The 50 Most Hated Players in NFL History

Jon GilbertCorrespondent IIMarch 31, 2011

The 50 Most Hated Players in NFL History

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    He walks onto the field and you cringe. Your heart rate increases. Your general demeanor becomes negative, and you can't help but say "Jerk" under your breath.

    Somehow, professional athletes crawl under our skin. NFL players are not an exception to the rule.

    Sometimes we know why they drive us crazy: They've got an arrest record the length of a novel, they treat every 10-yard gain like a Super Bowl-winning touchdown, they hold out for more money, say stupid stuff or play dirty.

    Other times, they just bug us.

    There are many ways for players to draw our ire, and some have done it more than others over the course of the NFL's history. Although I wasn't around for some of the olden, golden days, here is a list of the 50 most hated players in NFL history.

50. Plaxico Burress

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    Plaxico Burress took a loaded weapon into a club in his sweatpants and shot himself in the leg. This falls more into the "What an idiot!" category, but we dislike him nonetheless.

    Burress wasn't making friends before that, anyway. He was cocky, albeit really good, and pronounces his name Plexico despite it being spelled Plaxico.

    It's simple phonics!

49. Ricky Williams

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    Ricky Williams, first of all, never lived up to expectations for the New Orleans Saints. Then his marijuana use came to light while with the Miami Dolphins.

    Facing a suspension, Williams did the only logical thing: traded in punt, pass, kick, for puff, puff, pass. Eventually, Williams returned to the NFL and produced respectably for the Dolphins.

    Although we'll never know exactly what makes Ricky do what Ricky does, some will continue to dislike him for his dreads, drug use and disappointments.

48. Dan Marino

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    Ray Finkle may be only one person. And he may be a made-up character in the movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. But he really hated Dan Marino.

    He hated him so much that he posed as a female police officer in a plot to entrap and kill Marino that involved kidnapping the Miami Dolphins mascot.

    "Laces out, Dan!"

47. Larry Johnson

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    Larry Johnson has spent his career getting under the skin of fans, coaches and commissioner Roger Goodell. Before he ever recorded an NFL carry, trade rumors swirled because of a poor relationship with then-Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil.

    Johnson suffered a couple of team suspensions and a suspension from the NFL. He also used a gay slur on Twitter, and later used the social media website to take a shot at fan because he made less money. Of course, Johnson made more money. He threatened to hold out of training camp in 2007 until the Chiefs gave him the richest contract in team history.

    Then there are the repeated domestic violence charges, including allegedly waiving a gun at his then-girlfriend.

    It's just too easy to not like this guy.

46. Paul Palmer

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    Paul Palmer could have just been a regular draft bust after being picked in the first round and flaming out three seasons with just more than 1,000 yards rushing.

    He was picked 19th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. Not only did Palmer not produce, but he threatened to fumble when he didn't like the way things were going for him in Kansas City.

    That's not a recommended way to win over the home fans.

45. Jack Tatum

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    The man was nicknamed "The Assassin." Isn't that established reputation enough in itself?

    Jack Tatum is known as one of the hardest-hitting players in NFL. It's a good thing for him, however, that he played when he did. Many of his head-hunting techniques wouldn't fly in today's more safety-conscious game.

    Tatum made no friends on the field. Being an Ohio State Buckeye and an Oakland Raider didn't help him among fans either.

44. Shawne Merriman

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    Believe it or not, Shawne Merriman is still in the league. The one-time All-Pro was claimed on waivers by the Buffalo Bills. He's trying to put his career back together after injuries derailed it.

    For now, it's "Lights Out."

    It was that "Lights Out" dance that drove everyone crazy, in a different way for Chargers fans, of course. It was so irritating that LaDainian Tomlinson—his teammate—spoke publicly against it.

    There is also the steroid use and alleged domestic violence involving Tila Tequila. Yeah, Merriman exudes the characteristics that we all love.

43. Charles Rogers

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    What happened?

    Charles Rogers was supposed to be the next big thing in the NFL at wide receiver, leading the Detroit Lions to select him second overall in the 2003 NFL draft.

