ESPN's Jim Trotter gives a big ol' endorsement of Johnny Manziel's chances of succeeding in the NFL, based largely on his perception of Manziel's mental makeup. To make his case, he contrasts Manziel with another cocky QB prospect, and breaks out a Ryan Leaf story I hadn't heard before:
I covered Ryan Leaf when he entered the league in 1998 as the No. 2 pick overall. He was brash and outwardly confident, owned a powerful right arm and fit the physical prototype that teams look for. But behind the façade, Leaf lacked the heart to fight through adversity. Failure was acceptable to him. He viewed quitting as a solution, not just an option.
He admitted as much in his second season, when during a confidential conversation he told me he was strongly considering retiring. He had had a disastrous rookie season in which he lost the respect of teammates and the fans, and then lost his starting job. Year 2 wasn't much better. He had shoulder surgery early in the season and, in November, was suspended for four games and docked one week's salary for conduct detrimental to the team. It was then that Leaf told me was leaning toward quitting the game. I was incredulous and filled with questions. 'Retirement? After only two seasons? Where is your pride? Your fight?'
Leaf didn't end up retiring in 1999, but he didn't make it much farther. Following a hilarious-in-retrospect SI cover story from Michael Silver on his comeback, Leaf suffered a wrist injury early in the 2000 season that he unwisely played through. (Leaf claimed he was misdiagnosed and mistreated by team doctor David Chao, who turned out to be kind of a disaster. Leaf would become one of four Chargers to sue Chao, who stepped down last year amid legal troubles that led two local hospitals to bar him from performing surgery there.)