If you’ve seen enough movies and watched enough television, you know that villains come in many forms. Not every villain is a bad guy, but we need them. Villains are what drive the best stories.
The NFL would not be successful without good villains. How would we be able to identify heroes if not for worthy adversaries?
If The Dark Knight taught us anything, we learned that a hero can also transform into a villain overnight. The villains in any given season are going to change simply based on perspective. Your viewpoint is your guide.
Such a physical and emotional game almost requires that every opponent be vilified because that makes it easier to cheer against them. It’s a lot easier to cheer against a villain than a hero. When it’s over, just remember they are just people with problems like anyone else.
Here are the biggest villains in the NFL right now.
Almost everybody wants to knock Tom Brady down a peg. He’s a great quarterback. He’s attractive when he doesn’t have a flamboyant haircut. He may or may not have been cheating by conspiring to deflate and use underinflated footballs.
On the field, Brady is one of the most formidable adversaries. Off of it, Brady is a hero who fought the big bad NFL and won. He’s also the dude that married Gisele Bundchen and split with Bridget Moynahan after getting her pregnant, which makes him the villain of single guys everywhere.
To Patriots fans, he’s mostly a hero. Unless you mention the loss of draft picks, but they probably prefer to blame that on someone else. To the league, he’s a villain in court, but one of their favorite products outside of it.
To Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Brady is Shao Kahn in Mortal Kombat. He’s beatable, but even once you figure him out you can only beat him once out of every five tries. Annoying.
Every NFL fan has to come to grips with where they stand on Brady eventually. It could be that one day Brady is a hero for beating the NFL and the next he’s a villain because he’s playing your team. One thing is certain, no matter where you encounter Brady, he isn’t going down quietly.
He’s good, he knows it and he isn’t afraid to tell you. That’s Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in a nutshell.
That will always rub some people the wrong way. It’s especially true of his opponents, who are tired of hearing about it and want nothing more than to shut him up. That’s no easy task because like any good villain, beating Sherman is difficult.
Sherman is also backing the Patriots—the team that beat his team in the Super Bowl and is dealing with their long history of cheating allegations.
“Like they say, if you didn’t get caught, then it wasn’t cheating,” Sherman said, via ESPN.com’s Sheil Kapadia.
Nevermind that the Patriots were caught, but the NFL bungled the investigation and aftermath to the point that a judge had no choice but to throw out Brady’s four-game suspension. Sherman seems to think that none of that matters because players still have to execute between the white lines.
Sherman’s logic is as as flawed as that of a ’90s Saturday morning cartoon villain. He even resembles the famous villain “Predator” with his dreadlocks often parted to each side. All the best villains have good hair features.
The guy has “Kong” in his name. We all know Donkey Kong was one of the best villains in arcade history and King Kong one of the most iconic villains in movie history. A Kong is also the villain of aggressive chewing canines everywhere.
If you knew nothing about the NFL and were just reading a list of names, Ndamukong Suh is the baddest of bad villains. You couldn’t make up a better one. It only gets better once you learn to pronounce it because it rolls of the tongue better than Ricky Ricardo.
He’s also huge and will slam you into the ground and stomp on you if you tick him off. He might also try to rip your head off (or at least your helmet).
Suh was also a free agent this past offseason, so unless you are a Miami Dolphins fan, you probably think he just used your team as leverage for more money. All things considered, Suh is a pretty good villain.
Bullying exists in many shapes and forms in this country. It’s a serious issue that needs serious solutions. It can happen anywhere, even to a 300-pound NFL player.
Buffalo Bills offensive guard Richie Incognito became the name and face of bullies everywhere when Jonathan Martin accused him of bullying when the two were with the Miami Dolphins. For that reason, Incognito will continue to be vilified—right or wrong.
The exposure of his lifestyle and character during the investigation only makes Incognito easier to dislike. Maybe he deserves it. Maybe he doesn’t. That all depends on how much you trust the NFL’s favorite lawyer Ted Wells, who investigated Martin’s allegations.
Either way, Incognito was considered one of the NFL’s dirtiest players long before the bullying scandal. Whether he has changed or not really doesn’t matter at this point. Incognito’s reputation is now that of a misunderstood super villain.
Everyone hates Jay Cutler. It really doesn’t make that much sense, but he’s almost universally disliked outside of Chicago.
Sure, Cutler is smug and he has bad body language, but is that really a reason to dislike a guy? Is that even valuable information? He doesn’t seem to care about anything but football, which is usually considered a good thing.
Cutler doesn’t appear to care what anyone thinks about him, which makes some people lose their minds. Apparently only villains don’t care what people think about them. That’s the kind of sick and twisted world we live in.
Nevermind that heroes are always doing good deeds and letting everyone know about it and then cashing in on their good name. It’s unlikely Cutler is going to dress up like a village idiot and do a DirecTV commercial. That’s not his style.
