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Almost 16 years ago, the Indianapolis Colts made themselves look like geniuses when they decided to take quarterback Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf as the No. 1 overall pick of the 1998 NFL Draft.

The San Diego Chargers were stuck with Leaf, and it turned out to be a disaster. Meanwhile, the Colts went on to have winning seasons upon winning seasons for over a decade, including two Super Bowl appearances, one that ended up being a victory for the franchise.

However, not everything about this Manning-Leaf story is what you could make it out to be.

According to one of the top agents back at the time in Leigh Steinberg, he claims the Colts actually wanted to draft Leaf over Manning. The Chargers, in fact, wanted Peyton. Along with that, many scouts actually thought Leaf was the better prospect than the now soon-to-be five-time MVP.

But despite the Colts' interest in Leaf, the now-NFL Draft bust did not want to play in Indianapolis, as Steinberg explains in book, "The Agent." In fact, Steinberg says he had to manipulate the Colts in order to not let them draft Leaf as No. 1 overall.
“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?

So, as Steinberg claims, Leaf ditched then head coach Jim Mora from a meeting, which led to him telling the Colts not to draft him. With that, the Colts ended up taking Manning and Leaf wounded up in his preferred destination of San Diego.

However, according to former Colts general manager and president Bill Polian, the story from Steinberg is complete B.S.

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."

We don't know who's telling the truth, but it wouldn't surprise if it is in fact Steinberg since it is his former client and that he needs to make sure his book is a sellout. However, it wouldn't surprise if the Colts actually did prefer Leaf, since they were so god-awful at everything in the 1990s.

Whatever the true story, it remains a mystery.

Whatever the truth may be, Colts fans should just be happy that they ended up Manning. Who knows what would happen if they ended up with Leaf? Maybe they would be the Los Angeles Colts right now then, for all we know.

As for Chargers fans, it just gives them more reason to be pissed off, since they basically just missed out on both Peyton and Eli Manning in the NFL Draft.

(H/T The Sports Grid)


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