Drafting the ugliest divorces in NFL history

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The Steelers and receiver Antonio Brown currently are heading for what appears to be an ugly divorce. And that inspired an idea for a Thursday draft on PFT Live.

Which divorces were the ugliest in NFL history?

Here’s one thing Simms and I learned while doing it: There have been so many that it’s easy to forget some of them. And while I crushed Simms in the draft, we both whiffed on a couple of fairly obvious choices that were as ugly or uglier than the ones we selected.

To hear our choices, check out the attached video. And then remind us of all the ones we missed.

50 responses to “Drafting the ugliest divorces in NFL history

  1. Keyshawn and the Bucs/Gruden. They literally banned him from team facilities and paid him to go away, then traded him to a conference rival in the offseason.

    I’d throw Scot MccLoughan and the Redskins as a recent front office ugly divorce as well. At least, ugly from one side.

    Al Davis and Oakland. AL Davis and L.A. Mark Davis and Oakland.

  2. Jon Gruden-Al Davis? Yeah, the Raiders brought him back. But that’s after Al Davis died. That divorce very possibly cost the Raiders a Super Bowl.

  3. Not dramatic enough to be one of the ugliest divorces, but Troy Polamalu’s parting with the Steelers was strange/awkward and more contentious than I would’ve imagined it would go. Reports periodically pop up indicating that he still avoids the team and has gripes with them. Wonder what his view is on all this Bell/AB stuff.

  4. You can’t mention Art Modell and not mention his other ugly divorce, which was him firing the namesake of the Browns, Paul Brown, who turned around and started his own team in Cleveland’s division.

  5. John Madden and Chuck Noll were great friends in the 60s as assistant coaches…Noll took the job in Pittsburgh and asked John to be his Defensive coordinator…John was hired by Al and the Raiders…After Lynn Swann was knocked out cold in a game in Oakland, Noll sued the team…Madden and Noll were never friends again

  6. Carrol Rosenbloom fired Weeb Ewbank and hired Don Shula in Baltimore…after Shula lost to the Jets and Weeb Ewbank in the Super Bowl, Rosenbloom rarely spoke to Shula and forced Shula to take the Miami job …Shula never looked back

  7. Digging back in time to what is possibly the first high profile player divorce: Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield all abandoning the Dolphins to go play in the WFL.

  8. Jerry Jones takes the cake on this one. Firing Jimmy probably cost them several titles and lost them a lot of fans over the years.

  9. Modell and the Browns…..
    Al Davis vs Lane Kiffin (OHP)….
    Dolphins vs Shula…
    Cowboys vs Landry…
    Cowboys vs Jimmy Johnson…

    TO vs everyone.

  10. T.O and every team he played for. He’s the only guy to do it with multiple teams. Surely though the Eagles one with him doing sit-ups in the driveway takes the grand prize.

  11. Marcus Allen was one of the greatest RBs ever. When he had fumbling problems at the end of the 86 season, which may have kept the Raiders from making the playoffs…Davis never forgave him

  12. Note to Chris Simms – The Belichick – Jets thing was going on much longer than a day. Belichick resigned on January 4, 2000 and the fight over the move took over three weeks before Parcells and Kraft, who hated each other could agree to terms on a deal. Gutman of the Jets questioned Belichick’s sanity. To this day, Belichick hates the Jets. He hasn’t let go. Every other one of these divorces gets warmed over with time. When ESPN did the Two Bills Special, neither Bill would mention the Jets and they avoided Jets offices in the stadium.

  13. Pretty ugly, and a harbinger of future holdouts.
    The Vikings cheaped out on Joe Kapp, and lost out on 3 post season runs.
    They also cheaped out and Clint Jones, Charlie West, and Gene Washington held out and sabotaged the 72 season.

  14. Jimmy Johnson – Jerry Jones
    Mike Shanahan – Denver Broncos
    Al Davis – Oakland (the first time)

  15. Jimmy Johnson – Jerry Jones
    Mike Shanahan – Denver Broncos
    Al Davis – Oakland (the first time)

  16. Funny how Art Modell figures in so many of these ugly divorces:

    vs Paul Brown
    vs Jim Brown
    vs city of Cleveland
    vs Bernie Kosar

    The cutting of Kosar was particularly ugly because Modell had publicly touted their “father-son” relationship for years. Bernie was a folk hero in Cleveland (still is – his legend has only grown with time) and was considered untouchable…at least until he clashed with Bill Belichick in ‘91-‘93.