Cutler is also an easy target because he throws so many interceptions. His gunslinger mentality gets the best of him just as a villain’s character flaws are connected to nefarious activities that fail miserably.
It may not make sense, but Cutler is a villain. At least he has embraced it.
Coaches, owners and the commish
Bill Belichick is like Brady without the good looks and with Cutler’s attitude. Belichick doesn’t care what you or anyone else thinks.
Like any good villain, Belichick has anti-establishment tendencies. He is always willing to bend rules and will sometimes even break them if he doesn’t think he’ll get caught. At least that’s the perception, which probably isn’t that far from the truth.
Belichick’s sideline attire is befitting a villain. It’s usually a hooded sweatshirt that looks more fit for shop towels than for the head coach of an NFL team. It’s ugly, which is what we expect from a good villain.
To make things worse, Belichick is also ridiculously good at his job. He’s an evil genius like the Joker from The Dark Knight.
Over time you come to appreciate the genius, but it still ticks you off. Unless you’re a Patriots fan that has benefited from Belichick’s conquests, Belichick is perhaps the ultimate NFL villain.
Roger Goodell has been called a tyrant for exercising his power in an unreasonable and arbitrary way, which is basically the dictionary definition of the word. Players are frustrated with the way Goodell approaches violations of the personal conduct policy, for which he is the judge, jury and executioner.
Goodell has been criticized for the overly harsh punishment of Brady and the Patriots for Deflategate, to the overly light ones given to Ray Rice for domestic violence. He treated Adrian Peterson’s child abuse charges the same way he treated Greg Hardy’s domestic violences charges, when the two cases called for different approaches.
For whatever reason, Goodell seems unable or unwilling to find compromises or solicit professional opinions before concluding how to punish players for off-the-field transgressions. Meanwhile, most owners still love him because the game is massively popular and they are making money faster than they can count it.
Goodell certainly means well, but he’ll remain one of the league’s biggest villains until he yields his power to punish players. When or if he’s willing to do that remains to be seen, but a string of losses in court against the players may force the change. The owners could ask Goodell to use his time on more lucrative endeavors.
Change the name. Until then, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder is a villain to progress.
As the owner of a private company, changing the name is at the sole discretion of Snyder. Regardless of your viewpoint, the controversy around the name isn’t going away.
Snyder may make some valid points about the name never intending to be derogatory. That’s probably true. Its usage as a derogatory term throughout history has also been debated, but it’s clear that it’s a derogatory term to many Native Americans.
Branding shouldn’t be more important than changing the name of a team to something that isn’t derogatory to anyone. The world changes and Snyder needs to learn to change with it. In the end, he gains a lot more from changing the name than holding his ground.
Stan Kroenke is a hyper-rich guy trying to move his team from St. Louis—a place that appears willing to build him a new stadium with public funds—to Los Angeles. The only reason to relocate appears to be to double the value of his team.
The worst part is that his current stadium isn’t even that bad and that he’s a native of Missouri. The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers both need new stadiums much more desperately than the Rams. Yet the Rams continue to be considered the favorite to relocate because of Kroenke’s resources.
The greedy real estate developer is a common villain archetype. Kroenke made his billions in real estate. You can’t make this stuff up. If the NFL approves the relocation of the Rams at the end of the season, Kroenke may be one of the most hated men in St. Louis.
Broadcaster Joe Buck has already gone to the mattresses. As St. Louis’ native son, Buck isn’t about to keep quiet as Kroenke spurns his hometown for the bright lights on Los Angeles without even giving them a chance.
Suck the life out of a team, run it down, raise prices, then say it isn’t supported and leave. Great example for the NFL to celebrate JOKE!
— Joe Buck (@Buck) August 25, 2015
Kroenke could be just as much a villain to the NFL team that is left out of Los Angeles if the Rams are allowed to relocate there. Raider Nation would love to get something done in Oakland, but the realistic option for them remains Los Angeles.
Old, outdated NFL stadiums
O.co Coliseum and Qualcomm Stadium
These two are terrible stadiums by NFL standards. With the relocation to Los Angeles on the horizon, these two stadiums are going to get slammed from all sides. Broadcasters will be quick to note crumbling concrete and flooding issues at Qualcomm and the dirt infield and past sewage issues at O.co.
The teams will point out their lack of luxury boxes and sparse number of club-level seats. No one is going to stick up for these obsolete products of the ’60s. It’s not going to be fun hearing about them nearly every Sunday.
These poor, old beauties served their purposes with grace for over 40 years. If you look hard enough, there is something endearing about them. No one will miss them, but they are still beloved.
By the end of the season, you’ll think it’s the stadium’s fault that the teams want to move. Like those buildings could do anything about their lack of glitz, grass and glass.
The stadiums aren’t the villains, but you won’t be able to tell based on the way they are portrayed by fans and analysts alike during the 2015 season.