The NFL is built on villainy. It's way more fun to collectively hate on a few players than it is to cheer for your own team — especially when that team wins seven or eight games every year.
But, which recent NFL villains are the top baddies? There are plenty of NFL players notorious for their despicable and illegal deeds off the field, but for the sake of this list we're keeping it to on-field villainy. Here are the top five villains in recent NFL history:
5. Richard Sherman: The Trash Talker
Richard Sherman was the king of the trash talk. He embraced the villainy, and just ruined opponents with his words. Here are a few of his best bars:
4. Aqib Talib: The Chain Snatcher
Another cornerback who lived rent free in Michael Crabtree's head? A long-time Broncos DB, Aqib Talib made a habit of snatching chains and taking names during his NFL prime.
The five-time Pro Bowler went after Crabtree's chain twice during 2017. He failed to yank it off his neck the first time, but in November Talib succeeded. The cornerback broke the receiver's bling, and the two tackled each other to the ground and started a team-wide fight. Talib was ejected and fined $500,000 for the fiasco.
Sure, Crabtree was also ejected and fined, too. But it's pretty clear who the real villain in this situation was.
3. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady: The Winners*
There will never be a more complicated sporting duo than Brady and Belichick. For two decades, the coach and QB pairing dominated the NFL, winning six Super Bowls and a million consecutive AFC East crowns.
If you're a Pats fan, you love 'em. For the rest of us? Obvious villains.
It doesn't help that Brady and Belichick's Patriots were mired in cheating scandals and asterisk titles for most of their time together. First there was the tuck rule game, then SpyGate, and most recently, Deflategate. Brady and Belichick were the perfect villains, because they kept winning, kept (allegedly) cheating and kept getting away with it all.
Bill Belichick is really just the palpatine of the NFL. pic.twitter.com/GDlZHxzBfx— Jo ☀️ (@_jordansperaw_) January 5, 2020
2. Ndamukong Suh: The Stomper
Ndamukong Suh is one of the NFL's best defensive tackles in the modern NFL. He's been on some great teams, winning Super Bowl LV and making it to the big game twice more.
But, his legacy will forever be defined by a few dirty plays during the beginning of his career. In his first two seasons alone, Suh set the record for most personal fouls in a player's first 32 games (9) and earned two suspensions during his career. Most famously, the DT was suspended for two games for stomping on the arm of Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.
Suh's certainly improved his reputation since he was named the NFL's "least-liked player" back in 2012, but his early days still earn him top villain status.
November 24, 2011: Lions’ Ndamukong Suh is ejected from Detroit’s 27-15 loss to Green Bay after stomping on OL’s Evan Dietrich-Smith’s arm. pic.twitter.com/xxvUESFQGK— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) November 24, 2020
1. vontaze burfict: The Dirty Hitter
Vontaze Burfict is the dirtiest player in NFL history.
After earning the title of "meanest man in college football" for his play at Arizona State, the linebacker took his nasty talents to the NFL in 2012. During his first two NFL seasons alone, Burfict received fines for hitting defenseless players, hitting a player in the nuts, grabbing face masks and spearing opponents with his own helmet.
Then, as he became more established in the league, the Bengal took his dirty play to new levels. After four years of goonery, the NFL first suspended Burfict for three games in 2016 for "repeated violations of player safety rules." The next year, he got three more games for a blindside block on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman in the preseason. In 2018, he found another way to get in trouble, suspended four games for violating the league's PED policy.
And then, in 2019, the big one: After a helmet hit on Jack Doyle in Week 4, the NFL decided they were no longer in the Vontaze Burfict business. The league suspended him for the rest of the season without pay, citing his "flagrant abuse of player safety rules despite multiple warnings from the league." It was the longest suspension for on-field misconduct in modern NFL history.
On the same day the NFL suspended Myles Garrett indefinitely, Vontaze Burfict spoke out about his own suspension. pic.twitter.com/2RBjAZJs9c— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 16, 2019
In total, Burfict was suspended 22 games and fined over $5.3 million during his career, spending just enough time on the field to earn his spot as the NFL's best modern villain.