What Heisman History Tells Us About Jameis Winston's Chances to Repeat

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterMarch 19, 2014

Florida State kicked off spring practices on Wednesday And so did quarterback Jameis Winston's quest for a second Heisman and national championship. 

Last December, Winston became the second freshman ever to win the Heisman, beating out Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel—the first freshman to win the award (2012). 

As that would suggest, winning back-to-back Heisman trophies is near impossible. And former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the only two-time winner (1974, '75). 

There are myriad reasons why winning back-to-back Heismans is a rarity. There's the proverbial target on the reigning winner's back; the risk of injury; and, sometimes, the team around him simply isn't as good and his stats suffer. 

Additionally, the Heisman used to be an upperclassman award—unofficially, anyway. Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was the first sophomore to win in 2007. 

In fact, only seven juniors won the Heisman during the first 50 years the trophy was handed out. In the past 10 years, though, only one senior—Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith (2006)—has won. 

Not surprisingly, then, returning Heisman winners are a recent trend. In the same 10-year span, seven Heisman winners returned the following year, including Winston. Before that, you have to go back to BYU quarterback Ty Detmer (1990) to find the last recipient who came back for another year. 

Stats for Returning Heisman winners (2003-13)
Player (School)YearPassing YardsRushing YardsTotal TouchdownsHeisman Finalist?
Jason White (Oklahoma)20043,205--35Yes
Matt Leinart (USC20053,8153434Yes
Tim Tebow (Florida)20082,74667342Yes
Sam Bradford (Oklahoma)2009562--2No
Mark Ingram Jr. (Alabama)2010--87514No
Johnny Manziel20134,11475946Yes
cfbstats.com, sports-reference.com

In just about every case recently, returning Heisman winners' stats aren't as good as the year they won the award. But again, stats are only a snapshot that tell part of the story.

Former Alabama running back Mark Ingram Jr. (2009) was hampered with a knee injury early the following season. He was also part of a crowded backfield that included Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. 

Former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford (2008) missed basically the entire '09 season with a shoulder injury he sustained in the opener against BYU. Injuries are often nothing more than tough luck, something that can never truly be accounted for. 

Other times, reigning Heisman winners perform just fine and manage to stay healthy. Still, it's hard to repeat. 

Manziel's total yardage (5,116 to 4,873) and touchdowns (47 to 46) went down from 2012 to '13, but there's a point to be made that he was even more valuable to his team. Manziel's critics pointed to his 13 interceptions, but with the Aggies' defense giving up 32 points per game, Johnny Football was caught playing catch-up. 

Manziel had two great seasons at Texas A&M. Winston was simply considered better in 2013. 

Former USC quarterback Matt Leinart actually had more passing yards in 2005 (3,815) than he did in his Heisman-winning season (2004) (3,322). Leinart was great in '05, but Trojan running back Reggie Bush and his 2,218 yards from scrimmage and 18 total touchdowns were considered better. So, Bush won the trophy that year (which was later forfeited because of NCAA violations). 

In short, there are more things going against a potential two-time winner than there are going for them. 

Winston was the best player in college football last season, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns; and he returns as the best player this year. Even though Florida State lost a lot of talent from last year's championship team, more talent is waiting in the wings.

Does that mean Winston will have the best season of anyone in 2014? Maybe, but does it matter? According to Dan Wolken of the USA Today, 13 percent of Heisman voters left Winston off their ballot last year—and that was after State Attorney Willie Meggs announced Winston would not be charged in a sexual battery allegation. 

It was a bad situation for everyone involved and it proved—fairly or unfairly—impactful upon the voters' decisions; will it impact the ballots a year later?

We'll find out in nine months, but history suggests there are many factors working against Winston. 


Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com and sports-reference.com


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