Every NFL Team's Biggest Scandal Ever
The National Football League has emerged as a billion-dollar organization both through the success of the sport and the entertainment value it brings. It's impressive how the league has persevered despite plenty of major scandals circulating in the sport, along with the inevitable troubles involving players every year.
Thus, I took a look at the more notable scandals involving each NFL franchise. Some teams have been fortunate and have avoided major problems with the league or the judicial system, but that doesn't mean they have gone completely unscathed when it comes to their players or people in the organization.
In other cases, scandals have rocked the reputation of some of the more successful organizations across the league.
Here is a look at these scandals and the severity in which the problems have impacted these franchises.
Indianapolis Colts: Players Arrested for Public Intoxication Within Same Year
The Indianapolis Colts franchise has avoided turmoil involving either the franchise or its players for the majority of the team's existence. So it was a bit discouraging in 2010, when there were a handful of Colts arrests, including two that occurred due to public intoxication.
With the departure of Tony Dungy as head coach a couple of years prior, it was fair to question whether this could become an issue involving Colts players moving forward.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Wide Receiver Mike Williams in Trouble Before a Game
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While the arrest of Mike Williams doesn't compare to other scandals in terms of severity, this development proved to be a major detriment to a franchise that's struggled in recent years.
When he was arrested for a DUI just two days before a game, there was judgement regarding whether Williams received preferential treatment due to his success. Williams was the most consistent offensive target for the Buccaneers, and he did indeed play in the game.
The precedent set by head coach Raheem Morris proved to be his downfall with the team, as the variety of troubling personalities did not provide the best results.
Arizona Cardinals: Dealing with Recent Problems off the Field
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The Cardinals have been fortunate to avoid any major scandals throughout the history of the franchise. However, in recent months, the situation involving linebacker Daryl Washington has affected the franchise in a negative way.
Washington was arrested after assaulting his girlfriend, which created plenty of attention for the wrong reasons for a franchise that's looking to turn the corner.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Receiver Matt Jones Continued His Trouble off the Field
As one of the league's younger franchises, the Jaguars haven't been involved with much scandal. But it is worth noting that a handful of their top draft choices have dealt with some run-ins with the law.
The most notable player with a major criminal record is former first-round pick Matt Jones, who faced a felony charge of cocaine possession. This was an unfortunate incident for Jones, who never lived up to the hype surrounding the former Arkansas product.
Seattle Seahawks: Players Suspended for PED Usage
In recent years, the Seahawks franchise has been willing to gamble on players who have questionable character but high-end talent. While that strategy has been successful during the Pete Carroll coaching era, the recent development of Seattle players using PEDs has proven to be a cause for concern.
Washington Redskins: Breaking NFL Rules During Non-Salary Cap Season
The Redskins have always been one of the more intriguing franchises under owner Dan Snyder. Unfortunately for the billion-dollar owner, his franchise faced a major penalty from the NFL during the season without a salary cap.
Washington lost $36 million in salary cap space due to its violation of an unwritten rule mandated by the league, which said teams were not allowed to front-load contracts or dump salaries in the uncapped 2010 NFL season, according to the New York Times.
Despite the power and influence that an owner such as Snyder has within NFL headquarters, the league did not change its stance on the issue.
Buffalo Bills: Players with a Handful of Arrests in 2009
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The Bills have proven to be one of the more respected franchises in the NFL. There hasn't been many issues concerning the team's players while they were playing professional football.
However, a notable issue concerning the franchise came up in 2009, when a handful of players were arrested for separate incidents.
Marshawn Lynch pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was suspended three games as a result. Donte Whitner was arrested for aggravated disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Ko Simpson was also arrested during that offseason, which clearly did not enhance the reputation of Ralph Wilson's franchise.
Bill Romanowski's Problems with the Oakland Raiders
Bill Romanowski was one of the more memorable Oakland Raiders players of the previous decade, but for all the wrong reasons.
Romanowski attacked and injured Marcus Williams during a scrimmage. As a result, Williams was indeed forced to retire.
Later on, Romanowski admitted to using steroids, which prompted questions about whether 'roid rage contributed to his assault of his teammate.
Romanowski's career ended in 2003, the year the Raiders lost to the Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, and the franchise hasn't been able to return to its winning ways since.
Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers Have Stars Suspended by the NFL
The Chargers were involved with a troubling development when Shawne Merriman was suspended four games for violating the NFL's steroid and substance-abuse policies. While the issue doesn't appear to be that critical compared to other scandals, it was a disappointing moment for the franchise.
Following his suspension, Merriman was unable to provide the same success he previously enjoyed on a consistent basis, though injuries played a major role in that.
The Texans also dealt with a notable player facing major discipline by the NFL. Defensive star Brian Cushing tested positive for HCG, an illegal substance that created concern regarding a competitive advantage that players can receive.
Ultimately, the suspensions of both Merriman and Cushing proved to crucial moments for the league, as it improved its drug testing procedures and caught two notable stars in the process.
