When you think of the Heisman trophy, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? What does a player have to do to take home the hardware? Could be stats, big game victories, ‘Heisman moments,’ leadership; maybe success? There’s no right or wrong answer, because it takes a combination of all those traits to go down in history as one of the best college football players. However – to me, what sets the Heisman trophy apart is its emphasis on winning.
There are countless awards for the best player in college football (Maxwell, Walter Camp); best running back (Doak Walker); best QB (Davey O’brien); best wide receiver (Belitnikoff); but the one thing that these awards don’t take into consideration is winning. For the most part, these trophies are handed out on the basis of statistical success. And I have no problem whatsoever with that. But – that’s what sets the Heisman apart from your run of the mill MVP award.
The Heisman Trophy is arguably one of the most prestigious and well known awards in all of American sports, be it professional or collegiate. It would be tough for anyone, let alone Dirt, to ramble off who won the National Championship 15 years ago. On the other hand, to name the Heisman winner from 15 years ago? Piece of cake – Charles Woodson in 1997, defensive back from Michigan. Ricky Williams after him, then Ron Dayne, so on and so forth.
Though I must admit, I’m worried about the recent trend in Heisman winners. The pedigree for winning the award remains primarily the same, minus one trait – victories. I took a look at the list of winners since 2000 and for the most part, had no beef with the names that came up. Most players were statistically dominant, on one of the best teams in the county.
In fact, when looking at the 13 Heisman winners since the turn of the century, 9 of them played in the BCS National Championship game. Add one more that played in the Orange Bowl – and that makes 10 of the 13 that reached the BCS. On top of that, 8 of the 13 won their conference championship. And two that didn’t win their conference (Eric Crouch, 2001; Jason White, 2003) still played for a National Title. Only 4 of the 13 lost more than one game during the regular season, excluding their bowl result.
So that brings us to this year’s winner, Johnny “Football” Manziel – who became one of three to win the award without reaching a BCS game since 2000; the other two were Tim Tebow (2007) and RGIII (2011). The one thing all three of these players have in common is media hype. Was there any doubt in anyone’s mind that Manziel would be named the winner Saturday night? National media members gave him the award after beating #1 ranked Alabama nearly a month ago. And they had a vested interest in doing so – Manziel is only a freshman. Care to guess how many Texas A+M games will be on national TV next year? And prepare yourself for the – “Can Manziel become the first two-time winner since Archie Griffin in 1974-75?” talk.
But was this kid they call “Johnny Football” really deserving of winning the award? Let’s look at the Heisman winner pedigree. Stats? Check. Big game victory? Check. Heisman moment? Check. Victories? Nope. Did he break Cam Newton’s single season SEC total yardage record? Sure he did – but there’s one distinction between the two; Newton led his team through the SEC undefeated and took home the conference title. Manziel did not.
I dug a little deeper into the season of Johnny Football, to find out exactly what all the buzz was about. He faced four teams ranked in the top 50 in the country in total defense (Florida, LSU, Ole Miss and Alabama). In those four games – he went 2-2. In his other eight games, he faced two Div. II teams, SMU, and a Louisiana Tech defense that was statistically ranked 125 out of 125 teams. He went 8-0 in those games while padding his stats.
The proof is in the pudding. In the 4 games against top 50 defenses (2-2), Manziel averaged 223 passing yards with 3 TD’s and 4 Int’s; to go along with 77 yards per game on the ground and 2 rushing touchdowns. Against the 8 defenses’ outside the top 50 (8-0), Manziel averaged 316 yards through the air while tossing 21 TD’s and only 3 picks; to go along with 110 yards per game on the ground and 17 rushing touchdowns. That’s a difference of nearly 50 passing yards a game, and 30 yards per game on the ground. The touchdowns and records speak for themselves.
What we have here, is a media built super hero, who gained his reputation burning terrible defenses through the air and on the ground while struggling against top notch competition. Was he the best player in college football this season? No, USC wide receiver Marquise Lee, was. Was he the most important player to his team this season? Nope again, that would go to Notre Dame Linebacker Manti Te’o. If this Johnny Football kid was more than media hype and padded stats, why couldn’t he lead his team to an undefeated season or a BCS title game like 9 of the past 12 Heisman winners had done?
The trend of recent by Heisman voters to give the award to the kid with the most media buzz and padded stats is alarming to me. We’re getting away from the tradition and root of this prestigious award. Was RGIII an incredible athlete and one of the best players in college football last season? Sure he was; Manziel was this year as well. But – if you’re that dominant, that unstoppable, and putting up such godly numbers – you should be able to lead your team to at least a BCS bowl game. End of story. And if you don’t, enjoy putting the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards up in your trophy case.
The thing that bothers me most was watching Mariota put up similar numbers without playing the second half in the first half of the season and he barely got mentioned in the same breathe. I'm interested to see him next year and how he handles it.Tebow was humble and the talk of two time heisman winner didn't affect him in my opinion. How big will this kid's head get? It was already tough for him to walk through a door before the trophy.
Sounds like you just have an argument for the past 2 winners in RGIII and Manziel? This slippery slope started after Andrew Luck lost to Oregon and RGIII continued to rack up the statistics in Waco. I agree that the 'Heisman' foundation is beginning to crack and, in time, the award could become as irrelevant as the Pro Bowl. Legitimacy was proven with Newton, but Luck was the 2011 winner and my top 5 this year was Te'o, Lee, Klein, Miller, and Manziel(in that order).
Speaking of consequences, who is pumped for the Ohio State vs. Oregon home-home series in some years down the line??!?!? Meyer quietly goes undefeated, AGAIN, and Oregon has continues to schedule quality non-conference opponents with the arduous 9-game PAC12 conference schedule.
To be the best, you have to play the best. Can't wait for a 8-team CFB playoff in 2020.