Ryan Leaf is widely considered to be the biggest bust in the history of the NFL Draft.
Picture this. The year is 1998 and the Indianapolis Colts are the first team to make their pick in the annual draft process. At the time, Peyton Manning from Tennessee and Ryan Leaf from Washington State University were considered to be the best players in the nation. Both of them are quarterbacks that posess cannons for arms. The scouts for the Colts are all over Leaf because he supposedly threw harder and had more potential than Manning. After working out for the team, they discover something in Manning about so-called intangibles and make him their first pick instead. The San Diego Chargers are desperate to get Leaf and make a trade with the Arizona Cardinals to get the coveted second pick.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Leaf is quickly signed to a four year deal worth 31.25 million dollars, 11.25 of which was guaranteed as a signing bonus. At the time, that figure was the highest signing bonus ever awarded to a rookie in the NFL.
"I'm looking forward to a 15-year career, a couple of trips to the Super Bowl and a parade through downtown San Diego.” – Ryan Leaf
A Rocky Start
Things didn’t begin well for Leaf. Before the season even started the NFL fined him ten grand for not attending a mandatory meeting for all rookies entering the league. He did well enough in preseason though and was awarded the starting job at quarterback. He even managed to win his first two games and things were looking good for both him and the franchise.
But then, disaster struck. In his third game he managed to complete a whopping one out of fifteen passes. During that same game he threw two interceptions and managed to fumble the ball three times.
Nine games into the season, Leaf was benched. His gory stats at the time represented an NFL nightmare. They consisted of two touchdowns passes and nine interceptions. He got some additional time later in the season but was just as unimpressive. Football is a game of numbers and he finished the year with the same two touchdowns but managed to add an additional three interceptions..
”Just don’t fuckin’ talk to me alright! Knock it off!” Ryan Leaf
That was Leaf’s reaction to the press when he was questioned about his performance on the field. He had to be physically restrained by one of his teammates from going after them and one of them said about him “a nightmare you can't even imagine. If I had to go through another year like that, I'd probably quit playing.”
Maybe Leaf should have taken that advice. Before the season began the next year he injured his shoulder on was placed on reserve. That didn’t stop him from cursing out the current management and coaching staff. As a result of that, he was fined and suspended without pay. It took him four weeks to offer up a meek apology.
While he was on suspension Leaf was caught playing games of flag football and golfing at local courses all the while claiming that he was injured.
The 2000 season wasn’t any better. In the first two games he managed one touchdown pass against five interceptions. In the fourth game of the year he injured his wrist while throwing yet another interception and didn’t come back until week eleven. His numbers with the Chargers were a lackluster four wins as a starter in three years.
The Chargers had seen enough and gave Leaf his walking papers. He was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a trial basis. The team doctor recommended that Leaf get some surgery done to repair the injury he sustained to his wrist. He refused. The team told him they would keep him anyway but he’d be the number four quarterback in the rotation and that he’d have to accept a cut in salary. He refused.
Five days before the season began, the Bucs handed Leaf his second set of walking papers.
Enter the Dallas Cowboys. They were willing to try and rescue Leaf from the scrap heap and resurrect his career. Leaf responded by failing his first physical with the team. Eventually he got into shape and managed to make four starts. He also managed to lose all of them while throwing one touchdown against three picks.
Next in line were the Seattle Seahawks. They signed him to a one year deal but Leaf announced his retirement just before opening of training camp in 2002. At the time he gave no reason for his decision but later claimed injuries forced him out of the game.
His not so stellar NFL career ended with 21 starts, 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. One former teammate had this to say. “He took the money and ran. Personally, I could never rest good at night knowing my career ended like that.... Normally, in this game, you get back what you put into it, and he pretty much got back what he put into it"
Ryan Leaf Somehow Worse At Crime Than Football
If you’re still with me, that little headline comes to us courtesy of the The Onion.
After bouncing around doing some odd jobs and volunteer coaching Leaf was indicted in Texas in 2009 on burglary charges as well as possession of a controlled substance. At the time, he was undergoing drug rehab for abusing oxycodone. He posted bond in April of 2010 and pled guilty to seven counts of passing fake prescriptions to obtain the drugs as well as one charge of distributing them. He was placed on ten years probation and fined twenty grand
Not to be outdone Leaf was busted in Montana on March 30, 2012. This time the charges were burglary, theft and drug possession. It took him only four more days to get popped again for, you guessed it, burglary, theft and possession of dangerous drugs. He apparently stole the shit from his neighbor's house.
I guess the folks in Texas weren’t too pleased with Mr. Leaf’s behavior. They’ve issued a couple of arrest warrants for him for violating the terms of his probation and currently consider him a fugitive from justice. If he’s convicted on all charges he’s staring at a 50 year stretch behind bars.
Somehow I don’t think the saga of Ryan Leaf is going to end well.
On the other hand that other guy Peyton Manning looks like he's a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.
For the football stats and stuff I went to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Leaf
For the legal issues I just followed various accounts on the news and ESPN