Top 25 Biggest "Me-First" Figures in the NFL Today

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IOctober 26, 2011

Top 25 Biggest "Me-First" Figures in the NFL Today

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    Even though Terrell Owens, Brett Favre and Randy Moss are retired (or at least semi-retired, in T.O.'s case), there is no shortage of NFL characters who seem to be more interested in themselves, their future and/or their bank accounts than the interests of the team. 

    Of course, there are many ways to characterize a player as selfish or "me-first." Here are some examples:

    * They frequently get into trouble...that can be legal trouble, league trouble or stupid, unnecessary penalties. One way or another, each of those types of transgressions costs a team.

    * They seem more interested in their contract status, getting paid or just making money than anything else.

    * They repeatedly draw attention to themselves on or off the field, boasting, taunting opponents or—the worst in my opinion—displaying a "trademark" celebration.

    Each of these men falls under at least one of those categories.

No. 25: Chris Cooley, TE, Washington Redskins

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    Chris Cooley manages to draw a lot of attention to himself, which helps to lend some credence to the "me-first" outlook. He has the blog and the Twitter account and basically talks a lot.

    Now you can look at that as fairly harmless, and many times it is; self-promotion doesn't necessarily make you a bad guy or a me-first player.

    However, I think Cooley's comments about Tony Romo choking were pretty reckless and only served to put him and the Redskins in a bad position.

    No one is suggesting that he has to root for the Cowboys and Romo to do well, so the statement that he enjoyed watching Romo choke against Detroit wasn't a surprise, but going public painted a big target on his—and ultimately his teammates'—back heading into the next showdown with Dallas.

No. 24: Clay Matthews III, OLB, Green Bay Packers

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    Admittedly, this is probably going to be an unpopular choice, but watching Clay Matthews, I can't help but think he's a me-first guy at times.

    As I stated in the introduction, I look at a player who has his own "signature" celebration as intentionally drawing attention to himself and therefore a bit selfish and "all about me."

    Well, you'd have to include Matthews' flexing after a sack or tackle for loss.

No. 23: Vontae Davis, CB, Miami Dolphins

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    This one might be better characterized as "we-first" because Vontae Davis earned a spot on the list for his preseason boasting about how he and teammate Sean Smith were "the best [cornerback] tandem in the league."

    I'm not necessarily critical of Davis for being confident in himself and his teammate; as a cornerback you need to have some cockiness, as well as a short memory...which might provide some insight as to why Davis thinks his tandem is better than that of the Packers, Eagles or Jets.

    But when you say something like that, it draws so much attention to yourself (not to mention an unwilling teammate) that it defines me-first.

No. 22: Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York Giants

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    In some ways, it’s hard to fault Osi Umenyiora...assuming everything he and his camp told the press is true.

    If the team’s GM promised him a new contract and failed to come through, that’s really discouraging, especially when the team shed so much money by releasing Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert and Barry Cofield.

    But holding out from training camp (as you’ll see on this list) really sends a bad sign and one that is textbook me-first. Umenyiora is not the worst offender out there, but the soap opera that took place during Giants training camp—will they trade him, won’t they—was a major distraction. The team has been fortunate to overcome that.

No. 21: DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Similar to Umenyiora, there was some level of justification for DeSean Jackson’s preseason holdout; the Eagles collectively broke the bank for players like Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Michael Vick and even former Giant Steve Smith.

    Since Jackson was an enormous piece of the Eagles offensive (and special teams) puzzle, he’s probably due a raise from what he was making.

    But since he was going to become a free agent at the end of the year anyway, it’s surprising that he couldn’t put his personal interests on hold for a few more months while the Eagles zeroed in on a Super Bowl run.

No. 20: Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans

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    Chris Johnson completes this lists mini-trio of 2011 holdouts, but because his was the longest clearly had the most impact, he has the higher spot.

    It’s one thing to miss a portion of training camp because of a contract issue, the way that Jackson and Umenyiora did. But when you sit out the entire preseason and your demands are largely met, you had better perform.

