Before I get to my list, let me just say that I am writing this as a completely biased Patriots fan.
We all have those players who we just plain don't like, whether it is because they've beaten our favorite teams on more than one occasion, or because we believe that they're overrated, or maybe because there's just something about them that we can't stand or that we find annoying.
Whatever the case may be, we all have our favorite teams and players, and our least favorite teams and players.
I'm sure that some or many of you will not like this list and that's completely fine. If you find one of your favorites on my list, and you will, then by all means tell me that you don't agree.
To state the obvious, my favorite player is Tom Brady, and believe me, there's nothing bad you could say about him that I haven't already heard.
One man's hero is another man's villain.
With that, I give you my 10 NFL players that I love to hate.
Did you honestly expect anyone else in this spot? Over the years, Peyton has proven to be the only real quarterback to challenge the Patriots' dynasty on more than one occasion.
Sure, the Brady and Belichick's Pats have only been beaten three times in the playoffs, but the one that stands out even more than last year’s Super Bowl loss is their loss to Peyton in the 2007 AFC Championship.
Obviously, that game had far less riding on it than the Super Bowl, but because we lost to Peyton, and because we lost to him in what amounted to the real Super Bowl that year (the Bears game two weeks later didn't count), makes that game that much more painful.
There were always three things in life that I knew were a sure thing: people would die, people would have to pay their taxes, and Peyton would choke in the playoffs. After that game, I could no longer say that.
Now, that being said, he did choke big time against the Chargers last year at home, and I was very happy about that, but still, everything about him, from the commercials, to the silly audibles, even to his facemask, makes Peyton Manning my most hated player.
2. Eric Mangini
"The Mangenius"? I don't think so. I prefer "Coach Tattle-Tale".
Now, while I'm only half kidding here, I do think that maybe the Jets should have been a little more worried about their own problems rather than what the Patriots were doing. But in all honesty, I can't say that if you reversed roles I wouldn't have done the same thing.
Now, on to the reason for his No. 2 ranking: Here was a guy in Mangini who was a young, smart, hard-working guy who was quickly becoming one of the best defensive minds in football behind his mentor. Then, after only one year, he bails on the Pats for their long-time division foe, the New York Jets.
Now, I can't fault the guy for wanting more money and a chance to run his own organization. That's what you strive for. But when a guy like that leaves your team for a division rival, you're going to harbor some anger towards him.
In hindsight, I think he would have been much better served following the Romeo Crennel route: staying for an extended period of time, hopefully getting a chance to win a few championships, and then moving on when there was nothing left for you to accomplish.
Coach Crennel paid his dues, worked hard, won three Super Bowls, and is now finding success with the Browns, and I wish him the best. If the Jets don't play well this year with all the money they spent, then Mangini could be out of a job come February.
All of that, plus a less than friendly handshake or two, and the whole Spygate fiasco, and coach Eric Mangini comes in at No. 2 on my list.
3. Tony Romo
This one here has less to do with my allegiance to the Patriots, and more to do with the fact that Romo is about the most overrated player in the NFL.
Now, I'm not about to sit here and tell you that Romo is a bad quarterback or that he puts up bad statistics, or even that he can't win games.
What I am going to say however, is that as a 28-year-old guy who is heralded as the next Brett Favre, and a guy who is getting paid more that $67 million, he has won just as many playoff games as you and I put together.
This could all change next year, and he could play extremely well. He could win a Super Bowl and shut me up. But until then, why don't we hold off on his anointment until he's won at least one playoff game.
4. Philip Rivers
Here is a guy who really gets under my skin. He's loved by Charger fans, and rightfully so, but hated by almost anyone else. With all the bad blood between the Patriots and the Chargers as of late, Rivers is an easy target for many fans across the country, especially since he isn't the quietest quarterback in the league.
That being said, I would much rather have the 26-year-old Rivers, who has taken his team to an AFC Championship, then the 28-year-old Romo.
5. Dwight Freeney
Our second Colt on the list is Dwight Freeney. Freeney has been harassing Tom Brady ever since the two first played each other way back in 2002. He may not be the most talked-about defensive end in the NFL, but I would rather have Matt Light go up against everyone else before I would let Freeney near him.
In the '07 AFC Championship game that I talked about earlier, Freeney was a huge part in the Colts' comeback, and his sacks on Brady in that game still make me think about what could have been.
T.O. would probably be on anyone's list of most hated NFL players (except for Cowboy fans of course). His on-field ability is only matched by his ability to destroy teams off of it.
He was the reason that Jeff Garcia was driven out of San Francisco, and they've never recovered, and he was also the reason that the Eagles went from the Super Bowl to the worst team in their division, and they haven't recovered either.
Maybe Owens, the ultimate team killer, has finally found his home in Dallas. While no one can question his work ethic and skill set, I know I wouldn't want him anywhere near my team.
7. Reche Caldwell
While this one here may surprise you, Reche Caldwell was one of the very few Patriots who came in, played a full year for coach Belichick, and then choked when his team needed him.
His touchdown drops in the playoffs and his crazy eyes will always make Caldwell not only one of my most hated ex-Patriots of all-time, but also one of my most hated Star Wars characters of all-time: Jar Jar Binks.
8. "Big Ben" Roethlisberger
He plays for the Steelers, so that's strike one. He makes an ungodly amount of money for someone who really hasn't been able to take that next step since winning his first Super Bowl, so that's strike two.
While I'm not knocking him for being a winner, because he has shown that he knows how to win, I am knocking him for not living up to his talent. The Steelers should have beaten the Jaguars in the playoffs this year, and should have given my Pats a run for their money after that.
It seems to me that ever since his Super Bowl win, he really hasn't played his best football.
When you throw in the fact that he was the one who broke New England's NFL record-streak of 21 straight victories in 2004, "Big Ben" finds his way onto my list at No. 8.
9. Bob Sanders
Another Colt defender who has played very well against the Patriots in the past is Bob Sanders. He comes in at No. 9 because, like his teammate Freeney, he has been a major force in the Indy-New England rivalry, as well as in the infamous 2007 AFC Championship.
His ability to be a defensive game-changer makes him one of my most hated players and definitely one of the most feared players across the league.
10. Tony Dungy
I can just hear the angry comments now. How could anyone not like Tony Dungy?
Well, he's a stand-up guy, a great family man, and an NFL pioneer, but when he's facing your favorite team as the opposing coach, you tend to forget about all of that.
The mental chess-matches between Dungy and Belichick in the playoffs have been amazing to watch (at least recently anyway...Belichick had won every postseason meeting against him before '07), and he has proven to be as good a coach as he is a man.
I do have to confess, though, that I ranked him last for a reason. After filling this article with so much hate, I'd like to end it on a better note.
When Tony Dungy's son died a little less than three years ago, there was not anyone as sad for him as I was. On the field feelings aside, he's a good man, and no one should have to bury a child.
So when Dungy did beat my Patriots in 2007, and then go on to play the Bears in the Super Bowl, I was disappointed, but a part of me was happy for the man who's given so much to this great game.
Did I just say something nice about the Colts? It must be getting late...
Overall, I hope you guys enjoyed my list. While I'm sure I'll be getting many angry comments, keep in mind that I am being completely biased, obviously, and that if some of you were to make a similar list, Brady and Belichick would be just as high as Peyton and Dungy.
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