Nov 28, 2012, 6:01 PM EDT
Having a blog that covers Notre Dame football stump for an Irish player’s Heisman candidacy is pretty transparent. And lame. So I’ll spare you some of the usual rhetoric that comes with this type of column. Do I think Manti Te’o should win the Heisman Trophy? Yes. Do I think he deserves it? Yes. Do I have much to support this argument? Not really.
All that being said, let’s do this anyway. Just because it’s that time of year, and we should at least have this play out for a bit.
As of yesterday, The HeismanPundit-CBSSports.com Heisman Straw Poll had Johnny Manziel with a significant lead over Manti Te’o, in essentially a two-horse race. The redshirt freshman quarterback, who has been branded perfectly with the “Johnny Football” moniker has lost two games, but owns the upset of the year with his victory over Alabama. Besides a highlight reel that includes some terrific sandlot skills, Manziel is also putting up stats that compare favorably to Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, and Robert Griffin III (or at least so says a Texas A&M blog). Add to that the 30,000 watt megaphone that is the SEC and a cool Techmo Bowl themed viral video, and I can’t say I blame anybody if Manziel is holding college football’s most prestigious award.
Manziel seems to have captured the hearts and minds of many voters already. And while I’m basically the old man on the front porch in this scenario, here are a few things that I can’t seem to shake.
1. Manziel’s game against LSU was historically bad.
Sure, Manziel gets credit for beating Alabama, and rightfully so. But he should get equal blame for his game against LSU. Here’s a quick look at his numbers: 29 of 56 for 276 yards. 0 TD, 3 INT. 17 rushes for 27 yards. That’s one butt-ugly stat line, and might be the most historically terrible game any Heisman winner played in their crowning season. Let’s go back over the last ten years and look at the quarterbacks who won the trophy.
Heisman winning QBs worst regular season games
Carson Palmer, 2002: 18 of 46 for 186 yards. 1 TD, 0 INT (27-20 loss to Kansas St.)
Jason White, 2003: 27 of 50 for 298 yards. 0 TD, 2 INT (35-7 loss to Kansas St.)
Matt Leinart, 2004: 24 of 43 for 217 yards. 2 TD, 1 INT (38-0 victory over Washington)
Troy Smith, 2006: 12 of 22 for 115 yards. 1 TD, 2 INT (28-6 victory over Penn State)
Tim Tebow, 2007: 12 of 26 for 158 yards. 2 TD, 1 INT. 16 carries for 67 yards, 1 TD (28-24 L to LSU)
Sam Bradford, 2008: 13 of 32 for 255 yards. 3 TD, 0 INT. (58-25 victory over Kansas St.)
Cam Newton, 2010: 10 of 16 for 86 yards. 28 carries for 217 yards, 2 TD. (24-17 victory over LSU)
Robert Griffin III, 2011: 33 of 50 for 425 yards. 1 TD, 2 INT. (59-24 loss to Oklahoma State)
Stack Manziel’s afternoon against LSU up — one of his two losses — and it’s not even close. That’s the worst game that any Heisman quarterback of the last decade has played, with Jason White’s defeat in the Big 12 championship game — a game where many votes had already been cast — a distant second.
What’s the linebacker equivalent of that stat line? His defense giving up 50 points and getting run on for 300 yards?
2. How great are Manziel’s stats when adjusted for the system and the era?
Guys like Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas are penalized for being largely system players. Barner has 1,856 yards from scrimmage and sat on the sideline for most fourth quarters. Thomas is one of the game’s most electric all-purpose players. But because they’re playing in Chip Kelly’s offensive juggernaut, they’re largely relegated to the gimmick status.
Consider Manziel and the system he’s in. Just as Gus Malzahn was able to show, Kevin Sumlin has reminded SEC purists that up-tempo, spread, aerial attacks work in big-boy leagues, too. But compare Manziel’s numbers to the ones that Case Keenum put up at Houston, and you start to notice that maybe Manziel isn’t all that trenscendent, but merely a whole lot of fun to watch as a scrambler.
