of the dirtiest hitters in the NFL as he roamed the middle of the field in New England. His peers recognized this and voted him as such. The league took notice and Harrison was fined a large amount of cash for his on-field antics over his career. He found a ton of success as a player. Harrison will also go down as one of the most hated players the NFL has ever seen.

Raiders Wire – USA Today

24. Jack Tatum:

A true throwback to the blood-and-guts Raiders era of the 1970s, Tatum was widely known as a dangerous, dirty hitter throughout his career in Oakland. His nickname was ‘The Assassin’ because of his hated style of play.

SB Nation

He earned a permanent spot on this list for his preseason hit on New England wide receiver Darryl Stingley that left Stingley paralyzed for life. The league has taken countless steps to prevent these kinds of violent, career-ending hits that Tatum became feared for. Putting that in perspective, it’s likely ‘The Assassin’ wouldn’t have even been able to play as he did in today’s game. He would have simply cost his team too many yards in penalties and himself far too many dollars in fines. As it stands, he’s one of the most hated defensive backs in league history.

Cambodia Property

23. Hines Ward:

Ward is a Steelers legend beloved by the many Pittsburgh faithful. Yet when you step outside of the Pittsburgh area, you’ll find that the former Georgia Bulldog was actually one of the most hated players in the NFL.

Bleacher Report

He was known for an extremely dirty style of blocking that left many an opposing player injured. That was the infamous blindside block, which is now outlawed. Ward was voted the dirtiest player in the NFL in 2009 by his contemporaries. Then, the league created the so-called “Hines Ward Rule,” which outlawed blindside blocks if a player used his helmet, forearm or shoulder to hit an opposing defender in the head or neck area. Ward was a hard-nosed, great player. He’s also one of the most hated in NFL history.

Bleacher Report

22. Cortland Finnegan:

Ward was voted the dirtiest player in the NFL in 2009, and Finnegan followed him up by earning the distinction in 2010. Finnegan would simply do just about anything to rile up his opponents. That included becoming incredibly physical on the field, and those he squared off against took notice.

Finnegan found himself at the center of many on-field dust-ups, the most famous of which is his fight with Houston Texans star wideout Andre Johnson. Finnegan was also known as one of the blatant, nonstop trash talkers in the NFL during his heyday. Needless to say, he earned a well-deserved rep as one of the dirtiest and most hated players in the league.

Just Blog Baby

21. Vontaze Burfict:

Burfict ranks high up on the list of the most hated players in NFL history due to the fact that he’s undoubtedly one of the dirtiest to ever play the game. He came in at No. 1 on our list of the dirtiest players in league history. Indeed, a player can be hated for many other reasons, but in this case, it’s the sole motivating factor for Burfict.

USA Today

The former Cincinnati Bengal and current Oakland Raider has procured an exorbitant amount of fines and suspensions over the course of his career. It’s estimated that he’s missed out on $4.2 million in fines due to his illegal hits on the field. His 2016 playoff leveling of former Pittsburgh Steeler Antonio Brown will always come to mind when discussing reasons why Burfict is hated so much. The Bengals had the game on lockdown until Burfict concussed Brown for no reason. Cincinnati still hasn’t won a playoff game in nearly 30 years. There’s a reason Burfict wasn’t drafted out of college even though he clearly had the talents to be a Pro Bowl linebacker in the league.

CBS Sports

20. Chad Johnson:

“Ochocinco” came out of Oregon State to take the NFL by storm in the early 2000s. He quickly became one of the league’s most dangerous receiving threats. And he knew it, parlaying his talent into some of the brashest touchdown celebrations the NFL has ever seen.

Bleeding Green Nation

His brandishing of a false Hall of Fame gold jacket comes to mind, as does the fact that he legally changed his name to the Spanish language version of his football number. Johnson wasn’t a dirty player; he was just a brash one who rubbed many the wrong way. Most of those people still don’t like him.

First & Goal

19. Deion Sanders:

A two-sport star in the 1990s, Sanders was the epitome of NFL arrogance of the era. There’s no doubt that Sanders was a game-breaking star in the NFL capable of both shutting down the opposing team’s best receiving threat and taking any kickoff or punt in for a score.

