Why the Heisman Does Not Matter Anymore

With Florida State’s 37-7 demolition of the Florida Gators on Saturday, Jameis Winston wrapped up the Heisman vote just in time for the holidays and he didn’t even need it gift-packaged in the store. Winston did to his Heisman competitors what he’s done to teams inside and out of the ACC this year: demolished them.

One caveat is that many cry Winston won’t win because it may be impossible to verify that Winston qualifies under the “moral” section of the ballot. The announcement will come on December 14th and Winston’s case about his alleged sexual assault will likely not come to a resolution until after that.

But let Winston bask in his future glory of winning the Heisman now. Let him indulge today because tomorrow (or whenever he goes to the NFL Draft, but the metaphor fits) he might not sustain success. That’s because, no matter who wins the Heisman on any given year, they seem to be in a load of trouble. Here’s a table of Heisman trophy winners over the past 13 college football seasons:






Johnny Manziel

Texas A&M



Robert Griffin III




Cam Newton




Mark Ingram




Sam Bradford




Tim Tebow




Troy Smith

Ohio State



Reggie Bush




Matt Leinart




Jason White




Carson Palmer




Eric Crouch




Chris Weinke

Florida State



Evidently the Heisman association has gotten QB happy in the last decade as 10 of the last 12 winners have been signal-callers. The essence of the Heisman is that it rewards the best college football player in the country. Often times that prowess at the college level has many fans and scouts salivating at the thought of drafting that player, but that success does not always translate to the NFL. In fact, succeeding in the NFL seems to be an exception rather than the rule as Cam Newton is the only one who has led his team to anything from that list above.

Of the Quarterbacks on the above table, seven played in the NFL, Jason White went undrafted, Johnny Manziel is still in school and Eric Crouch played in Europe because NFL teams thought him too diminutive. Of those seven, their record stands at 134-175 (.433 winning percentage). The only one of those quarterbacks with a winning-record as a starting QB? Tim Tebow, who went (past tense? Should I still consider him relevant?) 8-6 in his career. A further stat: in the past 25 years, 16 Quarterbacks have won the Heisman. Of those 16 QBs, only one has won a playoff game. Who was the one? Tim Tebow.

So it’s evident that Quarterbacks struggle in the NFL after winning the Heisman, but why exactly.? Those troubles could be attributed to several reasons. Pure and simple laziness could be one factor. While JaMarcus Russell (LSU) didn’t winner a Heisman – he was the runner-up – he assumed the mindset of a natural-born athlete and established the disposition that he was better than everyone and didn’t need to practice at all. Russell was famously reamed out on ESPN’s First Take by Stephen A. Smith for “not giving a speck of effort.”

Another reason could be the early development, similar to USC’s Matt Leinart. Under Pete Carroll in 2004 Leinart was superb, winning the Heisman. His frame (6’5” 230lbs) was the envy of scouts and he seemed poised to continue his dominance at the next level. However, unexposed at the college level was his less-than-stellar arm strength, the reason he failed as an NFL Quarterback. Defensive Backs weren’t fast enough to uncover the deficiency in his game at the collegiate level, but they sure were in the NFL.

Lastly, and this one is a huge problem, preparing for two or more years in a system not conducive to the NFL. Yes, there were shades of glory with Ronnie Brown in Miami with the Wildcat, but akin to that formation, the spread is going the same way. Zone reads and spread option offenses work so well in college, but not so in the NFL as Quarterbacks often-times must be strong in their ability to pocket-pass and drop back – they cannot rely solely on athleticism like in college. It affected THE Ohio State University product Troy Smith from the above list and for non-Heisman winner’s names such as Denard Robinson and Vince Young. But primarily ill-preparation has affected Tim Tebow who ran the spread almost exclusively in college. He was unable to adapt to the NFL system, despite “improved throwing mechanics,” and therefore his career, like the Darwinian thought on inadaptable species, died.

So while the field dimensions remain the same from collegiate to NFL, the gridiron in The League is a lot harder to fill with glory. Even for a Heisman.


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