Manziel’s 24 touchdown passes? They’re exactly half of the total Case Keenum put up in 2011, when he finished 7th in Heisman voting, even though he threw for 5,631 yards and 48 touchdowns at Houston. Manziel’s numbers in a Sumlin-run offense pale in comparison to any of Keenum’s seasons, and really match up closer to David Piland’s, Keenum’s understudy, who threw for 24 touchdowns after Keenum was injured in 2010.
There doesn’t seem to be much mention of system when you look at Manziel, but he’s essentially the prototype system quarterback. While the legend of Johnny Football will sell a truckload of t-shirts in College Station, don’t expect the NFL to beat the door down for a wispy quarterback that’s six-foot tall on his tip-toes with arm strength even Tommy Rees would chuckle at.
3. Trout vs. Cabrera? That might not have anything on Johnny Football vs. HeIsManti.
The internet was up in arms over the American League MVP race this fall, when Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera hit for the Triple Crown, but was thought by many new-school baseball minds to have put up the inferior season when compared to Anaheim Angels centerfielder Mike Trout. While Cabrera won traditionalists over with the first Triple Crown in 45 years — leading the league in home runs, batting, average, and runs-batted-in — his old-school statistical dominance wasn’t as impressive as the impact the Angels rookie had on his team.
Comparing Te’o and Manziel give you some of the same dilemmas. In Te’o, the Heisman voters would have to break a number of molds if they were to crown him this year’s winner. Even Charles Woodson, the only other defensive player to win the award, moonlighted as a receiver and impacted the game as a return man. Yet Te’o is a linebacker, plain and simple. While he had more interceptions than any cornerback in the country, he spends his time in the trenches, just as likely to take on a guard than drop into coverage.
From an old-school/new-school perspective, Te’o and Manziel also strike an interesting fit. In many ways, Te’o should be the epitome of an old-school favorite, with his defensive status on one of the nation’s best units on the country’s only 12-0 national title contender. Yet new-school stat-heads should love what Te’o does even more than the traditionalists, with his mesmerizing mix of productivity and forced turnovers largely unseen for a player of his position.
Simply put, seasons like Manziel’s happen a whole lot more than seasons like Te’os. One is happening with another diminutive quarterback in DeKalb, where Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch is putting up stats that are almost a mirror-image of Manziel’s.
One of baseball’s best statistics is WAR, or Wins-Above-Replacement. Put simply, how many wins does player X add to the team over an average replacement? No doubt, Manziel has added a tremendous spark to the Aggies’ offense and given Kevin Sumlin a terrific triggerman in his first SEC season. But we’ve seen what Sumlin quarterbacks look like, and they didn’t put up numbers all that different from Manziel’s (more often, they were better). Meanwhile, for those of us that have watched the last decade of middle linebacker play in South Bend, I think we can all safely say that Te’o’s production over the last few guys manning the spot has been a transcendent change.
In the end, it’s only a trophy. The Heisman has gone into the hands of some of the greatest athletes ever to play football, and ended up with winners who would never see the field in the NFL. It’s part of what makes the award so wonderful. There’s little question which direction Te’o is headed in even without the statue.
So while I don’t expect this to change any voters minds, one final statement:
Jjust because we all enjoy being swept up in Johnny Football mania, doesn’t mean he’s the country’s best player.
Jul 9, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Our Irish A-to-Z tour continues with safety Eilar Hardy. A knee injury derailed his freshman season. A suspension before the Stanford game did the same after earning two late-season starts in 2013. What does 2014 have in store for the veteran?
Jul 9, 2014, 8:48 AM EDT
With some of the top recruits in the country at The Opening, Notre Dame commitment C.J. Sanders put on a show. Making the SPARQ testing finals, Sanders dazzled as he showed elite speed and explosiveness.
Jul 8, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
When Notre Dame offered legacy lineman Conor Hanratty, many raised an eyebrow. With sons of former stars like Tregg Duerson and Jake Golic doing little with the full ride many perceived as a nod to their famous predecessors, Hanratty had the profile of a player whose best attribute was his father, former Irish quarterback Terry Hanratty.