    Emmitt Smith did in 1993 and went on to win the league and Super Bowl MVP. Clearly Johnson isn’t doing that, and the Titans running game has never gotten on track.

    To a point there is sympathy for Johnson because he is a running back, the position that easily has the shortest life span and the smallest window. Thus, the “make money while you can” sentiment has merit. But he sacrificed any team-first currency he had by doing so.

No. 19: Olin Kreutz, C, New Orleans Saints

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    Technically, Olin Kreutz probably doesn’t belong on the list; since he is now retired, he’s probably ineligible and exempt from this type of list. Because of the timing of his retirement, though, he doesn’t get a pass.

    Granted, retiring midseason (midweek) is a different type of selfishness and wholly unique from the rest of the names on this list. If there were personal issues that we don’t know about, that’s one thing. But the whole “lost passion for playing” reason is too hard to excuse.

    Kreutz should have realized that was the case this summer, or even in training camp. Doing so at this point in the season could have been (and may still prove to be) disastrous for the Saints, who were/are a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

No. 18: Pete Carroll, Head Coach, Seattle Seahawks

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    Watching some of the personnel moves that Pete Carroll has made over the past two seasons, sometimes I get the sense that he is more concerned with putting his fingerprints all over the team (and wiping away those of Mike Holmgren) than actually winning football games.

    In less than two seasons at the helm, he's revamped a pretty decent roster for the worse. The best example is obviously swapping out Matt Hasselbeck for the unproductive combination of Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst, but trading away Aaron Curry was also a major step in the wrong direction.

    Even though it was by way of a losing record, Carroll had a ton of success in his first season with Seattle, but it seems as if—considering how miserable the team has been at times in 2011—he's already wasted all that credibility.

No. 17: Braylon Edwards, WR, San Francisco 49ers

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    Braylon Edwards wasn't happy in Cleveland and wanted out of town, he got into legal trouble while he was with the Jets and he was seemingly wanted by no one this offseason when he became a free agent, commanding just a one-year, $3 million deal.

    Considering the fact that he's relatively young and has had tons of success on the field, teams were probably scared off by his personality, which occasionally led to taunting and personal foul penalties that even Rex Ryan took offense to.

No. 16: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

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    It's pretty remarkable how quickly Ndamukong Suh has gone from an NFL darling to a player who is currently persona non grata in some circles.

    The whispers about him being a dirty player got the ball rolling, and his nonsensical comment last weekend about the "karma" that befell the Atlanta Falcons seemed to clinch it.

    Those types of bonehead moves on and off the field could ultimately come back to haunt him and the Lions as a team going forward.

No. 15: Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland Raiders

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    The Bengals chapter in his career may now be over, and if you think about it, he probably did the Cincinnati franchise a favor by drawing two high draft choices. That said, Carson Palmer's decision to sit out and basically retire was a selfish, me-first move.

    He wasn't happy about a great many things in Cincinnati, so rather than try to improve them, he took his ball and went home. In all honesty, he was pretty lucky that the Raiders came calling and were willing to meet the Bengals' high demands.

    When you're clearly the franchise player and they give you a $100-plus million deal, that should be enough to commit fully to the team basically no matter what. That wasn't the case for Palmer.

No. 14: James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Being the only Steeler who (twice) chose not to attend the White House upon winning the Super Bowl is a one reason for this entry—both times, his conspicuous absence became a bigger news story than honorary ceremony itself—but far from the only one.

    It seems like every time he gives an interview, James Harrison says something so outlandish and provocative—be it about Ben Roethlisberger or Roger Goodell or his threat of retiring because of the changes to the game's rules—that it screams for attention.

    It's not just off-field issues that suggest Harrison has a real me-first streak. How many late hit/unnecessary roughness penalties has he endured over the years? His seeking to make the big highlight hit has often cost the Steelers 15 yards.

No. 13: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Now don't get me wrong: Jonathan Baldwin didn't have anything to do with Jamaal Charles' season-ending injury or Eric Berry's season-ending injury or Tony Moeaki's season-ending injury.

