It's an art that's almost as old as sport itself.
The best trash-talkers speak with a purpose. They want to rattle their opponent's focus and inflame their emotions. If we know that effective sports psychology can help an athlete perform better, trash-talk can, in theory, make them perform worse. The real key to being an effective trash-talker is to have the physical skill to back up what you're saying and the mental fortitude to keep your cool during a war of words.
Some of the greatest athletes of all-time—guys like Muhammad Ali, Kevin Garnett, Connor McGregor, Michael Jordan and Deion Sanders—have also been prodigious trash-talkers. In 10-15 years, we may be saying the same about Jalen Ramsey. From the moment he entered the NFL, the 23-year-old Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback has talked trash at an astonishing rate. Considering Pro Football Focus currently rates him as the second-best cornerback in football, don't expect Ramsey's motormouth to slow down anytime soon. Inspired by this maestro of mouthing off, here are the five best trash-talkers in the NFL today.
1. Jalen Ramsey
Ramsey first developed his penchant for trash talk as a kid playing pick-up games in Smyrna, Tennessee. He was often surrounded by neighborhood teens three or four years older than him, and trash talk helped him level the field. "I kind of had to play with that arrogance to make (the other kids) think, 'OK, he's confident," Ramsey recently told The Ringer. "Let's pick him."
The competition continued to evolve as Ramsey moved from high school to Florida State and eventually the NFL, and so did his junk-talking capabilities. Nowadays, he even uses quotes from trash-talk legends like Ali to needle opposing receivers:
Though he's played in just 29 career NFL games so far, Ramsey's already had dust-ups with elite receivers like A.J. Green, Steve Smith, DeAndre Hopkins and Doug Baldwin. He told The Ringer he says something "on every single play" and that his goal is always to take opponents "out of (their) game." Paired with his freakish athletic ability, the tactic certainly seems to be working for Ramsey so far.
2. Philip Rivers
The next time you watch a San Diego Chargers game, keep your eyes on Philip Rivers. You'll notice his mouth seems to never stop moving—and not just because he's calling out pre-snap audibles. While the fiery Rivers always keeps his trash-talk G-rated (he alternatively refers to it as "competitive banter"), it simply never ends once he gets going. Some opponents even avoid saying anything to Rivers so he doesn't have an excuse to get his "competitive banter" going.
"There's no need to talk trash to Philip because he feeds off of that so we're not going to give him what he needs. Basically, if we start talking trash, he may play better," Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali told Chargers.com. The clean nature of Rivers' trash talk makes it some of the most entertaining in the league—how can you not laugh when he sarcastically asks Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan if he was held immediately after hurling a touchdown pass?
While other players might be more demeaning or boisterous, Rivers' trash talk is no less effective—especially since it comes from a position defenders aren't typically used to hearing it from. "It's definitely a way to get under people's skin and get in their head. He's a dying breed. It's very rare that you come up against a quarterback that's not afraid of anybody," Linebacker Wesley Woodyard told Titans.com of Rivers. "It doesn't matter how hard you hit him, he's going to keep on talking and keep making plays and let you know he made plays."
3. Antonio Brown
Sometimes, a players' trash talk gets so outlandish that it can be easy for opponents to laugh it off. What makes Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown's trash talk so effective is that it's almost always true. When he tells a defensive back they can't guard him, it's usually a fact—and they know it. Steelers ESPN beat reporter Jeremy Fowler named Brown the best trash-talker on a team filled with guys who aren't afraid to run their mouth.
Ramsey also names Brown as one of the league's best trash-talkers, likely in part due to the amount he can back it up (Brown had 10 receptions for 157 yards against the Jags earlier this season). Brown's even been known to tell his own teammates they're incapable of guarding him, as he did with cornerback Artie Burns during training camp. "I'll catch in on whoever, whenever, whatever," Brown told Burns, according to NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala. "Then he looked at (defensive backs coach) Carnell Lake and said, 'Send me somebody else.'"
Ramsey says he never talks trash on a personal level but he certainly talks trash on every play. Says Antonio Brown is one of best trash talkers in game. #ASJax
— Brent Martineau (@BrentASJax) November 8, 2017
4. Terrell Suggs
T-Sizzle has been one of the NFL's premiere trash-talkers since he first entered the league some 14 years ago. The six-time Pro Bowl linebacker has thrown more than few verbal barbs at legendary quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. "I don't like him," Suggs said in 2013 of Brady, who he often avoids referring to by name. "I don't like his hair. I don't like his smug attitude."
Former Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor told NFL Network that Suggs "talks the most trash" of any player he's ever encountered. Like several players on this list, that trash talk even carries over to practice. Former Ravens back-up quarterback Matt Schaub often found himself the target of Suggs' taunts, with the linebacker roasting him with comments like "everything up until the throw looked really good" and reminders of what jersey color he was supposed to be throwing to.
5. Richard Sherman
Want to get an idea of what it's like to line up across from Richard Sherman? Skip to 1:29 in the above video. In quick succession, you'll hear Sherman taunting opponents with comments like "you're not strong enough, you gotta lift more" and "you're sorry, this is a waste of my time." He even pantomimes yawning, indicating that his job of covering said receiver is so easy he's at risk of falling asleep. And who could forget his pro wrestling-esque takedown of Michael Crabtree after the 2013 NFC Championship, which was arguably one of the most infamous moments in trash-talk history?
While Sherman's trash talk seems to have cooled off a bit in recent years—or perhaps we've all just gotten used to it—he's still one the most prideful players in the NFL. If you test him, he will respond. Sharply. "If somebody wants to say something outrageous and outlandish to me, (I'll) happily put them back in their set," Sherman told ESPN.
- Josh Norman
- Tom Brady
- Aqib Talib
Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images, Diamond Images/Getty Images, Logan Bowles/Getty Images
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