Jul 8, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
A career-threatening leg injury has put Jarrett Grace’s status up in the air. Our latest Irish A-to-Z takes a closer look at the future of Notre Dame’s middle linebacker.
Jul 8, 2014, 8:39 AM EDT
A trio of Notre Dame football players find themselves on the watch list for some very impressive postseason awards. Quarterback Everett Golson is on the Maxwell Award’s watch list while junior cornerback KeiVarae Russell and sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith were both selected to the Bednarik’s watch list.
Jul 7, 2014, 11:11 PM EDT
A few weeks after being suspended indefinitely from the football team, Irish wide receiver Will Mahone is no longer enrolled at Notre Dame.
Jul 7, 2014, 1:17 PM EDT
No game means more to Notre Dame fans than the annual battle with USC. As we finish our post-spring viewing of the Irish’s 2014 opponents, let’s take a closer look at college football’s greatest intersectional rivalry.
Jul 4, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
For all the thousands of words dedicated to Everett Golson’s comeback, few have talked about the fact that he’s still very much a quarterback in progress. Our next stop on Irish A-to-Z looks at the most important player in the program.
Jul 2, 2014, 11:36 PM EDT
Notre Dame may have missed out on Jashon Cornell and Justin Hilliard on Wednesday, but they won the commitment of jumbo receiver Miles Boykin. The Illinois native chose Notre Dame over Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida and a slew of other offers.
Jul 2, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Will Fuller served as Notre Dame’s human go route during his freshman season. As we continue our Irish A-to-Z, expect Fuller’s duties — and production — to expand greatly in 2014.
Jul 2, 2014, 10:20 AM EDT
Notre Dame ended up bridesmaids in their recruitment of Jashon Cornell and Justin Hilliard, two elite defensive prospects in the Midwest. The defensive end and linebacker made joint announcements, both deciding to attend Ohio State and play for Urban Meyer.
Jul 2, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
While most people expected a freshman running back to burst onto the scene in 2013, few thought it’d be Tarean Folston. Our next installment of Irish A-to-Z takes a look at a potential star-in-the-making.
Jul 1, 2014, 9:03 PM EDT
The recruiting train continues for Notre Dame, with Washington D.C. area defensive back Ashton White pledging his commitment to the Irish on Tuesday evening.
Jul 1, 2014, 10:58 AM EDT
As the calendar turns to July, Notre Dame athletics has officially become the flagship program for Under Armour apparel. Twitter gave us our first look at the new gear.
Jul 1, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
After stepping into a key role during 2012, many expected Matthias Farley to be the next big thing at safety for the Irish. But an up-and-down season in 2013 has Farley changing positions again, heading to cornerback. Our latest in the Irish A-to-Z.
Jun 30, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Notre Dame’s coaching staff got a good look at Pennsylvania running back Josh Adams at the Irish Invasion camp a little over a week ago. They’ll see him for four more years, as Adams committed to the Irish on Monday, adding a much needed running back to the 2015 recruiting class.
Jun 30, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT
An entertaining mailbag has us examining the upcoming point-spreads for the season, the Shamrock Series, and a whole bunch of other stuff. (Even the Warren Golf Course!)
Jun 28, 2014, 5:36 PM EDT
Recruited to be the next Zack Martin, sophomore Steve Elmer is on track to becoming the next Chris Watt. Let’s take a closer look at the sophomore who will start at left guard in 2014 as Irish A-to-Z continues.
Jun 27, 2014, 7:33 PM EDT
Spring practice came and went and linebacker Michael Deeb didn’t make a run at the open middle linebacker job. But what’s in store for the sophomore now that his redshirt is off? Our latest entry in Irish A-to-Z explores.
Jun 27, 2014, 2:05 PM EDT
Goodbye, Charlie Strong and Teddy Bridgewater. Welcome back, Bobby Petrino. SB Nation’s Mark Ennis gives us an in-depth look at Notre Dame’s 2014 opponent Louisville.