Isn't it crazy how, sometimes, we find failure so interesting, so compelling?
Okay, quick game of word association. I'll give you a phrase and you say the first thing come into your head. Ready?
'Major NFL draft bust'
If you didn't say 'Ryan Leaf', well, you are either lying, or you have been locked in a nuclear fall out shelter since the 1998 draft. The name Ryan Leaf is absolutely synonymous with draft days disaster. The details are, at this stage, legendary, as the 'can't miss' prospect collapsed horrendously at the NFL level and was out of the game faster than you can say 'Rex Grossman'.
Really though, what is the phenomenon that is 'Ryan Leaf'? He had a wonderful college career, he was hyped more ridiculously than a new crime show on Fox, and failed to reach the lofty standards set for him at the NFL level. He is now an assistant coach in the NCAA and a multi millionaire to boot, thanks to the insane signing package he got back in 1998.
How bad did things get? Well, people often laugh at Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck, for his unfortunate, giddy and foolish quote, 'We want the ball and we're going to score', but how innocent does that look in comparison to this absolutely beauty that Ryan Leaf came up with right after the '98 draft;
"I'm looking forward to a 15 year career, a couple of trips to the Super Bowl, and a parade through downtown San Diego."
Well, let's just say that didn't exactly work out as planned. Leaf is widely regarded as having absolutely crippled several NFL franchises for years with his huge contracts and subsequent on-field failures. To make a long story short, Leaf is thought of amongst the US sporting media as being one of the biggest flops in NFL and professional sports history. Yes, even worse than Tony Eason
One of the reasons why Leaf is regarded as having been such a monumental flop is the incredible contract he managed to get from the Chargers. Following the '98 draft, the Chargers signed Leaf to a four-year contract worth $31.25 million, including a guaranteed $11.25 million signing bonus. With an absolute fortune safe in his bank account, what followed was nothing short of disastrous. The highlights;
Before the '98/'99 season even started, Leaf was fined for skipping a Chargers symposium that was mandatory for all newly-drafted players. He was fined and chastised, but who was to know how bad things would get, even after this inglorious start.
In the third game of Leaf's first NFL season he completed a truly pathetic one of fifteen passes for 4 yards and he fumbled three times in a loss against the Kansas City Chiefs. The chocks were off and it was all downhill from there.
Leaf's poor statistical output through his first ten NFL games led to the Chargers benching their massive investment. After ten games, Leaf had thrown fifteen interceptions, passing for a total of 1,289 yards, with a 45.3 percent completion rate and a truly awful quarterback rating of 39.
The end came eventually in San Diego when Leaf, out injured at the time, was filmed playing flag football. The Chargers took their chance and dumped Leaf as fast as they could. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks all rolled the dice with Leaf, but he was never able to put his obvious physical skill set to use on the NFL field. In total, Leaf appeared in 25 games and made 21 starts. He completed 315 of 655 passes for 3,666 yards, with 14 touchdowns and whopping 36 interceptions. Leaf's career quarterback rating was 50.0, 28.9 points lower than the league average between 2000 and 2003.
In short, he stank.
And this is the legacy of Ryan Leaf. A college standout, given stacks and stacks of cash before embarking on an NFL 'career' that never got off the ground.