    A couple of injuries and continued marijuana use—he tested positive twice while at Michigan State—led to Rogers' demise. Throw in some legal troubles involving driving under the influence and charges of assault and battery—charges were later dropped—and we've got a player that rubs people the wrong way.

42. Charles Martin

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    You may not know who Charles Martin is, but Chicago Bears fans do.

    While playing for the Green Bay Packers, Martin wore a hand towel in warmups for a game with the rival Bears with the names of Chicago offensive players' numbers on it. It was a crude version of a hit list.

    Martin checked Chicago quarterback Jim McMahon off the list when he slammed him to the ground after an interception. McMahon missed the rest of the season due to injury and Martin was kicked out of the game and suspended for two games.

41. Cornelius Bennett

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    Colts fans eventually let their hate for Cornelius Bennett subside, but it took a while. The team drafted him second overall in the 1987 NFL draft but suffered a holdout by Bennett when he was looking for more money.

    The situation became unresolvable, forcing the Colts to ship Bennett to Buffalo in a multi-team deal that brought Eric Dickerson to Indianapolis.

    The result? Bennett became a Pro Bowl player for a Super Bowl Buffalo team while Dickerson struggled with injuries.

    Bennett eventually returned to the Colts and mended some fences, but it's really not enough.

40. JaMarcus Russell

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    Is JaMarcus Russell the biggest draft bust in NFL history? Yup. How many years did his being drafted first overall in 2007 set back the Oakland Raiders? A few, but maybe not as many as we first thought.

    Raiders fans don't like Russell because of the wasted potential. The rest of us don't like him because of his general demeanor and appearance of indifference—and the fact that he made millions of dollars partially as a result of a training camp holdout.

    If he had it to do over again, do you think Russell would rather be learning the game in camp rather than sitting out?

39. Bo Jackson

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    Could the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have used a talent like Bo Jackson in 1986? It couldn't have hurt. That's why Tampa Bay checked with Jackson to make sure he wanted to play football instead of baseball before it drafted him first overall.

    But Jackson signed on with the Kansas City Royals, effectively wasting the Buccaneers' pick.

    Jackson ended up in the NFL with the Los Angeles Raiders. The Bucs went through another decade of futility.

38. Barret Robbins

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    Unfortunately, former Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins suffers from bipolar syndrome which has led to criminal offenses that have landed him in prison for five years.

    Robbins is often blamed with the Oakland Raiders' loss in Super Bowl XXXVII to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Robbins disappeared the day of the game, returning before kickoff before being left off the roster due to his incoherent state.

    Robbins' unfortunate foray into Tijuana, Mexico after not taking his depression medication left the team distracted and worried the day of its biggest game.

    This, combined with Robbins' ensuing arrests for punching a bouncer, brawling with police and links to steroid use, have him on the wrong side of most fans' opinions.

37. Tony Mandarich

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    Tony Mandarich came to fame as Sports Illustrated's "Incredible Bulk." It's too bad that bulk was due to steroid use, which Mandarich admitted in 2008.

    But he had fooled Green Bay into drafting him second overall in the 1989 NFL draft. He then held out for a large contract. Mandarich went on to a disappointing career, being cut by the Packers after three years.

    Mandarich missed public appearances due to being drunk or hungover, had a self-proclaimed poor work ethic and, worst of all, was drafted ahead of Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

    Think Green Bay and its fans wish they could get that pick back?

36. Donovan McNabb

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    Really, it's not fair. But Donovan McNabb is despised by much of the Philadelphia fanbase. Despite taking the Eagles to five NFC Championship games, the Eagles fans only remember that four of them were lost and that the one win led to a Super Bowl loss.

    The expectations were always excessive for McNabb. While it's arguable that the Eagles should have won a couple more of those conference championship games and maybe a Super Bowl, it's unfair to heap all the blame on McNabb. 

35. Steve Wisniewski

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    Chop blocks, cheap shots, blind shots and jawing: It was all a part of Steve Wisniewski's arsenal.

    Wisniewski didn't make friends with a bunch of opponents. They needed eyes in the back of their heads to defend against one of the dirtiest players in NFL history.

