Manning faces Chargers team that couldn't land him in 1998
BY BERNIE WILSON Associated Press
Monday, October 15, 2012
10/15/12 at 5:29 AM
SAN DIEGO - Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf?
It was the big question going into the 1998 draft and one that was quickly answered that fall.
Indianapolis made the right choice, and Bobby Beathard and the San Diego Chargers were stuck with a colossal mistake.
Nearly 15 years later, Manning is still crossing paths with the Chargers. On Monday night, he will bring his Denver Broncos (2-3) to Qualcomm Stadium to face the AFC West rival Chargers (3-2).
It will be the first time the Chargers have faced Manning since he joined the Broncos in the offseason.
It turns out the Chargers have owned Manning, in a sense. The Chargers are 5-1 against Manning since 2005, when they ruined Indianapolis' shot at a perfect season. They also eliminated Manning and the Colts from the playoffs in consecutive seasons.
But they never owned him in the way that really would have mattered.
In the spring of 1998, the Chargers were looking to replace Stan Humphries, the only quarterback who ever got them to the Super Bowl. Humphries had been sidelined midway through the 1997 season with a concussion and then decided to retire.
Indianapolis had the No. 1 pick. San Diego had the third. Beathard sent a king's ransom of draft picks and players to Arizona to move up one spot. He said he tried to move into the top spot but Bill Polian, then the Colts' GM, didn't want to make the deal.
Beathard knew which of the two he would have taken, if given the chance to pick first.
"Absolutely Peyton Manning. Absolutely," Beathard said a few days ago while visiting San Diego.
"I even called Archie," Beathard said, referring to Manning's father. "In fact, I called Bill Polian to try to make that trade and Bill said they weren't sure which one they were going to take, so he didn't want to do that."
Beathard - the only GM to build a Super Bowl team in San Diego - can't remember what he offered Polian for the top pick, only that he wanted it.
He didn't get it. Indy got a quarterback who would eventually win one Super Bowl, get his team to another and has been chosen NFL MVP four times. San Diego got a quarterback who hurled obscenities and interceptions at an alarming rate before his career flamed out.
Leaf got the heave-ho in February 2001 by then-GM John Butler. Recently, he's faced drug and burglary charges in Texas and Montana.
Broncos (2-3) at Chargers (3-2)
7:30 p.m. Monday
Radio: KYAL fm97.1