We’ve spent five episodes of The Walking Dead with Negan now, and the picture we are getting of the series’ supervillain is not that different from the one we had when he was introduced in the sixth season premiere. He is who he is, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of layers to the character. He’s an asshole. He’s a bully. He’s pedantic. He treats everyone like a child that he can control and manipulate. He’s quick to punish, and he’s all about the rules. He also has a very bad sense of humor.
Those characteristics sound a lot like an extreme version of a stereotypical high-school gym teacher, which makes perfect sense. That’s exactly what Negan did for a living before the zombies arrived and his ego shot straight to his head.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been signed on for at least two seasons, so it’s likely that his backstory will be filled in next year, so this information from the graphic novels should be considered a spoiler for future episodes. However, it also helps to inform the character we are seeing on screen now: Where does a guy like that come from? Why does he behave as he does? Why is is such a stickler for the rules?
Knowing that he used to be a gym teacher helps to explain some of that behavior. Pre-apocalypse, Negan wasn’t any less of an asshole when he was known as Coach Negan. Even then he swore profusely at his students, despite receiving numerous complaints from their parents. His wife also tried to convince Coach Negan to stop using so much profanity, but he refused because — in his mind — it made him look cool to his students.