Hunter S. Thompson urged Jim Irsay to draft Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning

Getty Images

Hunter S. Thompson, the author known for his drug-fueled gonzo journalism, was a football fan and a friend of Colts owner Jim Irsay. But Thompson wasn’t much of a draft scout.

It turns out that Thompson was among those who believed before the 1998 NFL draft that Ryan Leaf was the better prospect than Peyton Manning.

That comes from Leaf, who this week was given a copy of a letter Thompson sent to Irsay, urging him to draft Leaf. The note, written in Thompson’s humorous tone, was posted on Instagram by Leaf.

“Dear James,” Thompson wrote. “In response to yr. addled request for a quick $30M loan to secure the services of the Manning kid — I have to say No, at this time

“But the Leaf boy is another matter. He looks strong & Manning doesn’t — or at least not strong enough to handle that ‘Welcome to the NFL’ business for two years without a world-class offensive line.

“How are you fixed at left OT for the next few years, James? Think about it. You don’t want a china doll back there when that freak Sapp comes crashing in.

“Okay. Let me know if you need some money for Leaf. I expect to be very rich when this depp movie comes out.

“Yr. faithful consultant, HUNTER”

Fortunately for the Colts, Irsay did not listen to Thompson.

46 responses to “Hunter S. Thompson urged Jim Irsay to draft Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning

  1. It’s anyone’s guess who’s done the most drugs amongst the three of them.

  2. Remember, Irsay WAS a Scout w the Colts prior to officially becoming the Owner. I am quite sure that His Scouting Skills led to the drafting of Manning over Leaf

  3. Manning had Jim Mora as head coach and Bruce Arians as QB coach. Leaf had Kevin Gilbride as HC and June Jones as his QB coach. Meaning also had help from Edgerrin James, Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison. Who did Leaf have in SD?

    No one knows how things could’ve turned out if Manning was drafted by SD and had to play on those putrid teams for 3-4 years.

  4. Wow, think about it a second- had the Colts drafted Leaf instead, their history would likely be the worst in NFL right now, close to 50 years of ineptitude. Had Ryan Grigson been their GM in the Manning years, it would have been chopped liver even with Manning.

  5. akira554 says:

    July 6, 2018 at 7:56 am

    Manning had Jim Mora as head coach and Bruce Arians as QB coach. Leaf had Kevin Gilbride as HC and June Jones as his QB coach. Meaning also had help from Edgerrin James, Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison. Who did Leaf have in SD?

    No one knows how things could’ve turned out if Manning was drafted by SD and had to play on those putrid teams for 3-4 years.
    ————————————————
    I agree with not knowing how playing with the Chargers would have affected Manning’s career. But I’m pretty sure Leaf’s career was going to end up like it did no matter where he went.

  6. These occasional football related trivia nuggets are the reason Im a daily PFT reader…
    More blogs like this and less politics please.

  7. Whose to say that it was wrong from a scouting perspective to prefer Leaf to Manning? Leaf didn’t fail due to his skills, but because of what was going on in his head, and casual (read: on the college field) scouting is unable to get a sense of that. Yes, any scout who met with both guys at the combine should (I hope) have walked away with a sense that Manning was a MUCH safer bet (seeing as Manning might be the #1 all time “up in his head” QB prospect, in a good way), but in terms of physical ability Ryan Leaf was definitely a superior prospect. That’s part of why scouts don’t nail it with QB prospects every time: because the position is about a lot more than just physical skills.

  8. would you rather be let down immediately by leaf and move on, or have the underperformance drag out over a decade like manning?

  9. reaganyears says:
    July 6, 2018 at 8:47 am
    These occasional football related trivia nuggets are the reason Im a daily PFT reader…
    More blogs like this and less politics please.
    +++

    AMEN!!!!!!!!

  10. aquineas1
    Jul 6, 2018, 7:24 AM CDT
    I wonder what Depp movie he was speaking of?

