It’s an honor and a privilege to be a Heisman Trophy voter. It’s hardly an exclusive club – there are 870 of us across the country.
I love the Heisman Trophy, although I’m sometimes confused as to what it stands for. During my more
than 10 years of voting, I’ve gone with the player I deem to be the best in college football. But it’s a flawed system because there are years when the best player in college football is not a quarterback, receiver or running back.
Yet those are the positions that produce Heisman winners, almost exclusively.
Voting for the Heisman should be fun. It was fun. But for the past couple of years it’s become a hair-pulling exercise in judging talent and contribution (it comes with the job) and weighing a player’s morality and behavior (I didn’t sign up for that).
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston would be my top candidate this season, except that he’s been accused of sexual assault. I don’t know if he’ll be charged. But from what I’ve read, the accusation seems to have some merit. But FSU has not suspended Winston and the undefeated Seminoles look like a good bet to play in the national championship game.
Provided Winston isn’t charged in the next few days or weeks leading up to that game in early January.
Last year, linebacker Manti Te’o of Notre Dame had a fake girlfriend and Texas A&M Johnny Manziel had a fake ID. The morality police favored Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein because he was an outstanding player and all-around good guy.
But I didn’t vote for Klein to win the Heisman because I didn’t think he was the best player. And the off-the-field issues facing Te’o and Manziel weren’t great enough, as I weighed them, to cause me to drop them from consideration.
A rape accusation is, of course, a big deal. And while I cannot presume the guilt of Winston, I also cannot presume his innocence. Not yet. And with Heisman ballots due in a couple of weeks, how can I possibly submit my vote in favor of Winston with such a cloud hanging over his head?
This is a dilemma, especially considering that most of the other legitimate Heisman candidates have at least diminished their candidacies in recent weeks and in some cases torched them.
Manziel, the defending Heisman winner, has had an even better sophomore season at A&M. Until Saturday, when he bombed in a blowout loss to LSU. Manziel was awful in that game, much as he was awful against the Tigers in 2012.
But he made up for it last season by leading the Aggies past unbeaten Alabama three weeks later. People forgot his mediocre performance against LSU.
Manziel probably can’t recover this time. A&M has already played Alabama and while Manziel was terrific in that game, the Aggies lost, 45-42. One of their three losses. It’s not as easy to cast a Heisman vote this season for Manziel, even though he’s a better quarterback.
Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was starting to get some traction in the Heisman race before the Bears blew a gasket in Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State. And Oregon QB Marcus Mariota is washed up after two Ducks losses.
The best candidate now might be boring ol’ AJ McCarron from Alabama. You remember him, right? He’s the guy whose girlfriend Brent Musburger has the hots for.
All McCarron does is win national championships. He benefits, of course, for quarterbacking Alabama. Does anyone think AJ would be winning hardware if he played for anyone else?
It’s a worthy debate, but thanks to some poor and recent performances by Heisman frontrunners and a cloud of unknown that hangs over Winston, McCarron is easily the safe choice and he just might be the best.
McCarron doesn’t have the gaudy numbers of a Manziel, Winston, Petty or Mariotta, but that W-L ledger looks pretty good. And he’s not a slouch, either, having passed for 2,399 yards and 23 touchdowns this season while completing 68.6 percent of his pass attempts.
The New York Athletic Club could hand the Heisman Trophy to McCarron without regret of disappointment. And that might be the way we’re headed.
Trouble is, McCarron isn’t the player Manziel, Winston, Petty or Mariota are. And it’s obvious. That’s not a slight on McCarron, who is a tremendous leader and field general. I don’t think Alabama coach Nick Saban would trade him for any other quarterback. He fits the Crimson Tide’s system perfectly.
Even so, I don’t want to vote for McCarron. I might end up doing so, but it’ll be a vote cast with my eyes looking fondly at the statistics of the other guys.
Especially Winston, who has taken college football by storm this season, much the way Manziel did in 2012. But Winston has too many questions surrounding him. I can’t vote for him with the possibility that a rape charge could be looming.
What to do?
Perhaps clarity will be provided over the regular season’s final two weeks. But considering the confusion and turmoil of the past couple of weeks as they relate to the Heisman race, I’m not counting on it.