Ryan Leaf intentionally missed meeting with Jim Mora so Colts wouldn’t draft him
Ryan Leaf was so intent on being drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 1998 instead of the Indianapolis Colts that he went along with a plan to miss a meeting with then Colts head coach Jim Mora to ensure the team did not select him No. 1 overall.
Leaf and Peyton Manning were viewed as the two top players in the draft and everyone knew they were going 1-2. The only question was who would Indy take first, because San Diego traded up from the third spot to the second because they wanted one of the two QBs.
“I think the consensus of opinion is that two guys like (Manning and Leaf) don’t come along very often,” Charger General Manager Bobby Beathard said in 1998. “If we’re going to be successful in getting that type of quarterback, we’re going to have to give up something, and we really did.”
Beathard said the Chargers have no preference on whether they get Manning or Leaf.
“Each one has the ingredients to be a top-level quarterback in this league,” he said.
The Chargers were happy to have either guy, so it just came down to whether Indy would choose Manning or Leaf. But Leaf did not want to go to Indy because he preferred the weather and laid-back style in San Diego, according to his agent. So he decided to sabotage his chances of being picked by the Colts.
In his new book, former superagent Leigh Steinberg says he suggested to Leaf that he miss his meeting with Mora. Steinberg knew Mora would go nuts about Leaf missing the meeting and wouldn’t want to take him.
“‘If you go to the combine,’ I told Ryan, ‘but fail to show up for a meeting with Mora, that should do it. Jim is a real prideful person who has a tendency to explode. I am not recommending you do this, but if you are desperate to go to San Diego, this is the way,'” Steinberg wrote.
Leaf sought the quarterback job in San Diego “because of the exceptional weather and the more laid-back lifestyle,” Steinberg wrote.
“Ryan approved, but I first cleared the idea with Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard, lest San Diego also question my client’s reliability,” Steinberg wrote. “Beathard went along with the ruse. If he’d had a problem, Ryan would’ve shown up for his meeting with Mora.”
Steinberg says they planned to piss off Mora, because he knew Colts GM Jim Irsay would not be deterred by such behavior since he valued talent above everything else.
Whether or not the missed meeting had anything to do with it, the Colts took Peyton and obviously were very happy with the decision.
Beathard also shared some interesting tidbits in an interview ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” show.
“We absolutely wanted to draft Peyton,” Beathard told the hosts. “I knew Archie and Olivia [Manning], I knew the family. And that’s who we wanted. I had seen both quarterbacks personally. I had some reservations about Ryan and there were a lot of rumors up in Pullman, Wash., about Ryan.
“[Washington State head coach Mike Price] did not level with me,” Beathard said. “I knew the assistant coaches and the trainer, and they leveled with me that there were some problems with Ryan.”
As bad as this looks now because Leaf turned out to be a bust and bad guy who’s now in jail, there’s only so far you can go in criticizing him for his behavior. Remember that a few years later, it was the Mannings manipulating a draft to ensure their son didn’t play for a team (ironically the Chargers).
You think Leaf is having a laugh about this story now?