An Agent Claims The Colts Wanted Ryan Leaf Over Peyton Manning, But Ryan Leaf Told Them To F*** Off
I'm stealing a title from The Big Lead here: "Remember 14 Years Ago When a Majority of GM’s Said They Would Take Ryan Leaf Over Peyton Manning?" You probably remember that there was a legitimate debate between the two. Peyton obviously wound up going to the Indianapolis Colts... but it wasn't a no-brainer for them. If they had picked Ryan Leaf, they wouldn't have taken much shit. (Until a couple years down the road, of course.)
But now Leigh Steinberg, a former Rosenhausian agent, has a new book, and he's claiming that the Colts actually wanted Leaf, but he, the greatest agent in all the land, manipulated the Colts into passing on Leaf.
“No way do I want to play in Indianapolis,” he 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.
“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.
Making his wish come true would not be easy. The Colts leaned toward choosing Ryan. Many scouts also saw him as a better prospect than Peyton Manning. Hard to believe now, isn’t it?
Yes, it is. Ryan Leaf is not playing in Super Bowl XLVIII. So, after Leaf whined, Steinberg told Leaf that he had to get on Colts' coach Jim Mora's bad side, because Jim Irsay didn't give a fuck about a player's personality. Steinberg told Leaf to go to the combine, but stand Mora up for a meeting. Leaf thought it was a great idea, and Steinberg notified the Chargers' GM of the "ruse." It (allegedly) worked, Mora freaked out, and Leaf went to the Chargers.
... of course, this is all hearsay. From a sports agent. And Bill Polian, the Colts' GM at the time, says it's complete bullshit.
“Agents cannot manipulate anything in the draft,” Polian said. “Leigh and other agents for years and years have told kids that they can get players drafted by a certain club at a certain spot, and nothing could be further from the truth. That assumes that we on the club side are idiots, that we’re able to be manipulated, that we don’t do our homework, that we don’t watch the tape, that we don’t go all the way back to the junior high school coach and high school principal, teachers, doing our due diligence.
(Buuuuuut... didn't that happen a few years later with Eli Manning and the Chargers?)
Obviously, Steinberg wants to sell his book. He has motive to lie about this. And while Polian doesn't want to look stupid... he has less motive to lie here. He wound up with Peyton Manning. If you lie to me but give me Peyton Manning, I do not care that you lied to me.
It's hard to put stock in either of their words, but Polian's reputation dwarfs that of a super-agent... so if I had to choose... I'd probably take his side.
Still, it's a pretty funny story. Unless you're a Chargers fan, who now realizes you may have missed out on two Super Bowl winning Mannings.
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