Saturday, 31 March 2012

This is one rotten leaf

The 2012 NFL Draft is under a month away, and yet again it is quarterbacks that are dominating all the chatter, with two passers locked in at pick one and two (Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III).

This was the exact same situation 14 years ago, when the 1998 NFL draft was going to see the commish take to the podium to and announce either Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning as the Indianapolis Colts first pick.

Come to think about it 2012 and 1998 mirror each other as this year it is the Colts picking at #1 overall AGAIN.

Well back in 1998 the Colts opted for University of Tennessee signal caller Peyton Manning, son of former New Orleans Saints QB Archie 'I'm running for my life almost every down' Manning.

At the #2 spot that year the San Diego Chargers were still happy as they thought they had drafted a player that would take them to and win multiple Super Bowls in the 21st century.

When Ryan Leaf moved to California it was sunshine in the sky and beaming smiles all round for Chargers executives and Bolts veteran players alike.

What transpired over the next 14 years for Leaf was nothing short of 'walking the mile', but in this movie John Coffee was not there to suck out the badness and Mr Jingles was not in his cell to offer moral support.

Leaf, still only 35, ended up playing in just 25 games (starting 21) in a career that is judged by many, including me, as the most spectacular fall from grace in NFL history.

His statistics were uglier than Shrek after he stuck his head in a hot oven and got his ears stuck, a miserable 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions and a completion percentage under 50% (48.4%). To top it off he fumbled 24 times and was sacked a mind-blowing 65 times.

The Charges gave up on him after two seasons, he then spent a year out of the league, before being picked up by the Dallas Cowboys as some kind of reclamation project. The Texas-based experiment lasted four games, three starts and three losses.

That was it for Leaf, his last completion (a 36 yard bomb to Rocket Ismail) coming in a heartbreaking loss on November 22 2001 against the Denver Broncos.

It was announced today that Leaf has been arrested, accused of drugs, burglary and theft charges. For all the times I have joked about Leaf as the antithesis of success I now cannot help but feel sorry for Ryan, and the decade of mental torture he must have gone through.

I say mental torture, because he has had to stand/sit back and watch the guy drafted just one pick above him in the 1998 draft go on to carve himself a Hall of Fame career, play in two Super Bowls, win one of them, be invited 11-times to the Pro Bowl, be a 5-time All-Pro, throw for 54,828 yards, start 208 consecutive games, play in 19 playoff games, and win the NFL MVP award a record four times.

What makes this torture even more painful is that 11 years after Leaf last threw an NFL completion Peyton is STILL PLAYING, having recently signed a 5-year $96million contract with the Denver Broncos, the last team Leaf ever suited up in the NFL to play against.

Look up the phrase 'wasted talent' in a dictionary and there will be a picture of Leaf, most likely face in the dirt after falling to the floor from yet another sack.

Fast forward to 2012 and you have two incredibly high-profile college quarterbacks about to get paid a lot of money to toss touchdowns in the NFL.

Lets pray that in 2026 we are not looking at a mugshot of either Luck or Griffin III in the dictionary under the words 'bust'.

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