Netflix glossed over Johnny Manziel’s suicide reveal: Ryan Leaf

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By Susan Comstock

Shame on Netflix.

That’s how all-time NFL draft bust and mental health advocate Ryan Leaf felt after watching Netflix’s “Untold: Johnny Football” documentary.

Leaf told Outkick’s “Hot Mic with Hutton and Withrow” that Netflix whiffed on its chance to address mental health in light of Manziel revealing during the documentary his failed suicide attempt, instead glossing over that admission.

“Netflix, that director, the producers on it, they did exactly what everybody has done for so long around mental illness and substance abuse – they stigmatized it and continued to do it,” Leaf said. “They talked about it like (a) snippet and then just did not address it again the rest of the way. It was just so awkward to me.”

He added: “I was incredibly disappointed with Netflix and ‘Untold’ in what they could have done or should have done in this moment.”

Leaf’s major complaint with the documentary centers on its decision to focus on Johnny Football, Manziel’s nickname and persona during his Heisman Trophy-winning days with Texas A&M, instead of Manziel’s plight.

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Manziel lasted two NFL seasons and 14 total games with the Browns after being selected 22nd overall in the 2014 draft.

While the “Johnny Football” era of Manziel’s life was certainly scandalous, Leaf saw a chance to do something greater once Manziel admitted he considered suicide.

Ryan Duffy, the director of the documentary, told Outkick he was unaware that Manziel had considered suicide before interviewing the 30-year-old for the program.

Ryan Leaf
Ryan Leaf was not pleased with Netflix’s decision to gloss over Johnny Manziel’s mental health issues.

“I put this on Netflix,” Leaf said. “I would have loved to talk to the director and say, ‘You have done everyone such a disservice.’ Once again, people have taken advantage of Johnny Manziel.

“There were no solutions, no addressing of bipolar diagnosis and how he’s dealing with it and how he’s living with it, around his substance abuse.’”

Leaf said he did not know “what they were trying to achieve” with the documentary and noted how Netflix has shown it can handle mental health, as displayed in the “Untold: Breaking Point” documentary about Mardy Fish.

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Instead, in this documentary, Leaf said it was “out of place.”

The former No. 2 pick in the 1998 NFL Draft – drafted one spot behind Peyton Manning – noted that his NFL friends enjoyed the stories about Johnny Football.

Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel after being drafted by the Browns in 2014.

But Leaf, who recently stirred the internet with his summer transformation photos, saw this as a missed opportunity to focus on “somebody who has a disease and needs to be treated.”

Leaf has met Manziel once, but he talks to his father.

“I think he can be a beacon of hope to so many because he was bigger than life, bigger than anything I could accomplish in terms of the way people recognize and know him,” Leaf said of Manziel.

“And he can be that for people dealing with mental illness, people dealing with substance abuse, who have fallen to the very bottom and gotten back up and made something of their lives … and maybe he’s just not there yet.”

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