AFC South: Bobby Beathard

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INDIANAPOLIS – No Peyton Manning. No winning at least 12 games for seven straight seasons. No two Super Bowl appearances. No Lucas Oil Stadium. Possibly no Andrew Luck, either.

That’s what would have happened if the Indianapolis Colts had decided to select Ryan Leaf over Manning back in 1998.

Agent Leigh Steinberg wrote in his book, “The Agent: My 40-Year Career Making Deals and Changing the Game,” that Leaf skipped a meeting with the Colts prior to the 1998 draft so that they would not draft him at No. 1 overall, allowing him to drop to the San Diego Chargers at No. 2.

Life wouldn’t be so glamorous in Indianapolis if the Colts had taken Leaf. There probably would have been a lot of babysitting by the Colts with Leaf.

He had four poor seasons in the NFL and he’s currently serving a five-year prison term from burglary and drug possession charges and probation violations from charges in Texas.

Manning surpassed Reggie Miller as the primary sports figure in Indianapolis and he'll play in his third Super Bowl in less than two weeks with the Denver Broncos.

Former Colts general manager Bill Polian said on “Mike & Mike” on Tuesday that after doing their due diligence researching the two quarterbacks it was an easy decision to select Manning.

“What we heard on the football side that we would have been better off with Peyton,” Polian said on the show. “There was a lot of information that led us toward Ryan was nowhere mature enough to handle the job.”

Steinberg said that former Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard went along with the idea that Leaf skip out on meeting with the Colts. Beathard was also on “Mike & Mike” where he denied that because they “absolutely wanted to draft Peyton.”

Polian told a story where he crossed paths with Beathard at one of Leaf’s workouts and the former Chargers general manager walked by Polian, slapped him on the arm and said, “you’re going to really love this kid,” trying to trick him into selecting the former Washington State University quarterback so Manning could slide to No. 2.

“Ryan was the talented guy with the tremendous upside, but there were red flags we were concerned about,” Billy Devaney, who was in San Diego’s front office in 1998, said on “Mike & Mike.” “Peyton didn’t have any holes in him.”

It didn’t take long for everybody, especially the Colts, to realize that.

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