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Succeed or fail; some sports fans promise to be fans for life.
But no matter how much people vow to stay loyal, at the end of the day, everyone cares who walks away with the best professional sports seasons. 

NJ.bet, the online casino and sports betting apps guide surveyed more than 1,000 MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL sports fans to determine who’s to blame for those devastating game losses and who’s to credit for the unexpected wins.


While many coaches often get flak, our report found fans are putting the most pressure on certain players.

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The most blamed position for a bad season across the MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL is the same: players. Nearly half (48%) of sports fans blame players when their team doesn’t do well. But coaches aren’t too far behind. Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) blame coaches, and about 1 in 6 (15%) think general managers are at fault.

As for which players are to blame, certain positions stood out among pro sports leagues. Unsurprisingly, more than 4 in 5 (81%) NFL fans blame quarterbacks for bad seasons. In the NBA, more than half (51%) blame the point guards.

Hockey and baseball fans were a little more torn as to who to call out. 40% of NHL fans blame goalies for bad seasons, while 30% place blame on the defensemen. As for the MLB, 91% blame batters, but 78% also fault pitchers.

When pro teams have good seasons, the credit isn’t as spread out. Nearly 4 in 5 (78%) want to give a pat on the back to the players. Only 16% think coaches should be recognized for the good outcome, and just 5% think general managers are the main reason for the “W.”

When asked about individual games instead of the season as a whole, fans don’t often blame someone from their team but rather the referees! More than 2 in 5 (43%) say it’s the ref’s fault when their team loses individual games.


Most Blamed Professional Sports Players 

The Blame Game: Who Sports Fans Fault Most for Bad Seasons
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In the NFL, quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are the most blamed in the league. In fact, more than 1 in 3 (36%) NFL fans have blamed Rodgers for either the Packers’ losses or for causing their team to lose a game.

Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) NBA fans blame Lebron James the most. Other NBA stars at the top of the list include James Harden and Kyrie Irving. However, Irving may be in the top five for his actions off the court instead of on it. In October 2022, he was suspended for eight games for promoting an antisemitic movie on his social media.

NHL fans are less likely to blame losses on single players. While Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals earned the title of the most blamed star player in the league, only about 1 in 10 (12%) felt like he deserved the blame.

In the MLB, the top three batters at fault (according to fans) are Aaron Judge, Manny Machado, and Yordan Álvarez. However, when asked about the most blamed starting pitchers, most fans turned to the bullpen for the blame. More than 1 in 5 (21%) MLB fans blame reliever pitchers for bad seasons.


Sports Leaders Blamed Most for Bad Seasons

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Players aren’t the only ones facing the heat for bad seasons. When it comes down to it, coaches or managers are also under the microscope when their teams aren’t making the cut.

The most blamed manager in the MLB is New York Yankees’ Aaron Boone. Despite the Yankees having a good season and almost heading to the World Series, their 2022 season-ending loss to the Astros in a four-game sweep is probably still fresh in the minds of fans.

Other MLB managers facing blame are Don Mattingly of the Miami Marlins, David Ross of the Chicago Cubs, and Alex Cora of the Boston Red Sox.

In the NFL, the most blamed coach is Dallas Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy, followed by Green Bay Packers’ Matt LaFleur and Arizona Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury. LaFleur has faced a lot of heat as the Packers haven’t fared as well in the 2022-2023 season.

NHL coaches in trouble with fans are André Tourigny (Arizona Cardinals), Brad Larsen (Columbus Blue Jackets), and Dallas Eakins (Anaheim Ducks). As for the NBA, fans think Tom Thibodeau (New York Knicks), Doc Rivers (Philadelphia 76ers), and Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks) are most at fault for their team’s bad seasons.


Fan Input on Bad Seasons

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Coaches are commonly fired from major league sports teams after a bad season, but sometimes team owners don’t even wait until the end of the season to fire them. More than 4 in 5 (82%) think it’s okay to boot coaches mid-season if the team is doing badly.

In the 2022-2023 NFL season, the Indianapolis Colts fired Frank Reich mid-season. Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) think it was a good move, but fans were torn about Reich’s replacement. While 17% of fans were glad the Colts appointed Jeff Saturday as the interim coach, 14% of fans were not happy about the team’s move.

While fans try to cheer on their team no matter what, some fans admit they’re less likely to watch games when their team isn’t doing well. Nearly 1 in 4 (24%) stop watching their team if they’re having a bad season. The sports fans most likely to turn off the TV are NBA fans, followed by supporters of the MLB and NHL. Only 1 in 6 (16%) NFL fans admit they’ll stop watching their team if they’re not doing well.

When it comes down to it, fans admit there could be forces outside of people’s control that can contribute to bad seasons. A whopping 84% of fans blame player injuries on bad seasons, and more than 1 in 6 (17%) think curses are the culprit!

At the end of the day, winning and losing is the nature of professional sports. Fans will always have someone to blame for the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, we hope whoever your root for will have a winning season. If they don’t… there’s always next year.


Methodology

In November 2022, we surveyed 1,006 Americans for feedback about professional sports teams. Of those surveyed, 252 were NFL fans, 250 were NBA fans, 252 were MLB fans, and 252 were NHL fans. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 89.

The average age was 40. 50% were male, 48% female, 1% transgender, and 1% non-binary/non-conforming.


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