    Outside of Cleveland, Kosar’s popularity may be hard to understand, but he was a highly charismatic player and a winner who manipulated the rules of the Supplemental Draft to ensure that his hometown Browns would be able to select him. After arriving in Cleveland he promptly took Cleveland to the playoffs in every one of his first 5 seasons, winning 4 Division titles and making 3 AFC Championship Game appearances. Had it not been for “The Drive” and “The Fumble” (neither of which were his fault) Bernie very well could have been a 2 time SB Champion (the NFC Champs in those two seasons were NY and Wash…Browns were arguably better than both in those seasons).

    Belichick, on the other hand, was not in Cleveland what he is today in NE, either in reputation or frankly in coaching ability. While he remained a brilliant defensive strategist and his special teams were elite, Belichick in his Cleveland years was conservative to the point of paranoia on offense. In those days BB would NEVER have condoned the sort of pass heavy stuff he now runs with Brady, and that ultra-reactionary philosophy put him on a collision course with Kosar. Problem for Belichick in 1993 was that he was not “Belichick, Genius” yet but rather a guy who hadn’t yet been able to win more than 7 games in a season as a HC. His taciturnity with the media also wasn’t tolerated like it is today – and by ‘93 he was openly at war with both the Cleveland and the national press. So when he came to loggerheads with franchise icon Bernie, Belichick didn’t have the juice to just cut him. He needed Art Modell to sign-off on the deed.

    When Modell did so, it was considered an epic betrayal, and for many Cleveland faithful the move signaled the beginning of the end for the Old Browns. Even with a playoff appearance in ‘94 the relationship with the fans was damaged…and behind the scenes Modell (who liked to live large) was going broke.

    And so less than 2 years after he sold out his “son,” Modell stabbed Cleveland in the back for 30 pieces of Baltimore silver…

  17. Great post Tednancy…Modell also betrayed his starting cornerback, Bernie Parrish.
    Parrish was the Browns union representative, and was critical of Modell’s player meddling and self promotion gimmicks, remember, Modell didnt have any money, he spent the money of questionable “partners” and due to Parrishs outspokeness, had him blackballed out of the NFL, where he ended up writing a critical history of owners greed and largesse in his book They Call It A Game.

  18. Carson Palmer. In the middle of a huge contract and threatens to retire. The Bengals eventually trade him and go to the playoffs the next five years. But Palmer eventually got a playoff win with the Cardinals while the Bengals playoff streak continues.

  19. Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson – for sure. That Cowboys team was loaded with HOF-bound players and it almost certainly had one or two more SB wins in it.

  20. Some great posts here esp by nflhistorybuff!

    The Rosenbloom-Shula feud was indeed nasty…in the aftermath of the Colts’ shocking loss to Ewbank’s Jets Rosenbloom felt personally humiliated. The Colts were dominant in ‘68, even more so than the Packers had been during their dynasty years. They were also representing the NFL at a time when losing to the AFL under any circumstances was simply unacceptable. Most NFL owners considered the loss and affront to honor.

    The magnitude of the loss to the Jets cannot be overstated. Shula and the Colts had been NFL royalty for years. From 1957-1968 Balt hadn’t had a single losing season, and Weeb Ewbank coached them to back-to-back NFL Championships in ‘58 and ‘59. After sliding back towards mediocrity (but never falling beneath a certain standard) in ‘60-‘62, Rosenbloom in ‘63 replaced crusty old Weeb with wunderkind Shula, and the young coach promptly led Baltimore to a 12-2 record and a Championship game berth in ‘64. But in that game, the heavily favored Colts fell 27-0 to the underdog Browns.

    In ‘65 they finished tied with Green Bay in the standings with a 10-3-1 record, but lost a playoff in Green Bay 13-10. In that game the Packers were awarded a FG on a kick that appeared to sail wide right…the controversial outcome led to a redesign of the goalposts (making the uprights much taller). The Packers never looked back and won 3 Titles in a row, cementing their status as the first dynasty of the post 1960 era.

    Meanwhile, Shula and the Colts remained arguably the most talented team in the NFL. After a “disappointing” 9-5 finish in ‘66, they went 11-1-2 in ‘67 – tied for the best record in the NFL. But because NFL rules at the time allowed only one playoff team per division, the Colts missed the postseason on a tiebreaker to the LA Rams, who had also finished 11-1-2. To this day, the ‘67 Colts remain the team with the highest winning % to miss the playoffs.

