Leaf was widely expected to be picked first by the Indianapolis Colts but missed a meeting with team coach Jim Mora so that they would choose Peyton Manning ahead of him while he could move to the San Diego Chargers, who had the second overall pick.
Steinberg alleges that he and Leaf informed the Chargers of the plan beforehand to prevent them also raising questions over Leaf's character.
"I told Ryan it would do no good to approach Colts GM Jim Irsay. Irsay saw the sport the same way he viewed his other passion, rock 'n' roll. Just as musicians tended to be a bit eccentric, so did football players, and that did not stop him from drafting Jeff George or trading for Eric Dickerson. 'Leigh,' he used to say, 'it's about the freaking talent.' If someone is that gifted, in Irsay's opinion, you simply find a way to deal with his personality," Steinberg wrote in his new book.
"'If you go to the combine,' I told Ryan, 'but fail to show up for a meeting with Mora, that should do it. Jim is a real prideful person who has a tendency to explode. I am not recommending you do this, but if you are desperate to go to San Diego, this is the way'.
"Ryan approved, but I first cleared the idea with Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard, lest San Diego also question my client's reliability. Beathard went along with the ruse. If he'd had a problem, Ryan would've shown up for his meeting with Mora."
The decision made a major impact on the course of the NFL over the following years, with Manning going on to become one of the most accomplished players of all time while Leaf retired after just four years in the game.