Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf?
That was the prevailing question leading up to the 1998 NFL Draft. The Indianapolis Colts decided to use the No. 1 overall pick on Manning, who went on to have a long, record-setting Hall of Fame career.
Leaf was selected with the second pick by the San Diego Chargers, but his time in the NFL was short-lived and unmemorable. He left the game as a bust after only four seasons. Following his playing career, he had drug addiction troubles and served time in prison, and he has since been outspoken about his recovery.
The former strong-armed quarterback, who had a contentious relationship with the media during his playing days, has surprisingly found his way into a career in sports media. The 46-year-old has been working as a football analyst for the better part of the past eight years, including work for ESPN since 2019.
His latest opportunity comes with PointsBet, which has him hosting The Straight Line with Ryan Leaf, a four-times-weekly podcast. It has NFL editions set for Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and a college football theme on Wednesdays.
Leaf noted in the podcast’s debut on Sept. 8 that he’s the only NFL first round draft pick ever from the state of Montana. He added, “There are more first round draft picks in the Manning family than the whole state of Montana.”
On The Straight Line, Leaf talks about both football and sports wagering, including discussions of point spreads, totals, player props, futures, etc.
“I’m just incredibly grateful,” Leaf told Sports Handle in an interview. “This is something that me and my family having been working towards for the better part of eight years now. There’s a lot of people that have carried me through this process, and I’ve kind of been a mercenary. Everybody’s wanted to work with me, but no one’s ever really said, ‘This is Ryan and he’s our guy that we’re going to build something together,’ and that’s what PointsBet did.”
The Straight Line represents the first show that’s been launched by PointsBet in conjunction with the upcoming opening of the PointsBet studio in Manhattan.
Leaf sheds light on his transition
The Leaf that likes talking about football today isn’t the same guy who avoided talking to sports scribes during his playing career. That guy saw the people holding the notepads, microphones, and tape recorders as the enemy. That guy would have never imagined working as a member of the media.
“Me and the media did not have the best of relationships while I was a player,” Leaf said. “I think the furthest place I wanted to be was in a newsroom. It probably would have been the best thing for me. You know, I was a broadcast communications major at Washington State. If I would have had to go on and done an internship, that may have been the best thing, to walk into a newsroom, to kind of eat some humble pie and go to work.”
During his playing days, talk in locker rooms about sports betting was not viewed the way it is today when professional sports teams are now actually forming partnerships with sportsbooks.
“It’s different, because of just how you were told [not to wager on sports] your whole life,” Leaf said. “You were always told it was bad, and it’s not. It’s an entertainment value to what everybody does.
“That’s what was wrong with it, somebody stigmatized it and told you that it was bad. Therefore, everybody else around you said, ‘Oh, he’s gambling. Why would he be gambling?’ You see it, and it’s not that. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s a way to interact and be more part of something, you know, kind of outside your life, and that’s what makes it fun for me and makes it fun for me to talk about.”
Like Manning, Leaf has transitioned from a career playing football to talking about it. And he’s looking to remain in his new role for a long time. And who does he think will win the Super Bowl? And the NCAA championship?
Leaf likes the favorites: the Bills to win the Super Bowl LVII and Alabama or Georgia to become the next national champion.
Jay Croucher To NBC Sports
Jay Croucher, formerly head of trading for PointsBet, has been named as lead betting analyst for NBC Sports.
He debuted today as co-host of Bet the Edge, NBC Sports EDGE’s daily sports betting podcast on the NFL on NBC YouTube channel, which is also available for download on various podcast platforms. He also serves as a co-host of Fantasy Football Happy Hour with Matthew Berry (M-F, Peacock, noon ET), and Fantasy Football Pregame with Matthew Berry (Sunday, Peacock, 11 a.m. ET).
Croucher will offer written content for NBC Sports EDGE’s website and social platforms, and will share his expertise on sports betting with NBC Sports’ regional networks and local NBC affiliates. PointsBet is the official sports betting partner of NBC Sports.
“For Jay, [this is] a natural migration to the media side,” PointsBet spokesperson Wyatt Yearout told Sports Handle. “[He’s] now just officially under the NBC umbrella as opposed to us, but will still be involved in some of our content such as the BetCasts for Bulls games.”
Mattress Mack betting on new website
Known for his propensity to place million-dollar sports wagers, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale is getting involved in sports media. He has launched gallery sports.com, which is a website dedicated to covering sports primarily in Texas and Louisiana. The site will also be tied to a Gallery Gaming website that will focus on sports betting coverage in addition to leading readers to Gallery Furniture stores.
“I’ve always had an interest in sports and son [James] and I like content that will drive customers to Gallery Furniture,” McIngvale told the Houston Chronicle. “We thought sports was a perfect way to connect with our customers and with all the sports fans in Houston.”
McIngvale is the owner of Gallery Furniture and is known for his store promotions in Houston in which he offers to refund money spent on furniture based on the outcome of major sporting events like the Super Bowl.
Disney eyeing ESPN sportsbook
The Walt Disney Co. is looking to add sports betting to its business catalog by creating an ESPN sports network sports betting app.
“Sports betting is a part of what our younger, say, under-35 sports audience is telling us they want as part of their sports lifestyle,” said Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek, reports Bloomberg.com. “We’re working very hard on that (ESPN sports-betting app).”
No word on when the sports network’s sports betting app could actually become a reality.
Also, ESPN has named Doug Kezirian as its “sports betting insider” appearing on multiple programs and writing for espn.com. Kezirian has been a host for the Daily Wager, a sports betting news/information show that’s aired on ESPN since March 2019. The move is aimed at making Kezirian the “Adam Schefter or Adrian Wojnarowski of sports betting,” a source told Front Office Sports.
‘Beat The Odds’ TV series debuts
A sports betting and odds show named Beat The Odds debuted on more than 100 Gray Television stations on Sept. 2.
The 30-minute, weekly syndicated show features news, data, and analysis, along with coverage of well-known sports and betting stories to educate and entertain viewers. “Beat The Odds showcases two of the most popular aspects of sports for the public: betting analysis and compelling storytelling,” said Las Vegas Fox5 Vice President and General Manager Michael Korr, according to a tvtechnology.com report.