Tomahawk Nation

His cocky style was beloved by some fans and hated by many more. It certainly didn’t help matters that he left the Atlanta Falcons to play for two of the most successful and polarizing teams of the 1990s in the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys. Sanders won a Super Bowl with San Francisco and Dallas. Perhaps his most notorious on-field moment was when he got into an on-field scuffle with Falcons wide receiver Andre Rison. Sanders topped that off by mocking his former team by returning an interception 93 yards for a touchdown. A Hall of Fame player no doubt, and one of the NFL’s most polarizing personalities of all-time.

Star Tribune

18. Randy Moss:

At this point, the trend of trash-talking wide receivers rating as the most hated players in NFL history is apparent. Moss was a perfect example of this. He wasn’t a dirty player on the field but still came into the NFL with a ton of baggage following him from his college days. His skills on the field became more than apparent throughout the 1998 NFL season, his rookie year with the Minnesota Vikings.

Star Tribune

Moss quickly became one of the most skilled – and outspoken – wide receivers in the NFL. He also caused many a headache. His infamous, “straight cash, homie,” response to a reporter asking him how he would pay a fine is repeatedly replayed to this day. And of course, there’s his fake-mooning touchdown celebration in Green Bay where he pretended to pull his pants down to get back Packers fans who had actually done that. You could argue he’s the second-best receiver in NFL history. But there’s a reason Moss played for five teams throughout his career, and it wasn’t because he was so well-received.

Bleacher Report

17. Richie Incognito:

Incognito ranks high among the list of the NFL’s dirtiest players of all-time. His 2008 incident where he earned three major penalties in one game – a personal foul for abusing an official, a chop block, and a major facemask – proves it. Yet we all know his most despicable act was his 2014 bullying scandal as a member of the Miami Dolphins.

Pro Football Rumors

Again, Incognito was accused of bullying young offensive lineman Jonathan Martin with vile, even racist threats. He was suspended for the season and Martin has reportedly suffered from mental illness ever since. So does Incognito, as he was recently suspended two games for allegedly going off the handle on an old man in a gym. Somehow he still plays for the Raiders.

The Spun

16. Johnny Manziel:

Manziel is a unique case on the list of the NFL’s most hated players. He wasn’t exactly well-liked coming into the league as a hard-partying Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M. But things truly went off the rails when the Cleveland Browns selected him in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.

Dallas Morning News

“Johnny Football” immediately proved he couldn’t handle the spotlight of the NFL nor the on-field demands of being a starting quarterback in it. His NFL career tanked in just two seasons when he missed a scheduled therapy session for an injury towards the end of the 2015 season. The Browns sent a staffer to his home to check out what was happening and found Manziel passed out after a bender. From there, he went on a drug-fueled tirade and was out of the NFL. His reputation still hasn’t recovered.

15. Albert Haynesworth:

Haynesworth is often rightfully considered the worst free-agent bust in football history. He’s also the rare player that ranks among the dirtiest players in NFL history and, as a result, the most hated as well.

The Sumter Item

Most of that stems from Haynesworth’s disgusting 2006 stomp on Dallas Cowboys lineman Andre Gurode’s head. The attack badly injured Gurode, requiring 30 stitches and leaving him with badly impaired vision. Haynesworth was suspended five games for the despicable act, which still rates as the longest suspension for an on-field incident in NFL history. He promptly went on to become the biggest bust and earn a spot among the league’s most hated players of all-time.

The New York Times

14. Ray Rice:

Rice probably needs no introduction, as he’s been one of the poster boys for hated players in the NFL for the last five years. In February 2014, one year after his Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl, Rice was videotaped knocking out his then-fiancée in an elevator at New Jersey’s now-defunct Revel casino.


The incident earned him a silly two-game suspension at first. But the league came under immense scrutiny when video of the attack surfaced online. Rice was raked over the proverbial coals, although perhaps not as much as the NFL was. Either way, Rice has not played a single down in the NFL since. He admirably reverted to becoming an advocate for speaking out against domestic violence, but the damage to his reputation was done.

