AJ McCarron has played nearly flawless football for the Alabama Crimson Tide this season, leading college football's premier team to a perfect start. He has done everything asked of him, but it shouldn't be enough to take home this year's Heisman Trophy.
Look up efficiency in the dictionary, and McCarron's picture shows up, but search his name and Google mostly churns out photos of his girlfriend. That's the life of McCarron, who lives out of the spotlight despite guiding the nation's top team.
During his senior season, McCarron has completed a dazzling 69.4 percent of his passes for 2,041 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and three interceptions. He only attempts 25 throws a game, but he makes the most of them with 8.9 yards per attempt.
The hometown kid could guide his squad to a third straight championship this season, but individual accolades will continue to elude him. Nick Saban's powerhouse puts McCarron in prime real estate to post effective numbers, but it hinders the quarterback from lighting up the box score.
There's nothing more McCarron can accomplish in this system. Over his past five games, he has completed 70.6 percent of his throws with 13 touchdowns and zero picks. He played a near-perfect game against Georgia State last month, misfiring on just one pass throughout the 45-3 victory.
He finished with four touchdowns, but just 166 yards on 16 attempts. That's remarkable accuracy, but those aren't Heisman numbers.
Too many other signal-callers are generating stats that'd feel outlandish in a video game. Oregon's Marcus Mariota has a lower completion percentage (63.8), but he has yet to cough up an interception, makes even more of his throws with 9.8 yards per attempts and can add 495 rushing yards to his tally.
Johnny Manziel is forced to take on more responsibility for Texas A&M, and it shows with his 11 interceptions. But the gunslinger also carries a 73 completion percentage with 3,924 total yards and 39 touchdowns.
Then there's Jameis Winston, who can match McCarron's accuracy and team success, but he has also compiled an incredible 11.1 yards per attempt.
|Player||Completion %||Passing Yards||Passing TDs||INTs||Rushing Yards||Rushing TDs|
Ask any athlete if he or she would prefer a team title or an individual award, and he or she will likely take the collective success without hesitation. At least that's what they're told to say. Turns out Liz Lemon isn't the only one who can't have it all.
Some voters might feel inclined to sneak McCarron to the front of the Heisman line because of his team's success. Before McCarron tossed three touchdowns to top LSU on Saturday, CBS Sports' Gary Danielson argued on The Dan Patrick Show that McCarron deserves to win.
Danielson declared that McCarron could compile 4,000 passing yards in a pass-happy offense, and he felt the pressure of having to win every game for the Crimson Tide gives the quarterback some bonus points.
Everybody is trying to win, so McCarron doesn't get a notch up there. If anything, Mariota, Manziel and Winston must deliver much more to propel their respective schools to victory.
But Danielson makes a valid point about McCarron's statistical potential elsewhere. He's certainly talented enough to accumulate more impressive results if he had free reign to fire away.
Then again, what would any of those other superbly skilled quarterbacks accomplish with 'Bama's impenetrable offensive line that has relinquished just eight sacks? Would McCarron's efficiency that makes him a Heisman contender evaporate under more trying circumstances?
When deciding individual awards in any sports, the electorate often falters by placing a win-loss record over metrics that mean more for measuring personal merit.
McCarron deserves praise, but at the same time should not be bestowed with the highest honor a college football player can receive. Juggling individual and team success is a tricky balancing act, but the distinction remains.