    Rango
    For sure

  11. aquineas1 says:

    July 6, 2018 at 8:24 am

    I wonder what Depp movie he was speaking of?
    —————————–
    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

  12. Big Thompson fan here, yeh well thats my problem. Anyway, he once rode in a limo with Nixon to the airport and talked football. Nixon was also a big football fan. Hunter brought up a little used receiver from either USC or UCLA who made a last second catch on the sideline near the end zone at the end of a bowl game. NIxon knew the kids name and number. I have a book of his where it says on the jacket that he was “a voracious reader, a relentless drinker, and a fine hand with a .44 magnum.”

  13. marooncat79 says:
    July 6, 2018 at 7:45 am
    Remember, Irsay WAS a Scout w the Colts prior to officially becoming the Owner. I am quite sure that His Scouting Skills led to the drafting of Manning over Leaf
    ———————————————————————–
    Actually Irsay was leaning towards Leaf. It was Jim Mora who insisted that the Colts take Manning due to Mora’s familiarity with the Mannings in New Orleans. One day a 14 year old Peyton showed up at Saints camp and threw some balls to the Saints receivers and Mora said afterward that it was sad that the best QB in camp that day was an 8th grader. One QB was always the sure bet and Mora knew which one that was long before the Kipers of the world chimed in.

  14. Jeez, you guys do realize that he wrote that column for years in jest. He would write ridiculous letters to Irsay suggesting that they go on huge benders and say all kinds of funny and weird things about Irsay. It’s like some people on this site don’t remember anything that occurred before 2005.

  15. So youngblood, who is more successful in life, you or Mr. Thompson, and what does that say about you. Just because HT made a fortune writing articles and books through the lense of what was new and sweeping the nation at the time, doesn’t mean he didn’t have a great mind and put it to good use. I once read a letter he wrote to a friend who wanted advice on which road to take in his life, and HTs response was insightful and well worth the read for any uncertain young person with the whole world in front of them. Have a good day youngblood, and use your time wisely this weekend.

  16. No one knows how things could’ve turned out if Manning was drafted by SD and had to play on those putrid teams for 3-4 years.
    =====

    They had solid talent on D while Leaf was there (Seau, Rodney Harrison, Jamal Williams..)

    Jim Harbaugh managed to get them to 8-8 the year Leaf missed with the shoulder injury.

    .. I’d bet the Chargers are still in San Diego if Manning spent his career there.

    … and Kevin Gilbride managed to win 2 Rings with the other Manninng

  17. Also, had the Colts not picked Peyton, would he have shunned the Chargers like his younger brother did later on? Did this play any role in why Eli forced a trade to the NYG? A lot of what ifs….

  18. “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

  19. “You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug, especially when its waving a razor sharp hunting knife in your eye.”

  20. Hunter is obviously a genius and was a great sports gambling writer. If the Colts draft Leaf, he obviously would have flamed out like he did with San Diego…buuuut, then Polian would have drafted Brady in 2000 like he said he wanted to, as Polain “claims” he had a “first round grade” on him, haha.

  21. How the chargers haven’t won a SB with all the talent they’ve had or could of had, is beyond me.
    =====

    Marty Ball
    Couldn’t beat the Pats
    The Air Coryell teams only had 1 good season defensively

    .. but imagine having Coryell and Gibbs game plannng multiple seasons??!!! Perhaps you’re right!

  22. razzlejag says:
    July 6, 2018 at 8:17 am
    Wow, think about it a second- had the Colts drafted Leaf instead, their history would likely be the worst in NFL right now, close to 50 years of ineptitude.

    ———

    So they would be the Vikings then?

  23. Probably not the first, and definitely not the last “addled” request or decision made by Irsay!

  24. “That’s part of why scouts don’t nail it with QB prospects every time: because the position is about a lot more than just physical skills.”
    ________________

    I don’t know if they are any smarter today than they were back then (the Winston situation suggests possibly not) but there were tons of anecdotal stories about Leaf that should have at bare minimum suggested he would rub people the wrong way. The one that always sticks with me came from a reporter visiting his old high school. Leaf had excelled there, went on to become All-American in college and was going to be one of the top picks in the NFL draft. Half that success would normally mean the high school would be a veritable shrine to the guy but the reporter struggled to find any reference to Leaf at all. He’d alienated basically everyone and they were happy to just see him gone no matter how talented he was.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!