Baker Mayfield Deserves the Heisman, and His Antics Shouldn't Complicate That

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2017

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy finalist, takes a question Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

Baker Mayfield deserved to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy.

The senior star led the nation in several categories, including completion percentage, yards per attempt and rating. Mayfield averaged more than 350 yards of offense. He accounted for 46 total touchdowns while throwing only five interceptions and undoubtedly merited the award.

Mayfield propelled Oklahoma to marquee victories on the road against Ohio State and Oklahoma State, also defeating TCU twice while guiding the Sooners to a 12-1 record, the school's third consecutive Big 12 championship and the No. 2 seed in the College Football Playoff.

Louisville's Lamar Jackson and Stanford's Bryce Love were worthy finalists, yet Mayfield won the final vote with 2,398 points compared to 1,300 for the runner-up, Love.

Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World noted it was a runaway win for Mayfield.

That's where the conversation starts, and where it should end. But the Heisman Trust doesn't make it that simple.

"The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity," the mission statement says.

Right or wrong, that leaves a subjective, unquantifiable part to the Heisman. What one voter sees as a lack of self-control, another sees as passion. What one views as an egregious error in judgment, another considers a forgivable immature moment from a young kid who is otherwise loved off the field.

Given the recent history of the award, the accomplishment is dependent on nothing more than the criterion "outstanding college football player." But columns are about to be written suggesting that ought not to be the case. Some have already been published. Football fans are mad online.

It doesn't matter to the majority of voters, though.

So why does the integrity clause remain? Three other recent Heisman winners have proved its lack of importance. And if that virtue is at all integral, wouldn't it be logical to expect defined guidelines for how to determine what doesn't fit?

Mayfield has done unnecessary things both on and off the field. He has acknowledged as much.

"I understand why people would have those opinions," he said on SportsCenter recently. "Not gonna lie, some of that stuff's unacceptable. So for me, it's just about me being honest and upfront. I'm a 22-year-old kid. I'm still growing and learning. I don't have it all figured out."

News broke in February 2017 that Mayfield was arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest. He planted a flag at midfield in Columbus following an upset of Ohio State, sparking what many feel is a "non-troversy." He taunted Baylor. He grabbed his crotch and heckled the crowd at Kansas.

And that continues the pattern set by recent Heisman winners.

Cam Newton was arrested for stealing a laptop while attending Florida. In 2010, he led Auburn to an SEC title and convincingly won the Heisman voting over Andrew Luck. That happened even though a report of potentially illicit recruiting surfaced less than a month prior to the award's presentation.

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and his memorable money sign celebrationwhich maybe wasn't a money sign celebrationtore through college football. Leading into his 2012 Heisman-winning year, though, Manziel was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, failure to identify and having a fake driver's license.

In 2013, Florida State's Jameis Winston more than tripled the voting points of runner-up AJ McCarron. Of the three winners, Winston's history includes the most sensitive sequence of events.

While the timeline of the reports did not happen in this order, these events are listed chronologically. During his first college year, Winston was handcuffed for carrying a pellet gun, told police he was hunting squirrels near campus and released. Soon after, he reportedly engaged in a BB gun battle, which resulted in $4,200 of damage to an apartment.

And as he accepted the Heisman Trophy, questions about a then-recently reported sexual assault investigation lingered.

Winston and Manziel shared the finalist stage in 2013.
Winston and Manziel shared the finalist stage in 2013.Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Newton, Manziel and Winston had several other improper moments after winning the Heisman. There was Manziel's autograph-caused suspension, as well as Winston's shoplifting and unnecessary, vulgar interjection. Those troubles extended into their pro careers, where more unsavory events have arisen.

While the severity of the issues varies, ultimately they were all inappropriate.

Nevertheless, four winners of college football's most prestigious award, theoretically, haven't fit the Heisman Trust's mission statement in an eight-year span. Both Manziel and Winston each had another top-six finish in the final voting, too.

Yet here we are.

Yes, here we are, discussing integrity during a week in which former winner O.J. Simpsonsomeone whose football past is overshadowed by a controversial not-guilty verdict and a recent nine-year prison termsaid he voted for the award.

The Heisman Trust did not respond to Bleacher Report's request for confirmation of whether Simpson has a vote.

The integrity clause, in the current form, is useless. Remove it, define it or accept that these discussions are bound to happen. The subjectivity of the phrase makes it inconsistent in application and overshadows the celebrations of an individual's outstanding season.

Mayfield deserved the Heisman for accomplishing the pursuit of excellence on the field. That's how this conversation is going to end.

Because that's the way it should.

        

Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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