    And so 1968 soon became viewed as the “year of the Colts” when Shula and his uber-talented team would finally win the Title that had eluded them in ‘64, ‘65, and ‘67. They went 13-1, blowing out several teams along the way…scores included 3 shutouts (26-0, 27-0, 44-0) and lopsided results of 27-10, 41-7, 28-7, 42-14, 27-10, 21-9, 16-3. Their only loss was to the 10-4 Browns, who they destroyed 34-0 in the NFL Championship Game.

    So when the Colts met the AFL’s Jets in Miami, they were considered the greatest NFL team of the modern era. They were currently 15-1, and since 1967 had a record of 26-2-2. It was borderline unthinkable that they could lose to a team like the Jets.

    After Shula was exiled to Miami, he lost another Championship Game to Dallas in 1971. He was “the guy who couldn’t win the Big One” … until his Dolphins went 17-0 in ‘72 to win Super Bowl 7. The following year they blew out the Vikings for a 2nd Title. But for the “Sea of Hands” they might have “3-peated” … and as one poster already mentioned, they could have won it all in ‘75 too had they not lost Jim Kiick, Larry Czonka, and Paul Warfield (the latter two guys are HOF’ers).

    Oh, and the Defensive Coordinator of the ‘68 Colts? That was Chuck Noll. After the loss to the Jets, he became HC of the Steelers and won 4 rings.

    As for the Colts, they managed to scrape out a SB win in 1970 against Dallas in one of the ugliest title games ever played. But by that point they were running on fumes. In 1971 the Colts returned to the playoffs, but were eliminated 21-0…by Don Shula and the Dolphins. That winter, Rosenbloom traded the Colts to Bob Irsay for the Rams….the team had a couple good years with QB Bert Jones but eventually became a laughingstock, and fan attendance fell off to embarrassing levels. In 1984, Irsay moved the team to Indianapolis…the Baltimore Colts ceased to exist. Incidentally, in 1984 Don Shula and the Dolphins, quarterbacked by the sensational second-year signal-caller Dan Marino, went 14-2 and earned a Super Bowl berth. In the end, they were finally stopped by the 15-1, Montana-led 49ers.

    As for Rosenbloom…his Rams were almost exactly like his old Colts team: talented but incapable of winning the whole thing. Rosenbloom tragically drowned in a swimming pool in 1979. His widow, Georgia Frontiere, eventually moved the Rams to St Louis in 1995.

    But everything goes back to that night in Miami on January 12, 1969. Had the Colts won that game, the futures of 5 teams: the Jets, Dolphins, Rams, Steelers, and Colts could have been much different.

  21. We both know our NFL history Tednancy…

    I like Shula but was glad Weeb stuck it to Rosenbloom.
    When he was fired in 62, it was very rare that a two time champion be fired but the same thing happened to Paul Brown, Ewbanks mentor.
    Both owners, Rosenbloom and Modell were meddlesome and both were involved in organized gambling, coddled by Pete Rozelle. Yet because of his, involvement with gambling, Alex Karras still cant make the HOF. I used to love NFL Football, at least Rozelle let teams knock the snot out of each other but the greed of the owners, and the game itself, has just changed too much.

  22. Nflhistorybuff, I’m with you on Rozelle – he was an old school commissioner and classic “LA guy” who just knew how to get things done. He was a pragmatist who could also be stubborn as an ox when principle was involved. His feud with Al Davis – who people forget was once AFL Commissioner – was a true “clash of the Titans.”

    Rozelle also broke 2 union strikes in 82 and 87 and while the 87 strike took a tremendous toll on him personally, the league was better for it.

    Aesthetically, the NFL was extremely appealing under Rozelle. He believed in the concept of the “sportsman” and his TV and Ad Man background meant that the synergies between the game and how it was televised were very strong in his tenure.

    You do raise a good point, however, about PR’s tolerance of shysters like Rosenbloom and Modell…but that was a different era, before NFL franchises were minting $$. Look at Modell: there were dozens of guys like him in NY in the early ‘60’s making a quick buck on brokering TV advertising…and when he bought the Browns he put up very little cash, borrowing most of the $4MM asking price from various banks (a habit he would never break). Rozelle let him into the league, probably sympathizing with a fellow ad man…42 years later Rozelle’s successor finally did the right thing and kicked Modell out of a controlling ownership position, forcing him to give up control of the Ravens to Steven Biscotti.

  23. Paul Tagliabue And the city of Baltimore! Tags along with Jack Kent Cook, kept Balt from an expansion team, when they hat the best package in place! Tags wanted the sun belt, Cooked wanted the Balt market.
    Next to Robert irsey, Paul Tagliabue should be the most hated man in Baltimore football history!

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