    The Chiefs were already headed for a disastrous start even before Baldwin's stupid preseason locker room fight with Thomas Jones, an incident that led to the hand injury that delayed his NFL debut for six weeks.

    Couple that with the reputation he built in college—calling out teammates and the coaching staff—and it's fairly easy to understand why a player who has one career catch can qualify for this list.

No. 12: Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers

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    The handful of legal problems that Vincent Jackson has encountered helps earn him a spot on this list because his actions cost the entire team—repeated offenses drew him a three-game suspension from the league.

    But the contract issues and his repeated displeasure in San Diego help bump him up the list.

    For whatever reason, he seems to have no desire to play in San Diego despite the fact that the Chargers have been a contender for the division title every year he's been there.

    Maybe it's because he's never been "the guy" in the offense with players like LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers receiving more attention, or maybe it's because he just wanted to be paid like a top-tier receiver. Either way, a Super Bowl for the Chargers doesn't seem to be his ultimate goal: otherwise, he wouldn't have held out in 2010.

No. 11: Plaxico Burress, WR, New York Jets

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    What happened at that night club in 2008 was the best example of Plaxico Burress putting "I" before the team. Who knows if the Giants would have finished the 2008-2010 seasons stronger if Eli Manning had one of his favorite weapons?

    Even before that incident, though, Burress was a habitual offender in terms of breaking team rules and getting into other legal problems.

No. 10: Brandon Marshall, WR, Miami Dolphins

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    I know it's terribly clichéd to keep listing wide receivers, but that doesn't mean the reputation is undeserved.

    Many of the most notorious "me-first" guys in NFL history have been wide receivers—T.O., Randy Moss and Keyshawn Johnson being the best cases.

    In some ways, Brandon Marshall is the heir apparent to that supremely talented yet often selfish wide receiving legacy.

    We all know why and how he left Denver, and he's also been suspended by the league—depriving the rest of his teammates a key cog in the offensive scheme—but the best example of caring more about himself than the team is how he boasted/predicted that he'd be kicked out of the Monday night game against the Jets a few weeks back.

No. 9: Shawne Merriman, OLB, Buffalo Bills

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    Like Michael Vick, Shawne Merriman earns a spot on this list for what he did while wearing his previous uniform. Just because he changed teams doesn't mean his career slate is wiped clean...and since the "Lights Out" dance came with him, he earns a high spot on the list.

    More than even that annoyance is the fact that he was suspended for four games in 2006 because he violated the league's substance policy. Losing the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year put the Chargers in a bad spot in what proved to be Marty Schottenheimer's last season at the helm.

No. 8: Jim Irsay, Owner, Indianapolis Colts

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    I just don't understand what the Colts owner's strategy was this offseason with his Twitter account. It's almost as if he didn't care what type of damage he was doing to his team so long as he and his tweets were being talked about.

    Last December he somewhat taunted Jets head coach Rex Ryan via Twitter about the whole foot fetish story...the Jets soon beat Indy in the playoffs.

    In August, he tweeted about being in Hattiesburg, fueling speculation that the Colts would sign Brett Favre as a replacement for Peyton Manning.

    Then a few weeks later he tweeted that he was certain Manning would be able to return from his neck injury at some point in the 2011 season.

    Granted, none of the tweets were earth-shattering news or major controversies, but they definitely put Irsay's name in the paper and across the Internet, which may have been what he was seeking all along.

No. 7: Pacman Jones, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Again, the NFL might be the quintessential team sport: One player doing something wrong can screw things up for the 10 other players on the field who execute their assignments perfectly.

    So for a player as talented and gifted as Pacman Jones is/was to repeatedly be suspended caused his teams (first the Titans, later the Cowboys) to suffer.

    Since joining the Bengals, he's managed to stay out of trouble and maybe has matured to the point where he is more of a team player, but we'll have to wait and see if that holds true.

No. 6: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Quarterbacks are held to a higher standard. They are supposed to be the leader of not just the offense but the entire team, so to be dealt even a single-game suspension from the league is inexcusable under any circumstances.

