The top 10 off-field stories of the decade

Time is running short on the last year of the '00s, so it's time to dive into the daunting task of ranking the NFL's best of the decade. Best what? Best everything. We're going with a series of top 10 lists, and if something miraculous happens between now and December 31st, well, we'll just have to catch it at the end of 2019.

10. Vikings channel the spirit of Captain Stubing

Apparently, some people took the whole "purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka" thing from Purple Rain a bit too literally. In October of 2005, an alleged "Love Boat party" took place in the very lake Prince spoke of (but didn't actually take Apollonia to). Instead, it was at least four members of the Minnesota Vikings -- Daunte Culpepper(notes), Bryant McKinnie(notes), Fred Smoot(notes) and Moe Williams(notes) being the ones later charged with indecent conduct, though Culpepper's charges were later dropped and Williams was found guilty of the lesser disorderly conduct charge. Smoot and McKinnie pled to misdemeanor disorderly conduct. What did they do on the boat? Um ... this is a family website, so if you really want to know the details, we'll simply advise you that search engines can be helpful in cases like this.

9. Chad Ochocinco(notes), Viral Media King

Most professional athletes have taken to Facebook and Twitter, but nobody does it better than 85. From threatening to tweet during games, to promoting the fictitious "Chad Ocho Cinco Condoms", to inviting every fan who follows his tweets to lunch on him, his Chadness is the best at using the new media to put across his sense of fun (and sometimes, outright goofiness) to the public.

8. NFL gets its own Instrument of Propaganda

On November 4, 2003, the NFL finally put its own network in the air, not two decades after comedian Jonathan Winters joked about a 24-hour football channel on one of NFL Films' blooper shows. The network featured highlight shows, wraps, specialized programming, and enough vintage NFL Films stuff to make any football junkie hole up for a good long time. Over time, the network has grown to the point that it broadcasts NFL games (though not without controversy re: terrible announcers -- hello Mr. Gumbel and Mr. Millen). The issues the network has had with various cable providers keeps these games away from large segments of the football-watching population, and the word "antitrust" has been thrown in the direction of these problems. But all in all, the network's been a tremendous success -- the kind of thing that former NFL Commissioner and publicity expert Pete Rozelle could only dream of.

7. The new Commish

Roger Goodell began his NFL as an administrative intern in the league office in 1982, proving that any young man with a dream can grow up to tell young millionaires that it's improper to shoot guns in public places in New York City, and that snorting cocaine off the belly buttons of strippers is NOT a wholesome activity. He was elected the current NFL commissioner on August 8, 2006, and took office on September 1 of that year. He became known for an interest in expanding the league's ability to sanction players for improper off-field activity, though his biggest challenge -- and the biggest hit to his eventual legacy -- will be his ability/inability to extend the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

6. Plaxico blows hole in leg, career

And hey -- speaking of guns in New York City ... rarely has one man fallen so far so fast over one stupid mistake. On November 28, 2008, Burress accidentally fired the glock he had in his pants, shooting himself in the leg and setting a series of catastrophic events in motion. Burress was summarily suspended and released by the New York Giants, charged with criminal possession of a weapon, and sentenced to two years in prison. The sentence seemed unduly harsh to some, but given that every team has security experts who consult with players regarding state and local laws, Burress had nobody to blame but himself.

5. Brett Favre(notes) makes us all want to go live on a desert island

We all know the story, ad nauseam. Quits the Packers. Wants back in. Packers go with Aaron Rodgers(notes). Favre to Jets. Another retirement. Oh, goody -- he's back again. Now, he's a Viking, playing the best football of his career. Bully for you, Brett. Now, when this season ends, do us all a big favor. Just tell the world you're coming back in 2010 and let the NFL Network talk about something else 24 hours a day, okay?

4. Pacman makes it rain

Believe it or not, Adam "Pacman" Jones was once as good a cornerback as you could find. The West Virginia product was taken sixth overall in the 2005 NFL draft and lived up to his promise for a while. But an increasingly erratic nature, which bore itself out in repeated off-field incidents, gave the Titans cause for concern. During the NBA All-Star Weekend in Vegas in February of 2007, it all came apart. Jones was at a strip club with famed rapper Nelly, and the two friends started "making it rain" -- showering the stage with dollar bills. Things got crazy, and in the ensuing violence, three people were shot and one was paralyzed from the waist down. Jones was suspended for the whole of the 2007 season and part of 2008. When he came back with the Dallas Cowboys, his talent was but a memory.

3. The 11th-hour CBA

In March of 2009, the NFL voted 30-2 to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement through the year 2011 with the option to back out in 2009. While it appears that the owners will do just that, we can only hope they learn from the benefits of a CBA -- franchise fitness from small to large markets, the equity of the salary cap, and the fair percentage of money seen by the players. Without a CBA, lockouts are possible, and labor peace could be a thing of the past. The nation's most popular sport could go the way of other sports -- undone by its own prosperity, and led by owners who never know when enough was enough.

2. Spygate

It put an asterisk on the first dynasty of the salary-cap era, and it clouded the specter of the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history. The NFL disciplined New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick for taping signals given by the New York Jets' coaching staff, a violation of league rules. The subsequent fallout was severe -- accusations went back to the team's first Super Bowl win at the end of the 2001 season, when rumors of a tape of the St. Louis' Rams pregame walkthrough, and the revelation that Belichick had taped signals going back to the year 2000 because he thought it was within league rules as long as the tapes were not used during the same game, made the guy many considered the greatest coach in the game to look like quite a schlub. The walkthorough rumors were later dismissed, and former coaches like Jimmy Johnson basically came out and said that they did very similar things. That was the part the NFL didn't want to hear -- that Belichick's actions could be common practice.

1. Vick

The biggest off-field story of the decade started with a search warrant at Michael Vick's(notes) Surry County, Virginia home, in which dogfighting facilities and over 60 dogs were found. Vick was at the center of the controversy, and when everything came down, he received a 23-month sentence in December of 2007 for felony charges of operating an interstate dogfighting ring. His reinstatement into the league and subsequent play with the Philadelphia Eagles has been far more of a non-factor than expected -- as it was with Pacman Jones, much of Vick's talent may have left with the end of his first NFL incarnation.

Comments, criticisms, omissions, and your own top ten lists are encouraged in the comments below.

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