Washington State needs football coaches. Former quarterback Ryan Leaf is ready to help
Would Ryan Leaf, the once-acclaimed quarterback at Washington State, be willing to help oversee the school’s intricate, run-and-shoot offense for the remainder of the reason?
“Of course,’’ he said. “But I don’t think anybody wants me to be a football coach.’’
His battle with addiction to prescription pills led him to prison almost a decade ago. But Leaf, who was an All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist at Washington State in 1997, has said he’s been sober since 2012, and these are challenging times at his alma mater.
A day Washington State fired Nick Rolovich as its head coach along with four assistant coaches because they did not follow a state mandate and get vaccinated against COVID-19, the school was looking for coaches, especially those familiar with the unique offense.
“I ran the run-and-shoot at San Diego my rookie year with June Jones and Kevin Gilbride, essentially,” said Leaf, who was selected by the Chargers with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft. “So I have a pretty good idea of what it takes and what it is.”
Leaf also said he has a “close relationship” with Washington State athletic director Pat Chun. And so?
“He’s never mentioned anything’’ Leaf said of the possibility of his joining the coaching staff, even on a temporary basis. “I’ve always told him I’m here for him if he needs anything.”
Leaf, 45, said he likely forfeited the chance to coach again – at Washington State or anywhere else – because of what happened when he was serving as a volunteer quarterback coach in 2008 at West Texas A&M. He resigned after asking one of the players for a pain pill.
Leaf later served almost three years after pleading guilty in 2012 to felony burglary and drug possession.
“I just think that’s a pretty lofty mantle to be called coach and I really victimized my kids when I was coaching at West Texas,’’ he said. “And I don’t know if I’d ever trust somebody like me if I was a parent, or if I was an athletic director.”
During a phone interview with USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, Leaf said he was in Lafayette, Indiana speaking at health care events for the next couple of days. He was there to tell his story of recovery and does the same when he spends time each fall with about five college football programs.
This year he has made stops at Texas A&M, Ole Miss, West Virginia, Washington and Oregon State. He said he also stays busy doing football commentary for the likes of ESPN, the Pac-12 Network and Sirius IX Satellite Radio, and recently Leaf got picked up by Sky Sports to serve as an NFL analyst in London for the final seven weeks of the season.
At the same time, Leaf said, he has closely followed the developments at Washington State – and feels some responsibility for what has transpired.]
See salaries for college football coaches through the years
Explore the numbers
Leaf said Chun reached out to him during the school’s last search for a head coach and Leaf had Rolovich near the top of his list. Now, this.
“I felt bad because I really liked (Rolovich),” Leaf said.
But now, Leaf said, Rolovich’s behavior reminds Leaf of his own as a NFL rookie for the Chargers.
“It was eerily reminiscent of how I behaved in San Diego my rookie year when things started to go bad or not my way,’’ Leaf said. “The way I treated the media, how defensive I was, how I pushed people away, how I wasn’t listening to reason or being accountable, playing the victim.”
But Leaf said he does feel good about the Cougars, who have won three games in a row despite the controversy about Rolovich’s situation and are 4-3 entering their game Saturday against BYU.
“They’re incredibly talented,” Leaf said, “and I think they go out and put a whupping on the BYU Cougars this weekend, to be honest with you.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: With Nick Rolovich and others out, Washington State in need of coaches