Monday, February 2, 2015

How Much does the Heisman Mean?

Over the past decade or so, the question of how prestigious the Heisman trophy actually is has grown louder and louder. The award has always been full of controversy, but there really isn't much of that anymore. Rather, people have grown tired of how it is essentially another quarterback award. Eight of the last ten winners have been quarterbacks and it is almost a given that one will be the recipient every year as college and the NFL transition to offenses focused around a quarterback. Mark Ingram actually received the lowest percentage of first place votes out of the last ten winners, and it is not much of a coincidence that he was only one of two running backs to win during that time. The game has become so catered to quarterbacks that running backs have become slightly devalued in favor of a signal caller or an elite receiver. Several of the past winners made cases that really couldn't be beat, like Manziel breaking the SEC record for yards and touchdowns as a freshman. Or how Cam Newton and Jameis Winston went 14-0 in their first years and led their teams' to a BCS title. But there has been plenty of room for arguments with some of the other recent winners given their field of competition.

Marcus Mariota had a fantastic season, and you really can't take away from what he was able to accomplish in terms of sheer numbers alone. And to take Oregon to the championship game while beating out Florida State is also very impressive. Mariota threw for 42 touchdowns against only four interceptions while adding another another fifteen touchdowns on the ground. He was nothing short of a point machine at times. I'm not going to argue that what he did is diminished or not impressive, but what I will argue is that there were two other candidates who were more worthy.

Amari Cooper (Alabama) and Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) were the remaining Heisman finalists along with Mariota, and I think there is a very strong case that either of them could have won. I think that all too often now there isn't enough credit given for how important a player is to their team. With Cooper and Gordon, each one was basically the offense for their respective team. Cooper caught 16 of Blake Sims's 28 touchdown passes while catching 124 passes, good for 49% of Sims's total completions. Gordon, meanwhile, ran for 29 touchdowns and 2587 yards, good for second all time only to Barry Sanders in a season. Each one of them had some pretty ridiculous games and were able to put on clinics against most opponents. There were times when each player was simply unstoppable and showed that they are going to be tremendous players in the NFL. But go back and look at the statistics that are posted above. Cooper caught almost half of Blake Sims's passing yards while Gordon came close to doubling the amount of yards his quarterback threw for. Each player was severely limited by Ohio State, but there is no doubt they would not have even had a chance to play the Buckeyes if they didn't accomplish the things they did during the regular season. That is why it is so frustrating to see Mariota win the award by a landslide victory. I'm not saying that the Ducks could have made it to the championship game with any scrub at quarterback. But what I'm saying is that both Cooper and Gordon were more valuable to their team and put up the kind of numbers that kept their team in contention, which is something I think the Heisman needs to focus on. Cooper was an absolute stud, and if he didn't have out of this world games, Alabama probably would have lost at least two more games throughout the season without him to bail out a below average receiving core. And there is no chance that Wisconsin plays in the B1G championship game if Gordon isn't on that team to average close to two hundred yards per game.

The Heisman trust really needs to start weighing the value of a player much more than just the numbers that a player puts up. Now, obviously, Gordon and Cooper put up some pretty unreal numbers this year. But I really do feel that each guy meant so much more to their team than Mariota did to his. That is why I can't argue with the fact that JT Barrett finished only fifth in the Heisman voting this year. With how well Cardale Jones played in the final three games, it is obvious that almost any quarterback could come in and command Urban's offense. Barrett was just the best we've seen at it since Tebow. Hopefully this begins to change a bit in the next few seasons, but I have a hard time seeing that happen with how the landscape of college football has changed.

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