    People like players that play hard. But players that go after knees don't earn the public's favor.

34. Eric Dickerson

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    Despite the fact that Eric Dickerson was rocking those rec specs under his helmet, he produced a Hall of Fame career.

    What gets Dickerson on this list is his 1985 holdout. He decided that after two spectacular seasons in the league he needed a raise.

    He didn't get one immediately, but got the reporting bonus he had previously forfeited by not showing up. Eventually, the Rams got a deal together for him, one he became tired of not long after, forcing a trade to the Colts.

33. Jim Brown

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    He may be the best player in NFL history, but Jim Brown is also one of the most irritating. It wasn't the way he played; he always fought for extra yardage.

    But he's kept himself in the spotlight since retiring in many ways, not all of them pleasing. There was the acting career, his claims that he was going to make a comeback when Franco Harris neared his rushing record and there is his outspokenness about social issues that is not appreciated by some.

    Brown has done some very commendable things in the community. He provided some of the greatest highlights in the league's history. He's also caused plenty of people irritation.

32. Kelly Stouffer

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    These days, rookies draw the ire of fans and veterans by signing huge contracts and holding out for even bigger ones. Kelly Stouffer set the bar when drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1987.

    Stouffer didn't just hold out; he did so for an entire season. For some reason, he felt himself so valuable that he could put the team that gave him a professional career on hold for a whole year.

    He ended up with the Seattle Seahawks, never coming close to the player he thought himself to be.

31. Philip Rivers

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    Is there a quarterback more cocky in the NFL than Philip Rivers? He talks a big game and usually backs it up. (Sorry Raider fans, but he does.)

    He may have crossed the line when he was jawing at then-Denver quarterback Jay Cutler. Seriously? You don't even play directly against each other.

    If Rivers wants to talk trash, he should direct it at his opponent's defense, not players that he'll never actually square off against. This is why it's not just Raider fans that prefer other quarterbacks.

30. Akili Smith

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    Akili Smith is another draft bust that compounded the home fans' hatred for him by holding out. There are always the questions of what could have been.

    After being selected third overall in 1999, Smith held out of training camp for a bigger contract. He never became a success in the NFL, flaming out in Cincinnati in four seasons and being cut by the Packers and Buccaneers.

    Despite questions about his character, Smith never fulfilled negative prophesies that he would find trouble. That doesn't comfort Bengals fans at all.

29. Rodney Harrison

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    Rodney Harrison was routinely voted by his peers as one of the dirtiest players in the NFL while playing for the New England Patriots. Being a dirty player is one thing; relishing it is another.

    Harrison not only enraged AFC East fans outside or Massachusetts but throughout the NFL with his unapologetic response to charges of dirty play.

    He was cocky and almost pompous. He loved being hated, which only made fans hate him more.

28. Martin Gramatica

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    Easily the most annoying kicker in NFL history, Martin Gramatica treated every 30-yard, first-quarter field goal like it was a 75-yard, Super Bowl winner.

    He ran around, jumped up and down and celebrated while his teammate jogged of the field trying not to get involved. How 31 other kickers in the league—well, 30 for a while when brother, Bill, was in the NFL—could just kick a field goal and trot off the field was baffling to Gramatica.

    After all, he just did a routine part of his job. It was time to celebrate!

    Remember when he hurt himself celebrating? Is it wrong to have not felt at all bad for him?

27. Rae Carruth

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    Say what you want about Antonio Cromartie and Shawn Kemp. They may have illegitimate children, but they've never organized the murder of the mother or the children.

    The same cannot be said about Rae Carruth.

    Carruth was involved in the drive-by shooting of the woman who was eight months pregnant with his child. The baby was saved, but the mother did not survive. Carruth became a fugitive when he failed to turn himself in after the mother's death.

    He was eventually found hiding in the trunk of a car and is serving an 18- to 24-year prison sentence.

26. Tony Romo

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    Tony Romo first went wrong when he became the Dallas Cowboys quarterback. People tend to dislike the Cowboys, especially the quarterback.

    It only gets worse when you botch the snap on a potential playoff game-winning field goal, pictures of you and your celebrity girlfriend at a resort in Cabo surface the week before another playoff game and you are 1-3 in playoff games.

