14 years ago, 2 quarterbacks were drafted first and second overall. One rebuilt a city, was solely responsible for building a new state of the art stadium that would eventually host the Super Bowl, all while becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. The other amassed 36 interceptions in a 4-year career with 4 teams. Of course I’m talking about Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf and the decision that changed the courses of the Colts and the Chargers for the past decade and a half.
Had the Colts selected Leaf, professional football in Indianapolis is probably non-existent in 2012. Both quarterbacks were under tremendous pressure and although their situations were far from identical, both franchises were in need of rebuilding. Manning was the leader that the Colts needed and Leaf could not fill that role in San Diego . Because of Leaf’s failure, the Chargers found themselves involved in another historic draft (for QB’s that is) in 2004. They ended up drafting Peyton’s brother Eli and traded him to the Giants (at Eli’s request), thus securing Philip Rivers, who still works under center today. The Chargers have made the playoffs 5 times since ’98 – all coming since ’04 with Rivers at the helm. The Colts have made 11 playoff appearances since ‘98, won 7 division titles and won 1 Super Bowl.
As history has before, it is about to repeat itself. Next month, two quarterbacks will be taken first and second overall and two franchises will be defined for the next 15 years. The Colts will select the most highly touted college quarterback possibly ever in Andrew Luck and the Redskins will be on the clock next knowing they will take Robert Griffin III. Has there ever been more pressure on a pair of quarterbacks who haven’t been paid a single dime (naive assumption) to do what they do so well? Luck has the task of replacing one the aforementioned greatest quarterbacks of all time and Griffin III already has to live up to the price of 3 first rounders that the Skins paid. Both are being given amazing opportunities to cement their legacies as the next generation of great quarterbacks. More often than not, greatness comes from opportunity – and I’m sure both players can’t wait to get their new jerseys and hats on draft day.
Personally, I don’t know whether one will be the next Peyton or Leaf or if both will be somewhere in the middle. What I do think is that the most exciting part of it all is that only time will tell who made the right decision. When Bieber turns 30 and the iPad is archaic as the typewriter, we will we know who’s decisions paid off and who wishes they can go back in time. Fans everywhere will be there agonizing or rejoicing every step of the way – and I can’t wait to watch it all play out.