What Could’ve Been: Ryan Leaf

The man of a thousand confused faces (seriously, Google “Ryan Leaf” and practically every photo of him shows him in some state of “the fuck’s going on here?”), Ryan Leaf will forever be known as one of the biggest busts in NFL history with the second-biggest usually being JaMarcus Russell. 

As with other “What Could’ve Been” entries, I will try to give a cohesive background and figure out what could’ve been for this man. He’s the butt of many jokes, but are they warranted? With one change, could he have really lived up to the “better than Manning” hype? Or was he doomed from the start?
First, let’s look at what San Diego gave up to get Leaf. To obtain the draft rights to Leaf in the 1998 NFL Draft, the Chargers traded:
  • the third pick overall in the 1998 draft (used to pick Andre Wadsworth, someone who could get their own What Could’ve Been)…
  • their first-round draft pick in 1999 (used to pick receiver David Boston)…
  • a second-round pick…
  • Eric Metcalf, one of the greatest kick returners of all-time…
  • Patrick Sapp, a linebacker…
  • the kitchen sink and…
  • the dishes in the kitchen sink.
The next day, at his introductory conference, he yawned after partying his ass off with his team’s owner, telling said owner that he hoped that the Chargers bombed in 1997 so they could draft him, and using the owner’s jet. Uh…things are already starting off clusterfucky. And they get worse from here, as this Wayback chronology of his Chargers/NFL career shows. Fourteen touchdowns, 36 interceptions. Loads of injuries. Lots of whiny, diva behavior. But, if Leaf didn’t completely implode, what could’ve been?
To be frank, it’s hard to tell. Leaf seemed to be a head case for most of his career. Avoided injuries can’t save you if your head’s already so far gone. Like Kwame Brown from yesterday’s entry, he was seemingly too immature to deal with the stresses of the NFL–or real-life, for that matter. This is evident a decade-plus later, with his run-ins with the law. And, let’s be for real: college success doesn’t guarantee greatness in the pros. So, all I can do is say this: I feel Ryan Leaf was doomed from the start. Could he have carved out a niche career if he wasn’t such a…”different thinker?” Yeah, probably. But, he still would’ve fallen under the category of bust because he’d be overshadowed by Peyton’s successes and the fact that a Number Two, Overall, draft pick shouldn’t just be a niche player.
Speed on the Beat

Whatever you need to know about me, you can find out on speedonthebeat.com. Dad of two, cat dad (of two), mental health advocate, Team Support Dope Music in All Its Forms.

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