    Romo's relationship with Jessica Simpson garnered him plenty of detractors. He was letting the relationship get to his play, people said. What evidence those people had was never clear.

    What is clear is that a significant portion of the NFL fanbase dislikes Romo.

25. Conrad Dobler

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    Conrad Dobler treated football games like street fights. There was nearly nothing off limits.

    The Eagles' Bill Bradley learned that when he went down with an injury and Dobler spit on him. Dobler was known to bite and punch. He didn't keep it in between the whistles.

    He was nasty. He was dirty. And Dobler was hated.

24. Keyshawn Johnson

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    Keyshawn Johnson helped set the bar for prima donna wide receivers.

    He barked at his quarterbacks and rifted with Tampa Bay coach John Gruden. He wrote an autobiography called Just Give Me the Damn Ball.

    Johnson was arrogant, mouthy and never won over fans of any team other than the one he played for. It led to some fizzling moments in his career, including being traded twice and released twice.

23. Ryan Leaf

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    Ryan Leaf is in the running for the greatest bust of all time. That alone makes San Diego Charger fans cringe. Leaf was selected second overall in 1998, right after Peyton Manning. Things went in different directions for the quarterbacks.

    The signs were there right away when Leaf skipped a mandatory rookie meeting. He went on to struggle, confronting reporters, teammates and members of the front office along the way.

    On multiple occasions, the pressure and Leaf's temper overwhelmed the young quarterback, creating heated interactions in which Leaf had to be restrained. He blamed teammates for poor play. He even faked a hand injury to golf instead of practice.

    Distaste for Leaf is justified.

22. Jim McMahon

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    Colorful—hat's just about the only way to describe former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon. After all, he showed up for a public function with the Bears with beer in hand.

    He feuded with coach Mike Ditka, wore headbands on the sideline and proclaimed in the Super Bowl Shuffle that "I'm that punky QB known as McMahon." Give it a rest.

    McMahon never did anything egregious. He did get a DUI. However, that's the extent of his criminal record. He never forced a trade or showed fans his middle finger. But he did a bunch of little annoying things that created a polarizing image.

    When the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl in 1996 with McMahon as a reserve quarterback, he wore his Chicago Bears jersey to the White House, saying it was because the Bears didn't get to visit after winning Super Bowl XX.

    Packers fans don't care.

21. James Harrison

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    James Harrison doesn't like all these rules about player safety. He likes to use his helmet as a weapon and launch into opponents. And he doesn't really care who he hurts.

    Harrison's unapologetic attitude about injuring players, continued dirty play and ignorance of NFL rules have fans growing to hate him.

20. Michael Irvin

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    Michael Irvin was once the poster boy for arrogant wide receivers. He wanted the ball all the time and let everyone know that he should have it. He carried his University of Miami swagger with him into the NFL.

    Adding to the irritating nature of Irvin's behavior on the field are his multiple drug-related arrests. There have been sexual assault allegations, although none were proven.

    In the third drug arrest, Irvin's car was found to contain drug paraphernalia and plastic bags with marijuana residue. Irvin explained that the pipe and bags belonged to a close friend with a drug problem. He had simply confiscated them and forgotten to throw them away. I'm not sure how many people believe him.

    He's as big a personality as he ever was a star and that earned Irvin his haters.

19. Jay Cutler

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    Whether it's warranted or not, Jay Cutler just comes off as a bit of a jerk. He's always got that smug look on his face. His helmet smashes down on his face annoyingly. He just irks people.

    Cutler gives glib answers to reporters and has an aura of discontent about him.

    Then there are the questions about his toughness. A knee injury caused him to be pulled from the 2010 NFC Championship Game. With Cutler standing on the sideline, even walking around, people questioned his commitment to the team.

    He rubs people the wrong way, end of story.

18. Michael Vick

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    There is a faction of the population that will never forgive Michael Vick for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring run from his property. He killed dogs with his own hands and staged fights between them.

    He will be hated by some no matter what reparations he pays and evidence he shows that he's changed.