    Now Ben Roethlisberger's defenders will point out that he was never charged with a criminal act—unlike the next entry on this list—so all he did was show bad judgment.

    However, since he was basically guilty of showing bad judgment on the same issue twice in the span of a single year, that's no excuse. Furthermore, since the Steelers have Super Bowl aspirations every season, being dealt a four-game suspension like he was at the start of last year proved he was thinking more about himself than the team.

    That suspension may not have caused the Steelers' season to tumble out of control—as they went 3-1 in his absence and eventually made the Super Bowl—but they did so in spite of his selfishness.

No. 5: Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

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    This might be punishing him once again for something for which he already served time, but in terms of selfishness and me-first behavior, what Michael Vick did to ruin his career with the Falcons transcends the five years that have passed since he was in Atlanta.

    Vick put his dog-fighting business/hobby before every member of the Falcons organization, from owner Arthur Blank all the way down, and it resulted in that horrific 2007 season in which seemingly every move the team made disintegrated into a disaster. (Just because the team reinvented itself so quickly shouldn't excuse Vick from culpability either.)

    In Philadelphia Vick has certainly distanced himself from the selfish, me-first image that begot the end of his Atlanta career, but there will always be a sense of forgiving, not forgetting.

No. 4: Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets

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    The way he holds out the ball and drops it after catching every pass—even if it's not a first down—qualifies Santonio Holmes for the list under the "trademark celebration" clause stipulated in the introduction slide.

    But he earns a top-five spot on the list because his off-field issue have repeatedly hurt his team.

    Back in 2008 the Steelers suspended Holmes prior to a critical game with the Giants (a game they lost) because Holmes had been arrested for possession of marijuana that week.

    Not long after that—and winning a Super Bowl MVP—the Steelers felt compelled to trade him to the Jets, partly because of the legal woes that led to a four-game suspension to start the 2010 season.

    I still think Holmes is one of the NFL's better catchers and among the best runners in the open field, so when he forces himself out of the lineup for reasons other than injury, it's a tremendous blow to his teammates.

No. 3: Rex Ryan, Head Coach, New York Jets

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    I guess you could look at Rex Ryan's act as a brilliant piece of coaching and psychology. By always being in the media for whatever he says or does—guaranteeing Super Bowls, taking a jab at Norv Turner, calling out players in his recently released book—Ryan takes some of the attention away from his players and puts it squarely on himself.

    That could be viewed as a way to relieve his players of feeling too much pressure and being so scrutinized. But I think that's just a happy coincidence for Ryan.

    He genuinely seems to love the spotlight and the attention he receives, win or lose.

    Because of his personality and the city in which he coaches, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a bigger coaching celebrity in today's NFL—including far more successful head coaches like Bill Belichick, Mike Shanahan, Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton—and that is not a coincidence.

No. 2: Jerry Jones, Owner, Dallas Cowboys

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    Now that Al Davis and George Steinbrenner have passed away, there isn't a more recognizable owner/celebrity in American sports than Jerry Jones.

    On the one hand, Jones is the very model of a team owner because he is so passionate about his team and would seemingly do anything to have it succeed. Since there have been plenty of owners that you couldn't say that about, it's admirable to some degree.

    But as much as he wants his team to win, he seems to want people to know that it's his team and that he is responsible for putting it together, paying the bills and overseeing its past, present and future.

No. 1: Chad Ochocinco, WR, New England Patriots

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    Again, I'm taking into account a player's entire body of work, not just what's taken place in 2011.

    Sure, in New England Chad Ochocinco hasn't made headlines for wacky touchdown celebrations, but that's as much due to the fact that he hasn't yet caught a touchdown you really think he won't do something to draw attention to himself should he score this year?

    Ochocinco was a fine, even great player for a five- or six-year stretch in Cincinnati, but in some ways his excellence as a pass-catcher was overshadowed by his dances, end-zone antics, signs and overall me-first attitude.