Should Johnny Manziel's 2012 Season Matter to His 2013 Heisman Campaign?

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterOctober 29, 2013


Every year is a new season for college football teams, and for college football players. Unfortunately, despite a new season meaning a clean slate by which to evaluate teams and players, many are tied to the past. Heisman voters are not immune to this ailment, and in the case of Johnny Manziel, his 2012 season is certainly impacting his 2013 Heisman push, even though it should have no bearing.

That is Manziel from 2012. A season where he was amazing, dynamic, electrifying with his legs and, most importantly, victorious over a top-ranked Alabama team in Tuscaloosa. The kid deserved to win the Heisman, and the voters decided to buck trend and give the award to a freshman.

In 2013, Manziel has not been that same player running around all over defenses and pulling tremendous Houdini acts. No, this year the redshirt sophomore has been better. Better in the pocket. Better in his ball placement. Better in his mechanics. Better in his willingness to distribute. Better for his entire team. Better at what his coaches want him to do.

Yet, because people are so married to the idea of Manziel simply running around and making defenders look silly, his legitimate growth as a true quarterback will go unappreciated, where the Heisman is concerned. The kid has gone from a quarterback with an iffy NFL future to a guy that has a game that will land him in the early rounds of the 2014 draft, should he declare.

For all of the worry about his rushing numbers declining, and they have, there's not nearly enough attention paid to the maturing passer's improvements. Manziel's raised his completion percentage, completions per game, yards per completion, touchdown passes per game and yards per game—all while attempting fewer passes per contest. 

Johnny Manziel from 2012 to 2013
Completion Percentage68%73%
Completions per Game22.723
Passing Attempts per Game33.431.5
Passing Yards per Game285.1324.3
Pass TD per game22.75
Interceptions per game.71
Rush Attempts per Game15.511.13
Rushing Yards per Game108.562.1
Rush TD per game1.6.75
Yards per Carry75.6
Total Yards per Game393.5386.4
Total Yards Per Play8.19.1
Points per Game9.74.5

The dropoff in rushing yards is not because Manziel has worsened as a player. Rather, it is because he has gotten better. Two springs, two fall camps and a season as the full-time starter have a way of doing that for a quarterback. Johnny Football is not just out there winging it, as he was a season ago; he's playing the position the way it is supposed to be played.

While Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are putting up big seasons for undefeated teams in the BCS championship hunt, Johnny Manziel is still deserving of being in the Heisman discussion. Manziel is having a stellar season at the position, yet, 2012's success and big moments (plus the dismal 2013 A&M defense) are limiting just how high he can climb in the 2013 Heisman campaign.