    It's been a long road for Vick to even get to where he is and there is still plenty of road in front of him to be considered rehabilitated and marketable by the general public.

    Before the dog fighting, there were other issues. He displayed his middle finger...to his own fans!

    He'll never be a loved athlete. Maybe one day he won't be this high on a similar list.

17. Eli Manning

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    In 2004, the San Diego Chargers wanted to draft Eli Manning first overall. Manning and his father Archie had publicly said that Eli would refuse to play for the Chargers if they drafted him.

    When the Chargers drafted Manning anyway with a trade with the New York Giants already in place, Manning could have shook the commissioner's hand, held his jersey and smiled. Instead, he shook his head in disbelief. It came off as very poor form and unprofessional.

    Manning hasn't won over many people since. His pouty mannerisms on the field echo those of his brother, Peyton, but people generally like Peyton.

16. Lawrence Taylor

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    Lawrence Taylor made it so much worse with his post-sexual-misconduct trial comments. He said to Shepard Smith of FOX News:

    "I'm not the cause of prostitution. And sometimes I make mistakes and I may go out there. And I didn't go pick her up on no playground. She wasn't hiding behind the school bus or getting off a school bus. This is a working girl that came to my room."

    Classy. He pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and patronizing a 16-year-old prostitute.

    This is all on top of well-documented drug and alcohol abuse. He also has left the scene of two auto accidents. The substance abuse alone didn't make people hate L.T., especially after more than a decade of living sober.

    But Taylor's recent legal troubles and reactions to those troubles have lost him many, many fans.

15. John Elway

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    There are two fanbases that are absolutely livid with John Elway.

    The first is that of the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts. The Colts drafted Elway No. 1 overall in 1983. However, Elway refused to play for the Colts and forced a trade to the Denver Broncos. The Colts missed his Hall of Fame career.

    The second disgruntled fanbase is that of the Cleveland Browns. Ever heard of a little thing called "The Drive?" The city of Cleveland just threw up.

    Elway shattered the Browns' best chances at a Super Bowl with his game-winning drive of the 1987 AFC Championship Game.

    There is some serious hate sent Elway's direction.

14. Deion Sanders

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    Deion Sanders essentially pissed off the entire generation before him. They didn't appreciate is "Prime Time" persona that high-stepped into the end zone and talked loudly.

    He hasn't shut up ever since, making some love him and others hate him.

    His rap career didn't help at all.

13. Ray Lewis

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    Ray Lewis has established himself as one of the best linebackers in NFL history, if not the best. He's an instinctive player that plays with a mean streak.

    Some question whether that career should have ever gotten off the ground. Lewis was indicted on murder charges in 2000. Eventually, he testified against the other two men indicted and served a year of probation for obstruction of justice.

    How involved Lewis was in the fight and ensuing stabbing deaths of two men has been questioned out of court.

    Lewis' demonstrative play also irks fans of opposing teams.

12. Albert Haynesworth

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    Albert Haynesworth stomped on an opponent's head in 2006. It was unclear whether Haynesworth took Dallas Cowboy center Andre Gurode's helmet off or if it fell off in play. Either way, Haynesworth stomped once and missed and so stomped again.

    Upon receiving a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty—how did he not get ejected immediately?—he threw his helmet and then was ejected. That was reason enough for most to at least lose respect for Haynesworth.

    Then he received a $100 million from the Washington Redskins. His response? Complain about defensive changes in 2010, show up to training camp out of shape and get suspended by the team for several factors including absence from practice.

11. Hines Ward

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    He's considered physical by Pittsburgh Steelers fans and teammates, but Hines Ward is considered dirty by just about everyone else.

    Ward loves to block as much as he loves to catch passes. He also loves to poke and prod at his opponent well after the whistle to get in their head. He's drawn a fair number of personal fouls on his opponent and on himself.

    His crackback blocks are vicious and often illegal.

9. Adam "Pacman" Jones

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    The Cliff Notes on Adam "Pacman" Jones is that he has a penchant for visiting strip clubs. However, when he throws money on a stage and a stripper goes to pick it up, he may slam her head against the stage and get kicked out.