Bleacher Report

13. Richard Sherman:

Sherman was a vaunted member of the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl-winning “Legion of Boom” defense, and he’s also one of the most hated players in the NFL. Never afraid to speak his mind, Sherman rarely held back on his true feelings in front of the media. Many were taken aback by his brutal honesty in the public eye.

Sporting News

Of course, his infamous tirade on then-San Francisco 49er receiver Michael Crabtree certainly didn’t help matters, as it’s still pointed to as a reason Sherman isn’t as well-liked. He was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL for quite some time, but injuries eventually caught up to Sherman. He now plays for the 49ers, of all teams, with effectiveness well below the level he maintained in Seattle. Many are probably happy to see that is the case.

USA Today

12. Adrian Peterson:

Now, you might find it hard to believe this entry on the list because Peterson is truly one of the best running backs in NFL history. He’s also a soft-spoken, respectful human in front of the camera.


However, his 2014 child abuse scandal where he was indicted on multiple charges sent his reputation into the dumpster. Peterson was found to have used a tree branch – what he called a “switch” on his son’s buttocks, genitals, ankles, back, and legs. He claimed he was disciplined in such a way when he was young. Peterson eventually reached a plea deal with prosecutors and ended up with probation and a fine. He’s now in the midst of another huge legal mess after his financial advisor mismanaged his money.


11. ‘Pacman’ Jones:

Adam “Pacman” Jones is one of the most notorious criminals in NFL history. He’s naturally one of its most hated as a result. Indeed, he’s been the center of many a football-related controversy. Of course, he was suspended for the entire 2007 season after various off-the-field incidents. His strip club escapade where he ‘made it rain’ with $81,000 in one-dollar bills before a huge melee erupted comes to mind.

The Denver Post

Besides that, he’s been known to get a bit heated on the field as well, earning foolish penalties that cost his team in the most critical moments. His former Bengals teammate Vontaze Burfict was mentioned as having largely caused the team’s meltdown in the 2016 playoffs, but Jones had a role in it too. Overall ‘Pacman’ is just a controversial, troubled, and therefore hated player.

Bleacher Report

10. Bill Romanowski:

Romanowski was simply an all-out monster who failed to control his emotions on and off the field. It’s just not a surprise in any sense that he’s among the most hated players in the NFL.

Sporting News

Once, he took off Tennessee running back Eddie George’s helmet in 2002. He did things like kick opponents. He notoriously spat on San Francisco receiver J.J. Stokes. Romanowski also forced a teammate to retire when he broke his orbital bone with a punch during a locker room brawl. All of these things make Romanowski one of the dirtiest and most hated players in NFL history, and for good reason.

Sporting News

9. Ben Roethlisberger:

Roethlisberger has found a ton of on-field success with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s won two Super Bowls and a host of other accolades. However, he also carries the added weight of some highly concerning sexual assault allegations. The charges reportedly went away when he reached a settlement with his alleged victim.

Still Curtain

Roethlisberger also seems like a high maintenance teammate at times. His public calling out of Antonio Brown last year led to one of the most overblown, messy splits in NFL history. Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders in the spring of 2019. Overall, not the most well-liked quarterback in the league despite his success.

Teen Vogue

8. Colin Kaepernick:

Obviously, most of the hate for Kaepernick is because of his highly controversial decision to kneel for the national anthem prior to NFL games in 2016. Some said it was an all-out insult to the United States Armed Forces and the country itself. Others argued that Kaepernick’s message of protesting police brutality in America was lost.

The Washington Post

No matter what the truth may be, we’re not here to debate politics as they pertain to football. Because of his protests, Kaepernick is largely hated by a huge portion of the NFL fanbase. He remains unsigned by any team. Kaepernick recently reached a settlement for the lawsuit he levied at the NFL accusing them of collusion to keep him out of football.

7. Ray Lewis:

Lewis is an all-time great linebacker who deserves a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame. That is if we’re going solely off his on-field body of work. But in terms of public fan perception, Lewis will always have the specter of his 2000 murder arrest hanging over his wide shoulders.


