In an ideal world, Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell would square off in Celebrity Deathmatch (with special guest referee Michael Irvin, natch) in order to determine -- as everyone on the internet seems to want to do today -- the biggest draft bust in NFL history.
Unfortunately, unless the guys from Deadliest Warrior come up with a new computer system that can measure "goo power" and "fat roll chokeability," we're at least three years and another blown signing bonus away from that happening. So, let's just handle it ourselves, the old-fashioned way, with the ol' reliable Tale of the Tape, shall we?
It's a close call, folks -- it's obvious that both guys are tremendously deserving of the "Biggest Bust in NFL History" title, but only one can win, unfortunately.
"Cry Me a River" may not even be a real nickname -- and, actually, I don't think anyone ever used "Jam-Jam" outside of FanHouse e-mail threads -- so we'll call that a wash. (Although Russell's is more amusing to say out loud. Jam-Jam.)
In 1998, scouting wasn't what it is today, although that doesn't excuse the Chargers for giving Arizona their first-round pick the next year (could have been David Boston or, say, Daunte Culpepper). Of course, maybe Al Davis just heard Todd McShay's 2007 pre-draft evaluation of Jam-Jam -- "I can't remember being in such awe of a quarterback in my decade of attending combines and pro days" -- and just decided he had to have him. (The real point of that was trying to make myself feel better about Jimmy Clausen; Leaf costing an extra first makes him worse.)
It's easier to remember Russell's failures (fresh in the old mind and whatnot), but a quick glance at the stats tell us that Leaf's performance on the field was worse. And since he won fewer games, well, by God, he clearly sucks more.
If having a penis the size of a dinosaur isn't as logical a reason as any to be given the Raiders QB job, I don't know what is. Of course, the larger your penis, the more embarrassing your failures, so chalk one up for Russell.
Just like scouting, inflation has changed since 1998. Although I'm pretty sure that regardless of the housing bubble, the dollar didn't DOUBLE in value over nine years.
Theoretically, you could compare Jam-Jam to anyone else that's better than him in the draft; Brady Quinn just makes so much more sense because when you start putting QBs in the context of that year, no one ever cares about Brady. Leaf's failures only enhance Peyton's legacy.
Again, simple math: the Wonderlic tells us everything we need to know about a quarterback's intelligence, so a point for Leaf (because he was smarter, you see? And therefore more of a bust.)
As for the locker room factor, well, at least Leaf cared. Russell's apathetic approach to football (and life in general) is something that should have been noticed by, oh, I don't know, anybody who talked to him before the draft.
Let's just say that paying someone to create a diamond-encrusted necklace of yourself is worth double points.
So is a gravy addiction; hundreds of athletes lose their money and fame because of drugs -- you have to be a real turd to give it all up because you're too fat and lazy.
As you can see, it's close. Very close. Leaf's legacy (coupled with his willingness to keep popping up in publicly embarrassing situations) -- and being directly compared to Peyton -- kills him in this contest. But it's clear from the breakdown that we're headed towards a world where he's no longer considered the greatest bust of all time.
In fact, I'm willing to go ahead and pass the torch right now: ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the new Biggest Bust in NFL Draft History: Jam-Jam Russell. Congrats, Ryan!