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Great player-coach/team rifts in NFL history

Randy Moss

Maybe the NFL could name an award after this consistently disgruntled wide receiver. The Randy Moss Trophy could go annually to the player who complains his way off of a team. The thing is, Moss is one of the most talented players the NFL has ever seen, but he somehow manages to be disruptive enough to get shipped out of every place he goes. Think about this: The guy couldn't get along in New England with the Patriots, a winning factory that is run about as well as any organization in sports. He also couldn't hack it in Oakland with the Raiders, a team that has become famous for taking on head cases, outlaws and malcontents. He has been shipped out of Minnesota … twice. He already is on his third team this season.

Keyshawn Johnson

Maybe we should have had a clue that Johnson was trouble when he wrote a book called Just Give Me the Damn Ball. No question Johnson helped the Bucs win their lone Super Bowl in the 2002 season. But less than a year later (when he was midway through a $56 million contract that included a $13 million signing bonus), Johnson started to bail on the Bucs. He even put his Tampa home up for sale. That led then-Bucs general manager Rich McKay and then-coach Jon Gruden to deactivate Johnson for the final seven games of the 2003 season. After the season, the Bucs traded Johnson to the Cowboys for Joey Galloway. And, oh, later in his career, he ended up being released by the Panthers after playing just one year of a four-year deal.

Bryant McKinnie

This is a classic. McKinnie is one of the NFL's best offensive tackles, having played for the Vikings since coming out of the University of Miami in 2002. But he was once kicked off a team. No, not the Vikings. He was booted off last season's NFC Pro Bowl team. He showed up in Fort Lauderdale for the January 2010 game and was barely seen again. He didn't show up for light practices. He said he was still battling injuries from a long season. Well, okay, you can buy that excuse. But then McKinnie couldn't even be bothered to show up for the team photo. That got him kicked him off the team.

Don Meredith

This is a case in which a player-coach rift might have been more about the coach than the player. Meredith, who died last week at age 72, was the laid-back, carefree Cowboys quarterback in the 1960s. Tom Landry was the stone-faced, serious Cowboys coach. The two personalities simply didn't mesh. Meredith, the story goes, would walk up behind center in practice and, instead of yelling out signals, would bark, "Apples … oranges … peaches … hut!'' Everyone would laugh except Landry. Meredith once cracked that Landry was such a perfectionist that, "If he was married to Raquel Welch, he'd expect her to cook." It's believed that Peter Gent's classic football book, North Dallas Forty, was based on the icy relationships between Meredith (and Gent) and Landry. Many insist the reason Meredith decided to retire after only nine seasons and at the age of 31 was solely because he could not get along with Landry.

Terrell Owens

When you look at Owens' numbers, he should get serious Hall of Fame consideration. So how come he is playing for his fifth team since 2003? Despite being one of the game's elite receivers over the past 15 years, he managed to play eight seasons with the 49ers but then raced from town to town: two seasons in Philadelphia, three in Dallas, one in Buffalo and now his first in Cincinnati. He has fought with his coaches and his quarterbacks, none more so than Donovan McNabb when the two were teammates with the Eagles. When you think of the most controversial and immature players in NFL history, you don't have to get very far on the list to get to the name "Terrell Owens.''

Ryan Leaf

Generally considered one of the biggest busts, if not the biggest, in NFL history. The second overall pick in the 1998 draft (behind Peyton Manning), Leaf's career lasted all of 21 starts. He had issues, first, with the media. He blew up at and had to be restrained from a San Diego reporter after what seemed like an innocent question. Then he mouthed off to a fan in an incident that was caught on camera. Then his issues spilled over to confrontations with teammates, coaches and even general manager Bobby Beathard. Was there anybody this guy didn't get along with? After five years and four teams, Leaf was out of the NFL by age 25.

Duane Thomas

Thomas, a running back in the early 1970s, is one of the NFL's all-time screwballs. His nickname was "The Sphinx'' because of his moody and dark personality. He was a heck of a player. He led the Cowboys in rushing as a rookie in 1970. But a contract dispute before the 1971 season resulted in him being traded to the Patriots. Barely in New England, Thomas had it out with Pats coach John Mazur, and the trade was voided. So disgruntled, Thomas refused to talk to the media or even speak to coaches and teammates back in Dallas yet still led the Cowboys in rushing and the entire NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl. And there's even a rumor out there that Thomas was actually voted the MVP of Super Bowl VI but because of concerns of what he might say when presented with the award, quarterback Roger Staubach was named MVP. Thomas was traded to San Diego in the offseason, cut by the Chargers in training camp and spent two seasons with the Redskins. After a year in the old World Football League, he was done playing at age 28.

Before the 2009 NFL season, free agent Albert Haynesworth was shopping his services around the NFL. And if a few things had broken a few different ways, Haynesworth might have ended up in Tampa Bay. Instead, he went to the Redskins, who gave him a seven-year, $100 million deal. Any Bucs fans still disappointed he didn't end up here? Only 13/4 years — 28 games — into that deal, Haynesworth will not be in uniform today when the Redskins host the Bucs. He has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season for the infamous "conduct detrimental to the team.'' Basically, he has acted like a knucklehead, missing offseason workouts, ignoring coaches and pretty much refusing to do anything he didn't feel like doing. Today, we look at other memorable rifts between coaches/teams and players that did not end well.

Vince Young

What a bizarre career Young has had. He was offensive rookie of the year in 2006, played well in 2007, then was injured and lost his job to Kerry Collins in 2008 — a year that also saw a strange four-hour disappearance that involved Nashville police looking for him. Then after all that, Young was named comeback player of the year in 2009. This season is when things really turned weird. Young, 27, had the Titans off to a 5-3 start. But when he injured his thumb and was not allowed to re-enter a game, he threw a fit and later got into a confrontation with coach Jeff Fisher. Young apologized to Fisher in a text message then was criticized by Fisher for not addressing the issue like a "man.'' Young was told to stay away, and he has stayed away. Yet Fisher now says he is surprised Young hasn't been around the team. Who knows who is to blame for all of this, but it's apparent Fisher and Young have issues with each other.

Great player-coach/team rifts in NFL history 12/11/10 [Last modified: Saturday, December 11, 2010 7:06pm]
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