Well, it's that time of year again. The time for football pundits of all levels to debate the validity of their favorite candidates for the Heisman Trophy.
The value of the Heisman aside, the discussion about what makes a candidate viable or not is typically entertaining and almost always based on some flawed premise.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Candidate A can win because his team has won a lot of games.
- Candidate B can win because he has great statistics.
- Candidate C cannot win because his supporting cast is talented, hence he is not.
- Candidate D can win because he's been great for years.
- Candidate E can win because he's better this year than last year.
- Candidate F cannot win because he's not a quarterback.
I am hoping some of you who have used these arguments read them aloud and, when you do, understand just how pointless they are. According to the official site of the Heisman Trophy, here's its mission statement:
The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes 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. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award. The Trust, furthermore, has a charitable mission to support amateur athletics and to provide greater opportunities to the youth of our country. Our goal through these charitable endeavors is for the Heisman Trophy to symbolize the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth, especially those disadvantaged or afflicted. All assets of the Trust beyond the expense of maintaining the annual presentation of the Heisman Memorial Trophy are reserved for such charitable causes. The Trustees, who all serve pro bono, are guided by a devotion to college football and are committed to community service and the valued tradition which the Trophy represents.
The key ls in those first two sentences, right? There's no mention of statistics or wins, and nothing about it being a lifetime-achievement award. The spirit of this award is to reward the most outstanding player, and it is really that simple.
But, let me jump back to argument No. 3 above. This one in particular applies to the case for or against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. This comes largely from the Winston crowd, who points to the long list of NFL prospects on the Alabama roster. This tweet is a pretty good measure of the tenor of McCarron's critics:
McCarron is neither a game manager nor a Heisman candidate. He's just a fairly good quarterback surrounded by absurd talent.
—Tom Jarvis (@Tom_Howie_Jarv) November 10, 2013
And with this, I started to think about it. Who was the last player to win the Heisman who didn't have the talent around them? We all acknowledge that football is the consummate team sport, and so the success of any player is dependent on the success of the group.
And just for reference, here is a look at McCarron and the Crimson Tide this year.
Now we flip the argument over to everyone's No. 1 candidate, Winston. As I peruse the Seminoles roster and look back at its performance this season. I find myself a bit perplexed. Not because of Winston's talent, because it is undeniable.
No, my confusion comes from how college football at large seems to give Winston a pass on the same fundamental criticism leveled at McCarron.
The fact of the matter is, this Seminoles team is stacked on both sides of the football. In fact, as I go unit by unit, I have a hard time giving the Crimson Tide much of an edge at any position. In particular, that Florida State defense is smothering. They just snuff out opposing offenses and hand the football to Winston time after time.
Understand that none of this diminishes the excitement Winston has brought to college football this year. And none of this pertains to his potential NFL future. Nevertheless, it is impossible to say that this Florida State roster wasn't tailor-made for success.
Would Clint Trickett have had this type of year? It's impossible to say, but let's not pretend that Winston inherited an ordinary roster. If the case is being made that McCarron's success is due in part to the talent around him, it's impossible to make a cogent argument that Winston's is not.
Oh, and in case you have been living under a rock the past couple of months, here's a nice look at what Winston brings to the table.
I suppose now is time for my big disclaimer. If I were the Grand Poobah of the Heisman, I would have neither Winston or McCarron in my top two. I will be doing a breakdown of my favorites for the award, but for now understand if you support Winston as the Heisman, don't do so by propping up the talent level McCarron or any other candidate has surrounding him.
It just doesn't pass the eyeball test.
Looking at the top candidates, there are several players having seasons just as outstanding and doing it with far less talent around them. If that is your criteria, I am afraid Winston and McCarron are both out for you.