If Ryan Leaf Was Drafted By The Colts, Wouldn't He Be More Successful?

The Colts CornerContributor IJuly 27, 2009

The word that involves four letters (and sometimes five, if you add an “s” at the end) that is called “bust,” always comes up when you hear the name of Ryan Leaf. It really fits actually. Let’s compare the analogies with the quarterback picked before Leaf in the 1998 NFL Draft:

Peyton Manning is to superstar while Ryan Leaf is to ____? What? I’ll tell you what, here’s the answer, teacher: Ryan Leaf is to bust. But seriously, I have to say, I really don’t think it could be entirely Leaf’s fault. The biggest buzz was running around of who the Indianapolis Colts would pick.

Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning?

Of course, we all know the Colts drafted Peyton Manning, and everyone is surely proud that they didn’t acquire Ryan Leaf. But hey, what if Ryan Leaf was drafted by the Colts? Sure, I know, Todd Fleming did a fabulous piece of that, but it was a humor piece.

My piece, it’s real.

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I’ll analyze the data as my stats will be observed from ProFootballReference.com. Although I won’t be the complicated data-mastered genius like Zach Fein in his amazing articles, I’ll try my best. To all of you who are reading this, I hope you will be impressed as I dig deep.

First, let me tell you what I’ll be doing. I’ll analyze the stats from year-to-year for each quarterbacks. I’ll start with Ryan Leaf, and talk about the stats some of his teammates had around him, and I’ll do the same with Manning.

So let’s do this people.

If Ryan Leaf was drafted by the Colts in 1998, would he have more success?

Let’s find out.


Ryan Leaf

Ryan Leaf started only nine games in his first season as starter for the San Diego Chargers. In his first game, he was impressive like Peyton Manning in his first game. But after the first game, things got a little shaky for Leaf as he had truly one of the worst statistical seasons I have ever seen for a quarterback.

He passed for 1,289 yards along with two touchdowns and 15 interceptions with a 39.0 quarterback rating. Yes, that is very bad. The Chargers also went 5-11 that year, surprisingly better than Manning’s Colts who went 3-13, although Manning had the better year.

But with Leaf’s poor performance, what about his supporting cast. Did they help him out at all? The Charger’s leading rusher was Natrone Means with 883 rushing yards and five touchdowns including a 4.2 yards per carry average.

Well, that was okay, but what about the receiving cast? His leading receiver Charlie Jones with 699 receiving yards for three touchdowns. His second leading receiver was Freddie Jones with 602 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

There really wasn’t a strong supporting cast, not at all. Their defense wasn’t that strong as well as none of their players reached the 100 or even the 95-tackle mark. The leading tackler was Junior Seau with 92, with Rodney Harrison at second with 89. Third? 59 tackles for Charles Dimry.

Their defense allowed 342 points that year, too, while their offense produced 239. It truly wasn’t a good supporting cast that Ryan Leaf had in mind, so wouldn’t Ryan Leaf be better off with Manning’s cast? Let’s take a look at number 18’s.

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning played all 16 games, unlike Ryan Leaf, who played seven games less. Although Manning and his Colts went 3-13, worse than the worse quarterback’s team a 5-11 record, Manning still played well that year. He passed for 3,739 with 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions, including a 71.2 quarterback rating.

But even though Manning had a very impressive 26 touchdowns, the 28 interceptions affected him. But he’ll improve. But despite the impressive rookie year, did his supporting cast live up to expectations to help their new face of the franchise? Let’s take a look.

Their leading rusher was Marshall Faulk, who was in his last year with the Colts, who had 1,319 rushing yards, six touchdowns, and a 4.1 yard per carry average. Pretty impressive, huh? Yes, I thought so.

But what about the receivers? I was about go to that, but good question. Manning’s leading receiver was, well, Marshall Faulk, who had 86 receptions for 908 yards and four touchdowns. Wow, that is great for a running back, don’t you think? Their second leading receiver for Manning was Marvin Harrison with 59 grabs for 776 yards and seven touchdowns.

Manning did have a pretty good supporting cast with the receiving, surely better than the San Diego Chargers cast. But even though Manning’s cast beat out Leaf’s cast in those categories, Leaf did beat Manning in the defensive supporting cast.

The Colts leading tackler was Jason Belser with 76 tackles, Jeff Burris at second with 57, and Robert Blackmon with 52. So although Manning’s cast did somewhat worse than Leaf’s cast on defense, Manning’s team was overall better.

Let’s check out comparisons from the year of 1998:

It’s a good review of the year of 1998, let’s move on to 1999.


Due to Ryan Leaf not playing during the 1999 season, there is no need for a comparison here. Let’s move on to the year of 2000.


Ryan Leaf

Ah, the new millennium. Those Y2K parties feel like yesterday, don’t they? This was Ryan Leaf’s best season in his wasteful career in the National Football League.

Leaf had thrown for 1,883 yards with eleven touchdowns and 18 interceptions, including a 56.2 quarterback rating. I see why the word “bust” always comes up when his name is mentioned. Leaf also started another nine games for the second time. Let’s see what his supporting cast has in store for him.

His Chargers also went 1-15, unlike the Manning’s Colts and their 10-6 record.

Their leading rusher was Terrell Fletcher, who ran for 384 rushing yards, three touchdowns, a 3.3 yards per carry average. I have to say that is just plain horrible. It’s just inexcusable. This is not what you want out of your leading rusher.

Let’s go and see what the receivers have.

