In the real world, people are usually fired if they make a habit of getting arrested, routinely demonstrate an inability to perform their duties, abuse their coworkers or subordinates or prove themselves to be untrustworthy scam artists.
Of course, we all know sports is anything but the real world. Not only are all of the aforementioned offenses completely forgivable, more often than not they’re also often rewarded. There are bloated contracts for underperforming problem cases and nice new cushy jobs for anyone bad enough to actually get fired.
That being said, there’s a big difference between overpaying an underperforming role player and actively seeking to employ someone in the midst of a career free fall or someone dragged out of the gutter again, dusted off and paraded about as an innovative new hire.
Whether they're terrible at their jobs or just flat-out terrible people—or some crazy combination of both—here are a few people in sports today who beg the question: How do these guys have jobs?
At the 2013 Super Bowl, former NFL wide receiver Randy Moss, then with the San Francisco 49ers, claimed to be the greatest ever to play the position. So great was he that he finished his career as a journeyman receiver who has never once left a team that wasn’t happy to see him go.
Going into last season there were no teams in the market for a WR who hadn’t been productive in nearly four years, so he was signed as a broadcaster for Fox Sports. Not only has Moss looked deranged and out of sorts on television, apparently he’s also as delusional as ever.
Appearing as a guest on The Pete Schrager podcast in December, per Fox Sports, Moss said he could still “put up 15 or 16 touchdowns” if he were still playing. That was said, despite the fact that he put up 15-plus touchdowns exactly once since 2005.
This guy needs a dose of reality, not a cushy job.
After impressing at Louisville from 2003-2006, per Sports-Reference.com/College Football, Bobby Petrino was hired as the head coach of the NFL's Falcons. He didn’t even last a whole season in Atlanta before literally skipping out in the middle of the night and accepting a position with the University of Arkansas.
The Razorbacks improved steadily for four years under Petrino, but then he was fired in April 2012 after a motorcycle accident proved to be a catalyst for a breaking a scandal. Petrino was alone at the scene when police responded, though an investigation found someone had left the scene.
That person was Jessica Dorrell, a 25-year-old blonde whom Petrino had recently skirted the university's hiring policy to hire. The two had been engaging in an affair for months, and he had “gifted” her $20,000 during the course of their relationship.
Petrino only had to sit out one season before being hired by Western Kentucky in 2013 and only had to serve one year in WKU-obscurity before being rehired by Louisville in January. I suppose you just can’t keep a terrible man down.
Along with teammate Ndamukong Suh, the Detroit Lions' Nick Fairley has a reputation as a dirty player—dating back to his college playing days at Auburn. Though his former coach Gene Chizik has called the notion “absurd," per the Associated Press (via ESPN), former Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas said the rep was “warranted,” according to a report by Chris Low of ESPN.com.
Of course, lots of dirty players have jobs. Fairley’s issues extend beyond his sometimes questionable play on the field and the fact that he has proven himself to be injury-prone. During the 2012 offseason, he was one of several Lions player to be arrested at least once.
Fairly was arrested twice. The first time was for marijuana possession in April; the second was for a DUI and attempting to elude police in May. At the time of his second arrest, he was also found with an open container in his car and no proof of insurance.
Last season 37-year-old Paul Konerko made $13.5 million with the Chicago White Sox, a team that has made the playoffs just once since 2006. He had by far the worst season of his career, experiencing a sharp decline from already declining years prior.
Naturally the White Sox were eager to bring him back in 2014—perhaps they’ve settled comfortably into the basement of the AL Central and want to stay there forever. Konerko took a massive pay cut to return next season, but most teams wouldn’t add this guy to their roster to pay for free.
This past offseason the New York Knicks went out of their way to re-sign free agent J.R. Smith, including signing his brother, Chris Smith, to the most expensive D-League contract ever. It’s safe to say that a half-season later, New York is (as usual) experiencing a bit of buyer’s remorse.
All the bitterness and resentment about Smith seems to have bubbled up after a couple instances of him untying an opponent’s shoes at the free-throw line. He was recently fined $50,000 by the NBA for “repeated unprofessional behavior,” reportedly upset about the club’s release of his brother, according to a report by Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
Although it may seem like a case of one shoelace too many, the real issue is Smith’s suddenly below-average play. He’s never been a superstar, but he had been a solidly productive, slightly above-average starter until this season. Now the Knicks would kill for average, per Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal.
