LOS ANGELES, July 7, 2013—Professional football is the greatest game on earth because the National Football League’s uniqueness allows for the greatest “characters.” Colorful personalities add to the legendary status of professional football.
Below is a list of the 17 greatest characters in AFC history. There is one representative from each team plus one at large selection. Some NFL franchises are too new to have true characters. Other organizations took pride in suppressing characters. With those qualifiers, here is the list. Let the debate begin!
[Also read: Top NFC Characters]
Miami Dolphins: Garo Yepremian. The 1972 Dolphins had the “No-name Defense.” They won quietly, except for their foreign kicker who sang “Bill Bailey” in press conferences. He nearly lost them the Super Bowl and their undefeated season.
Buffalo Bills: Jack Kemp. He went to Congress and in 1996 became the GOP vice presidential nominee. Most of his teammates could not understand his intellectual wordiness. Neither could many politicians.
New York Jets: Joe Namath. “Broadway Joe” wore a fur coat on the sideline. He also guaranteed victory in Super Bowl III and backed up his boast. His autobiography was “I can’t wait until tomorrow, because I get better looking every day.”
New England Patriots: Mark Henderson. The Patriots are a corporate organization that discourages characters. The 1982 convict on work-release is forever etched in New England lore as the “Snow Plow Guy.” Honorable mention: Randy Moss.
Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts: Art Donovan. One of the greatest quotable players noted that in his day, injuries were treated with a six-pack of beer. He played in “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” He never suffered a hip pointer because he said he had no hips.
Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans: Bum Phillips. With his ten-gallon hat, he was a beloved figure and one of America’s greatest football rednecks. “It ain’t over ‘till the fat man spits” was a sign paying homage to him. In retirement he says, “I don’t do a damn thing, and I don’t start that until noon. He took his wife with him on road games because “she was too ugly to kis goodbye.” His son Wade Phillips also knows great defense and great quotes.
Houston Texans: Connor Barwin. When he was traded away, he held a Twitter contest to come up with the best use for Houston jerseys bearing his name.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Tom Coughlin. This team lacked characters because Coughlin was a military man who detested them. Ironically, his drill sergeant approach became the team’s character during his run.
Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis. Any dogs in the house? One of the greatest characters of all time. Honorable mentions to Brian Billick for his “Lion’s Den” rant, and to Tony Siragusa.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Jack Lambert/Jack Ham. While Mean Joe Greene led the Steel Curtain, a pair of Jacks on that defense played with no teeth. Opponents compared both men to Dracula. Honorable mention: Bill “The Jaw” Cowher.
Cleveland Browns: The Dawg Pound. Cleveland has had great players, but also some of the greatest fans in sports. Browns backers are nationwide. John “Big Dawg” Thompson and friends smuggled beer into the stadium in a doghouse.
Cincinnati Bengals: Chad Johnson. He sent Pepto-Bismol to an opponent’s defense, saying they would get sick trying to cover him. He changed his name to “Ocho Cinco” as sales of his #85 jersey skyrocketed.
San Diego Chargers: Sid Gillman. He created some of the greatest offenses of all time, with Don “Air” Coryell and Al Davis being his disciples. Mike Martz continued that tradition with the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
Denver Broncos: Bill Romanowski. He was always controversial, and accused of dirty play. He was also quotable while playing for teams that preferred he stay silent.
Kansas City Chiefs: Hank Stram. The modern NFL began with NFL films showing Stram saying “keep matriculating the ball down the field Lenny (Dawson).
Oakland Raiders: Where to begin with this team? Ted “Mad Stork” Hendricks once dropped a $5 bill down the toilet by accident. He then purposely threw $100 in it because he was not going to stick his hand in there for $5. John Matuszak defied team orders and partied on Bourbon Street, explaining that he had to ensure none of his teammates were there getting into trouble. Ken Stabler read the game plan by the light of the Juke box. Lyle Alzado said that if he fought King King in an alley, only one would come out and “it would not be the monkey.” On many other teams, coaches John Madden and Jon “Chucky” Gruden would top the list, as would the crazed fans of the Raider Nation. Yet any conversation about the Raiders begins and ends with their late owner Al Davis. The Raiders were his band of renegades, and he told them “Just win baby.”
Overall contributor: John Madden. The Hall of Fame Oakland Raiders Coach became the greatest NFL announcer and a video game hero. He began his Canton induction speech with, “I don’t plan on making a whole hell of a lot of sense, and I don’t care.” Unconfirmed rumors once had him getting into it with an opposing team’s mascot, the San Diego Chicken.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.
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