The story went that a man was murdered in cold blood. Lewis, along with two friends, was accused of the heinous crime. Evidence seemed to abound, as the victim’s blood was allegedly found in Lewis’ limousine from that fight. Police still haven’t found the suit Lewis was wearing that evening. But ultimately he agreed to testify against his two friends of that night in order for his own freedom. A stand-up act. Lewis became a Super Bowl champion the following year. Yet the events of the same night a year before will keep him among the most hated players in the NFL. Of course, his dominant, brash style of play on the field didn’t help his popularity either.

NBC News

6. Tom Brady:

People just love to hate Brady. Sure, his New England Patriots haven’t exactly done anything to shake their controversial reputation as cheaters. If anything, they’ve actively inflated it. The Spygate and Deflategate scandals all come to mind, and Brady was suspended for four games for the latter.

The Denver Post

But the major reason most people hate Brady is because he wins, pretty much all of the time. He’s far and away the greatest quarterback in NFL history after winning a record sixth Super Bowl in February 2019. He’s still an elite competitor and the player you’d want most when it mattered. He maintains all of that at the age of 42. To top it off, he’s married to a supermodel. Love him or hate him – and most seem to hate him – Brady just keeps on winning.

5. Greg Hardy:

Hardy is no longer in the NFL but he remains one of its most controversial and hated former members. He was arrested during his prime with the Carolina Panthers. Hardy was accused of a truly unsettling list of crimes involving some frightening domestic violence. However, his conviction was tossed when his accuser somehow failed to show up in the courtroom. He was later arrested for cocaine possession.

The New York Times

Hardy flamed out of the NFL and is now a promising mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter in the UFC. Many of his opponents claim they want to beat him up in the cage for what he allegedly did to a woman. Ultimately, you can see why he’s still hated to this day.

Bleacher Report

4. Ndamukong Suh:

Suh is an unrelenting force on the field, to the point where he often takes his aggression to unnecessary levels that endanger his opponents. He’s arguably the dirtiest player in the NFL today. Of course, he’s been witnessed stomping on other players and starting fights with them.

The Pewter Plank

Perhaps that’s part of why he fails to stay with one team for too long anymore. He’s bounced around the league on a host of lucrative one-year deals. You can’t deny Suh’s size and speed in the trenches. But he’s also just difficult to like thanks to his many on-field extracurriculars.


3. Terrell Owens:

If we were going purely on natural athletic talent alone, Owens would rank near the top if not at the top in terms of NFL wide receivers. His combination of size, speed, and receiving skills was clearly a sight to behold in his prime.

Bleacher Report

But he just failed to make it worth with nearly every place he played. And oftentimes, the distractions just became too much. His feud with Donovan McNabb when they played for the Philadelphia Eagles came to mind. So does his strange, ‘That’s my quarterback’ crying scene in front of the media. And we can’t forget his cheesed-out reality show, ‘The T.O Show’ on VH1. Like Ndamukong Suh, Owens bounced around the NFL in his later years. He should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But it took him three tries to get in because of his perception by the league and public.

Chat Sports

2. OJ Simpson:

We’ve all seen this one before. Yes, Simpson was an all-time great running back who was the first to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season. He then found some success in some incredibly poorly-acted roles in Hollywood.

The Second String

Then, he became the defendant in arguably the most infamous murder trial in Los Angeles history. We don’t need to rehash the details. To this day, most believe Simpson murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend, Ronald Goldman. But “The Juice” was acquitted. The families of the deceased filed and won a civil suit against him. He turned to crime later in life and just recently got released from jail for robbery charges. It’s not hard to see why Simpson is among the most hated players in NFL history. He always will be.


1. Michael Vick:

It takes a truly despicable rep to top Simpson on the list of the NFL’s most hated players of all-time. Unfortunately, Vick is able to do that for his oft-discussed dog-fighting rings. The things he did to animals were outright disgusting. He was jailed for the offense and later returned to the NFL to have some good seasons.

SB Nation

It doesn’t matter, however, as the damage to his reputation was done. Most people, regardless if they’re football fans or not, love dogs. Vick’s willingness to do what he did to pets makes him public enemy number one in terms of NFL athletes. He’ll never be able to wash away the fallout of that one.