Mike Evans' Lack of Heisman Hype Exposes Shortcomings of Voting Process

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 3, 2013

Mike Evans will not win the 2013 Heisman Trophy. Odds are, he'll probably be watching the ceremony like you or I—sitting on his couch. A nice couch. Probably leather with built-in stations to hold his drinks.

But a couch nonetheless. 

Evans' Heisman hype will certainly fizzle after Saturday night's game against UTEP, a forgettable affair in which he had four catches for 46 yards. All the while, Evans' Heisman-winning teammate Johnny Manziel was going off for six total touchdowns.

If Evans was planning on using the final four games of the season as a pulpit for his Heisman hopes, this sure wasn't a good start. 

But what's more concerning is that Evans even needed a pulpit to get into the conversation to begin with. Heading into Saturday's game, it's hard to argue there was a more dominant skill position player in college football.

Evans had amassed 1,101 yards and 11 touchdowns over his 48 catches, averaging an insane 22.9 yards per catch. He had receptions of at least 40 yards in six of the Aggies' first eight games.

And yet not a peep when it comes to the Heisman race. At least except outside of College Station. 

"I'm puzzled why Mike Evans isn't in the Heisman race," coach Kevin Sumlin said this week, via the Associated Press. "I think he's as good a player as there is in the country."

Sumlin wasn't and still isn't wrong. Evans is a 6'5" freak of nature who dominates cornerbacks like no other receiver in the nation. He's quick, strong and can leap high enough that Manziel doesn't hesitate for a second to throw risky jump balls in coverage. Most often, Evans will come down with the ball yet doesn't get a modicum of the Heisman hype of his quarterback.

One question: Why?

It starts with his position.

Only twice has a wide receiver won the Heisman. It happened in the same half-decade. Tim Brown's historic senior season in 1987 made him the first receiver in history to take home the bronze statue. Desmond Howard did the same five years later, in the process creating perhaps the most iconic celebration in football history. 

None have won since. Larry Fitzgerald came closest and was arguably robbed in 2003 when the trophy went to Oklahoma's Jason White. Others have been given mere token votes; Marqise Lee finished fourth last season but was not invited to the ceremony.

Brown and Howard had one thing in common: They affected the game in ways outside their receiving. Specifically, they were return mavens. Some of their most iconic Heisman moment-type plays came after returning a punt or a kick in such spectacular fashion that it caused folks to wake up from their quarterback slumber. (That and they played for two national powers before every single game was available on your television.)

Evans doesn't return kicks. He doesn't even receive the occasional reverse handoff. He's a wide receiver. For better. For worse. And in the case of the Heisman voting, not having that secondary impressive skill is going to be a death knell to his case.  

Another is pure Captain Obvious logic. Quarterback is the most important position in football. They are, by proxy, inherently more valuable than every other position and thus more deserving of an award that supposedly determines value. As we continue foisting more and more responsibility to the position, the dichotomy in value will only increase.

We live in an age where everyone understands this. So it should come as no surprise that the Heisman has become the Quarterback With the Best Narrative Award. Mark Ingram is the only non-quarterback to win the award since the turn of the century. In the 1990s, a quarterback only won the Heisman four times.

If that doesn't tell you something about the evolution of college football, nothing will. And essentially, a wide receiver's value is intrinsically tied up in whether his quarterback can accurately throw him a pass within a catchable proximity. Doesn't it then feel backward to call a receiver the "most outstanding" player in the sport when his performance is directly dependent upon another position?

In most cases, yes.

Evans' situation is a near-perfect comparison to the Calvin Johnson for MVP push in the NFL. Many smart people have deemed Johnson the most important non-quarterback in the sport. The Lions' high-powered offense ground to a halt when Johnson missed time earlier this season. It also doesn't hurt that Megatron went off for 14 catches and 329 yards last week against the Dallas Cowboys, nearly setting the all-time NFL single-game record.

That tends to get people talking. 

Grantland's Bill Barnwell astutely pointed out this week that it took a historic second-half run from Adrian Peterson last season to unseat the NFL's obsession with quarterback MVPs. He assumes (correctly) that it would take a similarly dominant streak from Megatron along with shrug-worthy competition elsewhere for him to even have a chance.

Evans (or any other receiver) would need a similarly ideal situation. He would probably have to break Trevor Insley's all-time receiving yards record (2,060), which seems highly unlikely with Evans barely over halfway there and the Aggies only having three more regular-season games to go. Staring up at three SEC West teams doesn't exactly help matters either. 

But we're not even talking about winning here. Just creating a conversation.

What would that take?

In all honesty, it might take a different quarterback under center for the Aggies. Transcendence with Matt Joeckel under center would hoist Evans to the top of Texas A&M's stardom totem pole while exposing a Megatron-esque effect. Manziel has been banged up this season, but there's no reason to think that will happen anytime soon.

Evans was responsible for 42.4 percent of Manziel's passing yards prior to Saturday. Among the nation's elite quarterback-wide receiver duos, only LSU receiver Odell Beckham's 40.5 percent responsibility rate on Zach Mettenberger throws comes close. If there is any receiver in the nation deserving of at least a couple courtesy votes, it's Evans.

He's just not going to get them. Because the system is broken. 

Like many major awards, the criteria for a Heisman winner is frustratingly vague. Always has been. The official site defines its winner as "the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work."

So, it's pretty much nonsense. Voters are given autonomy to create their own individual voting system, and you see yearly how much regional bias comes into play. If an award needs color-coded maps that blatantly expose partiality on a yearly basis, then perhaps said system is on drugs and needs a rehab stint.

One could say that perhaps the process weeds out those nonsensical systems and usually works out for the best because of the enormous sample of voters. We already pointed out that Heisman results are nothing if not consistent. When the end result is mostly correct, why are we stomping our feet about the process even if it's stupid?

...because it's stupid. Heisman voters hold their inherent geezerly thought processes and insane assumptions. Like, because Manziel will be on a ballot that somehow excludes Evans from a voter's top five.

"People say you can't have two guys that can do that," Sumlin said. "But I was on a team at Oklahoma that had Jason White and Adrian Peterson."

Frankly, it'd be an injustice if Evans won the Heisman if the season ended today. Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and even Manziel have been more directly responsible for their teams' performances and will rightfully get their trip to New York.

The problem is we're not talking about an isolated incident. We're talking about years of quarterback deification—no matter how correct or incorrect it is—obscuring the 21 other positions as mere space-filler. We're discussing a wide receiver here, but a defense-only player has also never won the Heisman, since Jay Berwanger won the first award.

Never, according to Heisman voters, has a defensive player been the most outstanding player in college football. Never. Three fullbacks have won the bronze statue but not a single defensive player.

And there won't be a single vote for Evans this season. But that's not the real problem. The problem is that the system is rotten to its core and has been for some time. 


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