Leigh Steinberg, the NFL agent who was the inspiration for the movie “Jerry Maguire,” has written a book titled “The Agent” in which he claims he helped manipulate the 1998 NFL Draft.
The “Mike & Mike” show on ESPN Radio obtained an excerpt of the book and relayed some key passages.
Prior to the draft in 1998, in which the Indianapolis Colts held the first pick and the San Diego Chargers drafted second, there was considerable debate over whether the Colts should pick Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf — whom many considered to be more talented and physically superior to Manning.
Steinberg believed that the Colts were leaning towards drafting Leaf, who was his client. However, Leaf did not want to be drafted by the Colts and preferred the “exceptional weather and more laid-back lifestyle” of San Diego, according to Steinberg’s book.
At this point, Steinberg and Leaf devised a plan to convince the Colts to pass on Leaf.
Steinberg told Leaf to skip a meeting with Colts head coach Jim Mora during the combine, anticipating that the “prideful” Mora would “explode.”
It worked, according to Steinberg.
What is especially interesting about this case is that Steinberg claims Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard was not only aware of the con, but that he approved it.
“I first cleared the idea with Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard, lest San Diego should question my client’s reliability and Beathard went along with the ruse. If he’d had a problem, Ryan would have shown up for this meeting with Mora.”
Bill Polian, who was the general manager of the Colts at the time, was a guest on “Mike & Mike” and denied that the missed meeting was why the team drafted Manning. Polian noted that there was plenty of information obtained prior to the draft to suggest Leaf was “nowhere near mature enough to handle the job.”
In the end it worked out just fine for the Colts who drafted Manning and won a Super Bowl while Leaf was one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.
Trying to manipulate where a player is drafted happens all the time and Leaf is not the only quarterback at the top of the draft that wanted to decide who he played for. However, this one takes on more significance because of who was involved and the debate that raged at the time.
It is also a good reminder as the 2014 NFL Draft approaches that sometimes there is more to drafting than just needs and talent.
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