When Andrew Luck would be the No. 1 overall draft pick in the NFL two years in a row but never wins the Heisman, or even comes overly close to winning it, my knee-jerk reaction is to wonder why do we even bother celebrating the Heisman any more? The award for the “most outstanding player” in college football usually goes to a nondescript quarterback with no hope of being a good NFL player who just so happens to start for the national champion, or a team that’s in the running until the final week or two.
But Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, the man who beat out Andrew Luck this year, will probably be a top-15 NFL draft pick. And Cam Newton, last year’s winner, was the No. 1 pick and will also likely be this year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Rather than be ashamed, Heisman voters have more reason to boast than they have in a long, long time. When it came to picking worthy winners, the Heisman had been on a losing streak for most of three decades.
I’d still have voted for Luck. Both times. Last year, he led Stanford to its first BCS bowl victory ever. Stanford has been to one of the four biggest bowls only once in 40 years. The Cardinal has now done it twice in a row with Luck. Stanford was a school-record 12-1 with Luck last year and will do the same this year if it beats No. 3 Oklahoma State in the bowls. Stanford had seven consecutive losing seasons before Luck became quarterback but is 31-7 with Luck. He also put up great stats even though Stanford runs slightly more than it passes.
How much more do you need to do?
Except RG3 and Cam Newton also had dramatic effects on their teams’ fortunes and put up great stats.
So I can live with RG3 and Cam Newton. They were picked for two reasons; helping their teams win and putting up great stats. But they also have the potential to do that in the pros. They made their teams, not the other way around, which is why so many past Heisman winners got picked.
Players who lift their teams (such as Doug Flutie) rather than teams who make their star look good (Eric Crouch, Gino Torretta, Rashaan Salaam , Jason White, Troy Smith, Danny Wuerffel, Chris Weinke and so many others) deserve to win the Heisman, even if they aren’t the best pure talent.
As much as I thought Luck should win — both times — I’d say the last two years are the first time since Charles Woodson beat out Peyton Manning in 1997 that either of the top two would have been a great choice.
In so many years, the Heisman runner-up was light years better than the winner, players such as Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, Marshall Faulk, Steve Young, etc.
Who knows, this year might even join the great top-three years of 1970 (Jim Plunkett, Joe Theismann and Archie Manning), 1980 (George Rogers, Hugh Green and Herschel Walker), 1981 (Marcus Allen, Herschel Walker and Jim McMahon) and the greatest Heisman year ever in 1982 — Herschel Walker, John Elway and Eric Dickerson.
That would be fitting: The two greatest Heisman years featured a Stanford quarterback finishing second. Even if he should have won, you can’t argue about that company. If, that is, RG3 and Andrew Luck (not to mention third-place finisher Trent Richardson of Alabama) live up to their hype.