Their leading receiver was Jeff Graham, who had caught 55 receptions for 907 yards and four touchdowns. Their second leader was Freddie Jones, who had caught 71 catches for 766 yards and five touchdowns.

That was pretty impressive, surely much better than what we compared in 1998. The defense somewhat improved as well as Junior Seau was the leader with 103 tackles along with Rodney Harrison at 101 tackles. Third is Mike Dumas with 64 tackles. That was an improvement, greatly, and Seau and Harrison still held the lead in the Top Two.

Leaf’s supporting cast did improve, but let’s see how Manning’s cast did. And speaking of Peyton, where the heck is he? Oh right:

Peyton Manning

Manning did outstanding for the Colts in 2000, throwing for 4,413 yards with 33 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, including a 94.7 quarterback rating. Manning was very impressive as he was evolving into an NFL icon, and one for hometown of Indianapolis.

With Manning’s thrilling performance that year, let’s see how his supporting cast played out with the deal.

Their leading rusher was Edgerrin James, who had ran for 1,709 yards with 13 touchdowns and a 4.4 yards per carry average. James surely had a Pro Bowl invite and was outstanding that year. He ran 1,400 yards more than little old Terrell Fletcher. Man man man, it’s clear that the Colts rushing performance was better than Leaf’s cast.

How about the receiving cast? Their leading receiver was Marvin Harrison with 102 catches for 1,413 and 14 touchdowns. Looks like there’s another man joining the trio of Pro Bowl invitees. Their second leading receiver was Jerome Pathon, who had caught 50 catches for 646 yards with three touchdowns. Nice! Overall, the receiving cast of Manning’s Colts was better than Leaf’s Chargers.

The defense somewhat faired evenly as their leading tackler was Mike Peterson with 104, then Jason Belser with 80, and lastly Jeff Burris with 69. It’s kind of fair actually, but I think the Chargers defense was slightly better.

Okay, so now we know how about of these casts play out. Manning’s cast was certainly much better than Leaf’s again, so let’s take a look at the comparisons chart:

Sorry about the no room guys, but I think you know what the defensive stats are. And also, sorry about the error in the chart as well, I accidentally mixed up the receiving cast parts, but I think you guys will pick that up quickly and know what happened!

Now you know 2000, let’s move to our final year of 2001.


Ryan Leaf

This was Ryan Leaf’s last year in the NFL. After that, we’ll break down if Leaf could have succeeded better with the Colts’ cast.

Ryan Leaf was with a new team now, the Dallas Cowboys. He was involved in a horrible rotation, and yes, he was horrible too. Leaf threw for 494 passing yards along with one touchdown and three interceptions including a 57.7 quarterback rating, a career-high. Leaf had career-lows in touchdowns, interceptions, and passing yards. He had a career-high in passing rating, which is very bad because it is 57.7 for God’s sake.

Let’s see how his supporting cast did, if they even supported him at all even.

Their leading rusher was Emmitt Smith with 1,021 rushing yards, three touchdowns, and a 3.9 yards per carry average. I think that faired out good as it was Leaf’s first 1,000-yard rusher that supported him in his career. How about them receiving boys?

Well, boy, their receiving leader was Rocket Ismail with 53 catches for 834 yards and two touchdowns. Ismail is truly just one heck of a beast player, so don’t blame him for his performance because he was amazing for his entire career. We then move to Joey Galloway, who had caught 52 passes for 699 yards and three touchdowns. Good job Joey!

The receiving was good for Leaf as he had superstars, but he didn’t use them properly and he failed with them. How about his cast with defense?

Their leading tackler was Dan Nyugen with 91 tackles, Dexter Coakley with 72, and Darren Woodson with 71. It wasn’t good for Leaf as his 2000 team defense was much better than this. Looks like Leaf wasted his time in big D, and he wasn’t wanted after the season.

Let’s see how NFL icon Manning played out in 2001.

Peyton Manning

Manning had an okay year, with 4,131 yards, 26 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, and a 84.1 quarterback rating. It was a downgrade for Manning because 2000 was so much better. Hey, at least it was better than Ryan Leaf, who would probably die for those statistics.

But even though with those Ryan-Leaf-would-die-for-stats, let’s see how the supporting cast did with those.

Their leading rusher was Dominic Rhodes with 1,104 rushing yards, nine touchdowns, and a 4.7 yards per carry average. Very impressive for a guy who had to fill in some shoes for an all-star running back who went down with an injury. Very nice, very nice indeed.

The rushing cast was good, what about Manning’s receiving cast? I was just getting to that, thank you very much. Their leading receiver was Marvin Harrison with 109 catches for 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns. Man oh man, another fabulous season for the future-Hall-of-Famer, who would have a league-record, 143 receptions in 2002. Their second leading receiver was Marcus Pollard with 47 receptions for 739 yards and eight touchdowns. Nice for a tight end, don’t you think? I think so, and dude, you should too.

Very impressive overall, all better than the Cowboys. How about that defense? Well, no, Dallas beat them to it as Indy’s leading tackler was Rob Morris with 84, Marcus Washington with 74, and Chad Cota with 73. Not what I would expect, but overall, the Colts won the battle.

2001 was surely better than the Cowboys overall, and right now, I don’t think there is no need for a chart right now. I think I have had it with them. Let’s conclude this because this article is getting too long. It’s already passed the 2,000 word milestone, so yeah, you know it’s long.

Thank god for Ryan Leaf only playing three years in the NFL, or else I would have a 5,000 word article and no one in hell would read this.

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