Ryan Leaf's Fall from Grace

As the Denver Broncos prepare for Super Bowl XLVIII, QB Peyton Manning seems to be brought up as apart of a new “tell all” book by Leigh Steinberg about manipulation of the 1998 NFL Draft where Manning and former QB Chargers QB Ryan Leaf were the talk of the 1998 Draft. News from (

In Steinberg’s book, “The Agent” Steinberg details the steps Leaf took to manipulate the Colts into taking Manning with the first overall pick by purposely skipping a management meeting with Colts management.

Quote from the book, Steinberg gives a detailed conversation with Leaf.

“No way do I want to play in Indianapolis,” Leaf told me, referring to the Colts, who owned the No. 1 pick. Instead, because of the exceptional weather and the more laid-back lifestyle, he preferred the San Diego Chargers, who would go second.”

Steinberg replies, “That’s fine,” I warned him, “but the way to achieve this is not exactly going to help your image. You’ll get a lot of criticism.” Ryan didn’t care about his image, though, only his destination.

Former Chargers GM Bobby Beathard on Mike and Mike in the morning said that his memory is not that good but he didn’t recall the incident but did go on the record stating that the drafting of Leaf was one of the “biggest mistakes” he ever made. Former Colts GM Bill Polian also on Mike and Mike said “Finally the truth has come out.”

It is no secret that Polian has a “love/hate” relationship for agents but for such a respected person in the NFL such as Polian to openly admit this … the merit of the Steinberg’s claims in The Agent.

So WHY bring up Peyton Manning now? Well that comes back to Steinberg’s book and the 1998 NFL Draft.

Manning (University of Tennessee) and Leaf (Washington State) were the two QBs coming out of the 1998 draft and BOTH of them were being talked about as the next great QBs.  Their discussions were linked together like Elway and Montana.  The projections were back and forth all the way to draft day but in 2014, the legacies on these two QBs are completely polar opposites.

While Manning continues to define his hall of fame NFL career and prepare for his third Super Bowl appearance, Ryan Leaf has been kicked out of a drug rehab facility and sent to prison on a five year sentence on charges of criminal drug possession (Information from

So lets review. Ryan Leaf was suppose to be the “John Elway” to Peyton Manning’s “Joe Montana?”

Truly there is a difference between Manning and Leaf. Manning is becoming one of, if not the greatest QB of all time while Leaf’s football career has been a curse carried by the Chargers franchise for almost two decades and now has fallen from grace and sits in prison in Montana.

Talk about polar opposites since 1998 NFL draft … huh.

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Tags: Bill Polian Bobby Beathard Leigh Steinberg Peyton Manning Ryan Leaf

  • prg144

    I wonder if Leaf would have turned out to be decent if we had a better coaching staff at the time. Maybe someone to get his head on straight kind of like Marvin Lewis did with Vontaze Burfict. The guy did have talent, just needed to be slapped around a little, so to speak.

  • Ignatius

    I vividly remember Leaf’s great 1997 season and hoping he came to the Chargers, when it did happen I though the world of him and counted my blessings for having Beathard as our GM then the signs started to pop up, first was the Letterman interview (too inmature), then news about skipping the rookie symposium, clashes with coaches and finally that dreaded 1-15 passing Kansas City game. It didn’t took long to realize that out team had selected a bust, not just any bust, a major colossal one! It made Larry English look like a steal in the draft, even the little things made me think twice about him like the ripped jersey, half hearted interviews, etc. I don’t really believe pressure got to him, I mean, I could understand being on a microscope and have your every professional move critized by ever so-called expert but it’s not he didn’t had the tools (he’a 6′ 5″ with a rocket arm!) or football smarts, it just he didn’t had the “it” factor, immatury perhaps, but it just wasn’t there. Now, I truly feel sorry for the guy, I really do, and it amazes me how Peyton Manning is on top the football world and Ryan Leaf is, well, in another dimension. Nobody would have ever though we’ve here talking about Ryan being in jail and Peyton preparing for his third superbowl. Truly amazing yet sad. I’m just happy that the football gods smiled upon us and gave us the anti-Leaf in Philip Rivers, a class act all the way and more so we’ve enjoyed calling Brees one of our own for a while, so I can say that for almost a decade we’ve been blessed with good quarterbacks, one that would make any Browns fan dream about. Now, I hope the team is getting ready for a deep run in 2015 and see them play in Glendale, that would be an awesome sight to see, a blue and gold sea of fans in the desert.