    Then, he may return with an armed entourage that will begin firing and leave a man paralyzed. Jones claimed to not know the shooter and has never been convicted of any crime related to the shooting.

    Jones was suspended for a season and responded by joining TNA Wrestling.

8. Chad Ochocinco

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    I love Chad Ochocinco. I am in the minority.

    People can't stand his touchdown celebrations, his gold teeth and his constant yapping. They hate him trying out for Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer. And most of all, they hate his name change from Johnson to Ochocinco.

    It's easy to see how people dislike Ochocino. After all, he didn't even use real Spanish for his name change. He drives people crazy by putting the football on the pylon, wearing a Hall of Fame jacket and river dancing after touchdowns.

7. Randy Moss

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    You don't need to ask Green Bay Packer fans about this one after Randy Moss faked mooning the Lambeau Field crowd after scoring a touchdown.

    The rest of us are just sick of his hubris and shenanigans.

    His stint in Oakland was regrettable for all parties involved. His lack of effort and general malcontent was annoying. He's screwed up the Raiders, the Vikings and didn't help the Titans.

    Does anyone want to put up with him in 2011?

6. Bill Romanowski

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    Bill Romanowski didn't play football to make friends, with teammates or opponents.

    In 2003, Romanowski ripped teammate Marcus Williams' helmet off in a scrimmage and punched him in the face. The blow crushed Williams' eye socket and forced him to retire. He kicked an opponent in the head in 1995. In later years, he spit in J.J. Stokes' face, threw a ball at another opponent's crotch and was fined for multiple illegal hits.

    Romanowski even got in a fight with Tony Gonzalez. Tony Gonzalez! One of the most soft-natured players in NFL history.

5. Tom Brady

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    Tom Brady drives us crazy. There's his stupid hair and his incessant spot on the injury report. There's his token responses to media questions.

    Then there's his legendary quarterbacking, his classic good looks and his supermodel wife.

    Where is the line between envy and hate? Plenty of us can't find it.

4. O.J. Simpson

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    There are very few people that believe in the court's innocent ruling for O.J. Simpson in the murder trial of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. If the glove does not fit, you must acquit? Really? That worked?

    Simpson could have just backed into the shadows after the case, relieved to have been found not guilty. But no. He had to write a book called If I Did It, an account of the murders from Simpson's point of view had he committed them. How offensive to the families is that?

    What's interesting is that the book was withdrawn by the publisher and then published by the Goldman family.

    Simpson is now in prison for likely the rest of his life for being found guilty of assault, kidnapping, robbery and other felonies.

    He's a real charmer, that Juice.

3. Ben Roethlisberger

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    Ben Roethlisberger has plenty of time to rehabilitate himself and his image. But it will take many years.

    Twice, allegations of sexual assault have come against him. No convictions have ever been made, but that hasn't stopped people from believing that Roethlisberger is a creep. His haircut at the press conference to address the second set of allegations didn't help.

    Roethlisberger has pledged to clean up his act and put the arrogant "Big Ben" behind him. We're all hoping he comes through on that promise.

2. Brett Favre

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    Brett Favre was already in hot water from retiring, un-retiring, retiring and un-retiring again. He's now retired. We'll see. His career-waffling got old really fast.

    People also question the way that he left the Green Bay Packers. Neither side believes it was treated properly.

    Then allegations arose that Favre sexually harassed a well-known New York Jets employee while he was there. Allegations involved sexting and inappropriate voicemails. Never mind that Favre is married and has already cheated on his wife once.

1. Terrell Owens

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    Terrell Owens doesn't have a criminal record and there aren't women lining up sexual assault allegations against him.

    So why is he so hated?

    Let's see: His touchdown celebrations have included a Sharpie marker in his sock, celebrating on the Dallas Cowboy star at midfield and using a cheerleader's pom-poms. He's thrown a ball, snow and himself into the opposing crowd.

    He's made difficult the life of every quarterback he's played with, including Jeff Garcia, Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb. And remember the sit-ups in his driveway? Ugh.

    Have you watched a full episode of The T.O. Show? No, you haven't. No one has. It can only be handled in 10-minute increments.