2013 Heisman: Johnny Manziel's Chances of Repeat Vastly Reduced After Suspension
That assertion may sound like it's being made by someone playing a few cards short of a full deck.
But hold that thought for a moment, and let’s take a closer look at the criteria used by the Heisman Trophy selection committee in picking a winner.
Navigating to the official Heisman Trophy website reveals the following mission statement regarding the spirit of the award: "The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity."
It's difficult to see how anyone could read this statement and not gather the gravity of two simple words: "excellence" and "integrity."
Let's now apply that criteria to Johnny Manziel, a player currently listed third on ESPN’s official Heisman Watch Expert’s Poll.
Having thrown for 2,594 yards and 22 touchdowns while running for 497 yards and six touchdowns already in 2013, one can clearly see that Johnny Manziel is demonstrating true excellence on the field of play.
Examining ESPN’s list of passer efficiency leaders for college quarterbacks similarly supports that finding -- Manziel has the fourth-highest rating so far this year.
Using only his playing statistics and on-field intangibles, there's simply no doubt that Johnny Manziel should be on the top of any list characterizing the top college players—Heisman-related or otherwise.
However, if you'll recall, there are two key factors one must consider when evaluating a player’s candidacy for the award. The second piece of criterion that any Heisman candidate must be measured by is “integrity.”
It's the application of this filter that drastically reduces Johnny Manziel's likelihood of winning the award in 2013.
As reported by ESPN on August 28th of this year, Mr. Football was suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s season opener against Rice. This N.C.A.A. action came after the conclusion of an investigation into allegations that Manziel profited from signing autographs.
While the punishment for Manziel was fairly straightforward, specific details about his alleged actions and the process by which he was judged were a lot less clear.
Steve Eder at the New York Times reported that, "The N.C.A.A and Texas A&M, in a joint statement Wednesday, said there was 'no evidence' that Manziel had 'received money in exchange for autographs, based on currently available information and statements by Manziel.'"
Furthermore, according to Eder, "The statement referred to his infraction as an "inadvertent violation regarding the signing of certain autographs.'"
Who will win the 2013 Heisman Trophy?
To say the least, these statements and the ensuing punishment seem to fall well short of wrapping up the situation as neatly as most observers would likely prefer.
Despite the confusion, we are left with two undeniable and relevant facts.
One, Johnny Manziel was suspended by the N.C.A.A. for a half of one game in 2013. And two, Johnny Manziel served that suspension accordingly—he did not enter Texas A&M’s game against Rice until the second half.
While the specifics of this suspension and/or alleged actions surrounding it could be debated until the end of time, the facts remain that Johnny Manziel was suspended and he served the suspension.
Given these facts, it's probably not difficult to imagine that more than a few Heisman Trophy voters now view Manziel as falling somewhat short of "flawless" on the integrity scale in 2013.
Looking at the situation in a vacuum, it also seems reasonable to believe that some voters might rate Manziel's integrity below other Heisman candidates that were not suspended this season—assuming all else is equal.
That means any players qualifying for the award in terms of on-field excellence, in concert with no strikes against them in terms of integrity, should be placed ahead of Johnny Manziel on any watch list for the award.
One has to wonder if there aren't more players satisfying both of those conditions across the entirety of college football than the lone two currently sitting ahead of Johnny Manziel on ESPN's list (Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Jameis Winston of Florida State).
Considering all of these factors, it becomes a lot easier to see how Manziel's chances at the Heisman in 2013 are probably much slimmer than his third-place ranking on the ESPN list might suggest.
What other conclusion can be drawn when reconciling the official selection criteria of the Heisman award with the fact that Johnny Manziel was suspended by the N.C.A.A. in 2013?
Any other hypothesis simply doesn't do justice to the award or to the many players that have achieved the extraordinary in both categories.
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