According to a recent New York Post column by Fred Kerber, the team is “fed up with ’untradeable’ J.R. Smith.” Having turned 28 last September, the peak of Smith’s career has already come and gone, but he can probably still look forward to another five to 10 years of being ridiculously overpaid.
Last April Rutgers men’s basketball coach, Mike Rice, was rightfully fired after video of him verbally abusing his players became public. He was originally suspended and fined by the university months earlier but couldn’t survive the backlash after the video was released.
Considering the obvious anger issues and the indefensible language Rice used against teenagers, a somewhat extended period of unemployment seemed likely. Turns out, not so much. In November 2013 Rice was hired by a company which organizes youth basketball camps.
Because of course he was. Rice gets fired for verbally abusing teenagers, but he lands on his feet with a job with much younger kids.
The fact that Adam “Pacman” Jones is still playing in the NFL is truly a testament to his talent. Honestly, this guy has been arrested so many times for so many things that it’s just too research-intensive to even construct a simple timeline at this point.
Let’s just say that on his very long Wikipedia page, the word “arrest” is used 11 times, the word shoot/er/ing is used 16 times, “suspension” is used 11 times and other words like “assault,” “felony,” “altercation,” “fight” and “stripper” are all very prevalent as well.
Although the seriousness of Jones’ offenses seems to have declined somewhat, he still frequently finds himself running afoul of the law. His most recent arrest came in September 2013. Jones was taken in for disorderly conduct during a DUI stop—at least he wasn’t the driver.
Rick Reilly (left)
Say what you will about anyone employed by ESPN, or any other sports conglomerate, but Rick Reilly is, quite simply, the single most vile person in sports media today. Damn near everything he says is either stupid, insulting, horrifying or just plain wrong—or any combination of the four. Here are some headlines:
Stupid: "New York Jets’ View from the Stanza," per Rick Reilly. (you just have to read it to understand)
Insulting: "Rick Reilly Has an Adopted Daughter, So He Knows What Colin Kaepernick Needs," per Andrew Sharp of SB Nation.
Horrifying: "Rick Reilly’s American Indian Father-In-Law Says Reilly Misquoted Him," per Brad Petchesky of Deadspin. (In defending the Redskins name, he misquoted an American Indian family member).
Just Plain Wrong: ESPN’s Rick Reilly Calls out the Patriots, Says They Are the Worst 2-0 Team in NFL," per NESN. (You know, the Patriots who are playing in the AFC Championship next weekend.)
Yet, he continues to be featured prominently all over ESPN’s many platforms.
Tennessee Titans injury-prone wide receiver Kenny Britt hasn’t played a full 16 games since his rookie season back in 2009, and he’s never had a 1,000-yard season. The closest he’s come was the 775 yards he put up in 12 games back in 2010. Yet he remains gainfully employed, despite a number of high-profile arrests.
In July 2012 ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky compiled a list of Britt’s many run-ins with the law since being drafted by Tennessee. They include: outstanding traffic warrants for false statements on his driver’s license application, ticket for driving without a license, lawsuit over role in a bar fight, arrest after car chase and charges for resisting arrest.
In January 2013 Britt was sought by police who were investigating a “stabbing incident” involving his brother. He had driven his brother to a New Jersey hospital after the incident but refused to speak to police about the events leading to the “stabbing incident.”
Can’t wait to see what kind of shenanigans Britt gets into this offseason. Not that it matters much either way, it's obvious nothing will cost him his job.
There may be no other coach in sports history (aside from Gene Chizik) who has shown a propensity for failing upward like newly hired Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. Makes you wonder how many times a guy has got to fall asleep in a puddle of his own vomit before people stop inviting him to parties.
•Oakland Raiders: The team was 5-15 under Kiffin, who lasted 1.25 seasons before he was ceremoniously fired by the late Al Davis. (I was going to say unceremoniously, but it was quite the show.)
•University of Tennessee: Kiffin was quickly scooped up by UT; the Vols went 7-6 in his first season. Despite stirring up more mini-controversies than SEC wins, Kiffin quit after just one season to coach USC.
•University of Southern California: The Trojans overperformed with the remnants of Pete Carroll’s team in Kiffin’s first two seasons. They were the biggest disappointment in college football in his third year, and he was fired and left at the airport just five games into his fourth.
Where will his dad's name take him next?!