Heisman Has Strayed From Its Mission Statement
By Joe Jenkins
Raise your glass to Jameis Winston: Heisman Trophy winner for 2013, a phenomenal football player and an amazing story. We’ve only seen a freshman win the Heisman Trophy once before and that happened last year.
We all love a good story.
That’s why “Rudy” makes every grown man cry. Ditto for “Field of Dreams.”
Great stories don’t always dictate the most outstanding reality, however.
But the Heisman Trophy isn’t really about its mission statement, is it? It’s not about “the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.”
It’s about the most outstanding story at this point. Not the most outstanding player.
Winston certainly had a great year; he led his team to a BCS Championship game. He led the country in quarterback rating, but that’s about it.
Boston College RB Andre Williams posted the 11th-highest rushing total in the history of college football, and that's before his bowl game. He finished in fourth place, more than 750,000 total points behind Winston.
How is it that a freshman quarterback whose season barely registers on the historical record wins the award for most outstanding player over a running back that had a season that flirted with the ages?
Think about it: By voting for a freshman the last two years, we’ve basically turned the Heisman into the Carl Spackler award for the “Cinderella story out of nowhere.”
We saw a middle linebacker from Notre Dame, Manti Te'o, who finished second in the voting behind Johnny Manziel last year. Te’o’s season wouldn’t have earned him the Butkus Award if he had it at Iowa State.
The previous year, Robert Griffin III had an amazing season, but didn’t lead the country in any major statistical category, and only led Baylor to the Alamo Bowl.
Don’t fault the winners. They’ve all had amazing seasons. Fault the voters.
The problem with the Heisman Trophy lies in the lack of definition. What is the trophy supposed to represent?
Voters don’t know what they’re voting for. That’s why AJ McCarron sat in Manhattan with his 2,676 passing yards and Derek Carr with his 4,866 yards was at home. Because McCarron received the MVP contingent of the vote while Carr was just another mid-major quarterback compiling numbers. Their teams had identical records.
The balloting process is beyond absurd as well. The 2013 Heisman Trophy included 928 votes in the ballot.
Each region has 145 voters, which is insane. There aren’t 145 journalists in the Northeast that follow college football closely enough to make an educated decision on the most outstanding player from 125 teams. More importantly there aren’t 145 journalists that look outside their region when it comes to college football — even in the South.
Bottom line is, the Heisman voting process has boiled down to a popularity contest. It’s the only way to explain why the supposed “most outstanding player” has been a quarterback 13 out of 14 times since the turn of the century.
Since the rules of the game have changed, quarterbacks may have become the lords of the manor, but its impossible that a signal caller has been the best player in the country that often.
This isn’t an isolated occurrence. From 1972 through 1985, only one quarterback won the Downtown Athletic Club’s trophy. During that time, the triple option and the wishbone offense were ruling the day and quarterbacks took a back seat.
If we’re really looking to vote for the most outstanding player in the country, we need fewer, and more educated voters.
It’s not fair to make the Heisman a popularity contest. That’s how players like Carr simply get forgotten.
The question isn’t whether or not Winston deserved to hoist the trophy on Saturday night. It’s whether he was selected by people who knew what the hell they are voting for.