Miami Dolphins and Ricky Williams' Substance Abuse Problem
When Ricky Williams came to the Miami Dolphins from the Saints, it was unclear whether or not he could use his physical tools to live up to his full potential.
Unfortunately, his trouble with marijuana use prevented him from reaching that full potential. Williams faced a suspension and a $650,000 fine for violating the league's substance abuse policy in 2004.
After retiring for a short stint following that season, he eventually returned. However, the problems with substance abuse continued, as Williams again violated the league's drug policy—his fourth time doing so. As a result, he was suspended for the entire 2006 season, which highlighted the struggles that he encountered during his professional career.
Philadelphia Eagles and 'Bounty Bowl'
While the New Orleans Saints are now known for the infamous Bountygate, they were not the first team to be accused of such acts. Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan was believed to have placed a bounty on Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, according to former Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson.
For a franchise that has created a competitive rivalry with the Cowboys, the incident affectionately known as "Bounty Bowl" will be remembered by both Eagles fans and media members who remember Buddy's tenure as a head coach.
Denver Broncos Tampering Charges
The Denver Broncos faced a major hit to their reputation when they were fined by the NFL for video taping an opponent.
According to the Denver Post, the team's video director recorded part of a San Francisco 49ers practice while the two teams were in London.
As a result, the franchise and head coach Josh McDaniels were each fined $50,000.
Cleveland Browns: Donte Stallworth Charged with Manslaughter
The Cleveland Browns continue to build after emerging as a new franchise in the late 1990s. With that, the organization has unfortunately dealt with a major problem concerning former wide receiver Donte Stallworth.
Stallworth was arrested and charged with DUI manslaughter in 2009 after killing a pedestrian in Miami. While he was only in prison for a month, the damage was done.
Stallworth's reputation was tainted, and the Browns elected to move on without him. Despite agreeing to a seven-year deal with him the year prior, Stallworth only lasted one year in Cleveland.
St. Louis Rams: Leonard Little Manslaughter
The St. Louis Rams' Leonard Little was charged with involuntary manslaughter after a car crash left a woman dead in 1998. It appeared that his blood alcohol level measure at 0.19, which was a clear level of intoxication.
Once again, the issue of alcohol continues to emerge as a problem, especially with the current era of athletes.
Kansas City Chiefs: Misusing Taxpayer Money Meant for Stadium Renovations
The Kansas City Chiefs have been one of the more professional organizations in the league and have typically avoided players who might carry personal problems into the locker room.
However, an embarrassing moment for the organization came last year when it was accused of misusing taxpayer money that was originally meant for stadium renovations.
While this scandal didn't gain much attention compared to the controversies surrounding other franchises, it certainly had a negative impact on the franchise.
Chicago Bears Deal with Tank Johnson's Arrests
The Chicago Bears don't deal with problems involving extremely troubled players often, but they did indeed deal with that experience following the legal troubles surrounding Tank Johnson.
Johnson was arrested a handful of times, which lead to a suspension by Roger Goodell.
The Bears ultimately decided that his troubles off the field were not worth what he brought to the field, and as a result, he was waived after three seasons with the team.
Tennessee Titans and the Troubles of Adam Jones
Adam Jones might have displayed the potential as an electrifying player for the Titans in the mid-2000s, but his choice to make bad decisions left a major mark on his career.
His most notable act was in 2007. Jones faced two counts of coercion for instigating a brawl that ultimately led to former wrestler Tommy Urbanski being paralyzed from the waist down.
Jones was eventually suspended for an entire season, with his career in a Tennessee uniform ending shortly after that.
Dallas Cowboys: Michael Irvin's Trouble with the Law
The Cowboys were viewed in high regard as America's team during their success in the late 1990s. But the franchise had some trouble over a three-year stretch involving wide receiver Michael Irvin.
Irvin did not put himself in the best position to succeed off the field, and he showed concerns of immaturity from 1996 to 1998. He was arrested for cocaine possession, and he also assaulted teammate Everett McIver.
While there were no chargers in the assault case, McIver planned to pursue charges. However, owner Jerry Jones agreed to a substantial settlement that made the situation end quickly.
New York Jets and Brett Favre Texts
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Since their last championship victory, the Jets have endured their ups and downs and have shown no problem embracing the attention that they receive in New York. However, the legal troubles involving Brett Favre seriously diminished the credibility of that organization.
Favre reportedly sent inappropriate text messages to a former Jets massage therapist, which created plenty of unnecessary drama for the popular franchise. Not only was Favre's reputation tainted, but the situation also showed Woody Johnson's multi-billion-dollar enterprise in an extremely bad light.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger Sexual Assault Allegations
Ben Roethlisberger found himself dealing with plenty of controversy after being accused of sexual assault twice in one year. In the second incident, which occurred in 2010, the accusation stemmed from a woman who claimed she was assaulted at a Georgia nightclub.
