Ryan Leaf, ESPN pundit Marcus Spears argue over Johnny Manziel documentary

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The new Johnny Manziel documentary has once again put the Heisman Trophy winner back in the news.

The film may be fascinating for sports fans, but someone who battled demons similar to the former Texas A&M superstar has been critical of it.

The documentary was released through Netflix’s “Untold” series earlier this month, and it highlights Manziel’s rise to becoming a household name to his NFL career being cut short after just two seasons.

Manziel discussed his drug use and eventual attempted suicide.


Marcus Spears and Ryan Leaf exchanged words on X about the new Johnny Manziel documentary. (Fox News)

ESPN NFL analyst Marcus Spears called it a “phenomenal” project, and Ryan Leaf, the NFL Draft’s 1998 second overall pick, took offense to that.

Leaf repeated his sentiments from last week, saying the documentary did nothing to advance the conversation on mental health.

“It stigmatized MH, stigmatized MH, suicide, & substance use disorder. Offered zero solutions and took advantage of someone with an untreated disease,” Leaf said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, responding to Spears.

Leaf later said the “last word I’d describe [the documentary as] was “phenomenal,” adding it “made a mockery of mental health, suicide, substance use disorder, & a cartoon of the Johnny Football character & offered no healing solutions.”

“I didn’t see it that way my man! I learned a lot about Manziel and How he interpreted what was happening during that time,” Spears replied.

“I watch a doc about Johnny Manziel speaking on things that we watched unfold and that’s all I cared about and I walked away saying he had courage to talk about it. I wasn’t there to dig deeper into anything he didn’t disclose. Good talk my guy,” Spears said in another post.

Johnny Manziel walks off the field

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel looks to the LSU band and its fans as he walks off the field after losing to LSU 24-19 Oct. 20, 2012, in College Station. (Nick de la Torre/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images)

Leaf replied: “That’s too bad. ‘That’s all I cared about’ proving my point of those pesky blinders. Johnny may have said 100 words total, that wasn’t his voice, that was a propaganda piece of stigmatization. It was the epitome of perpetuating stigma. This benefited no one other than @netflix.”

Leaf said his opinion may be biased because he is “close to it,” and said he “love[s] Marcus, we just have different perspectives.” 


Spears replied that he has “much love” for Leaf and hopes one day they could have this chat in person.

“This is a convo face to face and not twitter. Lot of stuff can be misinterpreted. Respect to you and how you view it my man. If I ever run into you we can get an understanding on what the points and perspectives are,” Spears wrote in one final post.

Manziel explained in the documentary his lack of success in the NFL, mixed with substance abuse issues and a bipolar disorder diagnosis, left him seeing no way out.

Johnny Manziel with headset on

Johnny Manziel talks prior to the SEC championship game between the LSU Tigers and the Georgia Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Dec. 3, 2022, in Atlanta. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


The quarterback said he went on a “$5 million bender” before ultimately trying to take his own life. 

“But the gun just clicked on me,” he said.

The suicide attempt gave Manziel a new perspective on life. Despite a broken family relationship because he refused to get treatment, Manziel returned home to Texas, where he began his recovery. 

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos and Scott Thompson contributed to this report.

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