These accusations focused an extremely negative light on one of the game's elite quarterbacks and also a franchise that is typically known for its success on the football field.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Year of 2006
While there is no specific incident that stands out involving the Cincinnati Bengals, the year 2006 proved to be one that gave the franchise a bad reputation for having a roster filled with criminals.
There were eight members of the Bengals who were arrested over that span. The now-deceased Chris Henry was the most notable player, as he faced three separate criminal charges over the span of one year.
Green Bay Packers/Detroit Lions: Betting Scandal
The Green Bay Packers have proven to be one of the league's model franchises both on and off the field. Meanwhile, the Lions have faced their fair share of issues with players over the years.
But both organizations dealt with major issues in the mid-1960s involving players Paul Hornung and Alex Karras.
Both men were suspended by the league for betting on games. Commissioner Pete Rozelle attempted to make a statement to preventing the league from having the crime become more common over the next few decades.
New York Giants: Lawrence Taylor Admits Drug Addiction
Lawrence Taylor was undoubtedly the greatest pass-rusher in NFL history. His athleticism and his physicality brought joy to plenty of Giants fans over the years.
Still, it was well-known that Taylor had issues in his personal life, dating back to his tenure in New York.
His most notable problem was his addiction to cocaine, which he says occurred a year before he found help with the matter. It was also a dark cloud over the Giants' organization, who knew about Taylor's struggles yet didn't turn him in due to his presence on the field.
San Francisco 49ers: Owner Eddie Debartolo Convicted in Extortion Case
Former 49ers owner Eddie Debartolo was successful during his tenure with the franchise, but his past troubles overshadowed his success in the NFL.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle's David Dietz, Debartolo was convicted in 1998 for failing to report that "Louisiana's former governor allegedly [Edwin Edwards] extorted $400,000 from him to win a casino license." The result was a $1 million fine and a one-year suspension by the NFL.
It's unfortunate, but it's typical for successful people to have an entire reputation ruined due to making a poor error in judgement.
Minnesota Vikings: Boat Scandal
The Minnesota Vikings endured difficult times in the mid-2000s, as multiple veteran players were a part of an alleged "boat party scandal" that involved players having sex with prostitutes.
Notable players included in this scandal were Dante Culpepper, Bryant McKinnie and Fred Smoot.
This incident was an indication of the lack of leadership that came from the players involved, and it was a difficult and embarrassing time for the franchise.
New Orleans Saints and Bountygate
Less than two years ago, the NFL leveled the New Orleans Saints after the league uncovered that Saints players, along with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, paid bounties for allegedly injuring opposing players.
The ramifications were incredibly large. Roger Goodell fined the Saints $500,000, relinquished the team's second-round picks the past two years and suspended head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012-2013 season.
With a franchise that's endured decades of losing and a team that dealt with the unfortunate tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, Bountygate proved to be the ultimate embarrassment towards this franchise.
Atlanta Falcons and Michael Vick's Dogfighting Ring
The Atlanta Falcons franchise went through its darkest times during the end of the Michael Vick era, as the "leader" of the organization engaged in volatile acts that still offend many people across this nation.
Vick was the leader of a dog fighting ring, which involved the execution of animals who did not perform to their "capabilities."
As a result, he endured jail time, causing the Falcons to end his contract years before its conclusion. His career in an Atlanta uniform did not end the way the franchise envisioned, which led to quite a downturn for a few years following the controversy.
Carolina Panthers: Wide Receiver Rae Carruth Murders Girlfriend
Rae Carruth proved to be a disappointment in the NFL, having played only three seasons after being viewed as a highly talented prospect. But in 1999, Carruth ultimately made a decision that will haunt him the rest of his life.
Carruth was found guilty of conspiring to murder his girlfriend Cherica Adams. He arranged to have Adams killed in a drive-by shooting, though his motive remains a mystery.
New England Patriots and Spygate
Spygate has proven to be a disappointing act that has called into question the past success of one of the league's more model franchises. The Patriots reportedly videotaped the signals of the Jets' defensive coaches during a game in 2007.
This action was not only a violation of league rules, but it also created questions about how long that the Patriots could have engaged in such actions.
Whether fair or unfair, Belichick and the rest of the franchise have been viewed in a different light from both the media and fans.
While the success over the past decade cannot be taken away, Spygate allowed many NFL fans to put an asterisk over the team's dominance.
Baltimore Ravens and the Case of Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis, a two-time champion and a future Hall of Famer, has faced adversity throughout his career. He has been under a microscope since his run-in with the law back in 2001, when he was indicted on charges of murder and aggravated assault in the deaths of two men. The chargers were eventually dropped, as Lewis agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice.
Despite the plea deal, the questions surrounding Lewis' true character as a person continue to shadow the success of his illustrious career.
At the time, Lewis' mistake proved to be a huge embarrassment toward not only the Ravens, but the entire league as a whole. Ultimately, it's a scandal that rocked one of the more successful organizations for quite some time.