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07 Dec 2007

Junkie Special: Colt Brennan for Heisman

by Russell Levine

There are certain unwritten rules regarding the awarding of the Heisman Trophy, perhaps the most prestigious individual award in American sports. It almost always :

  • goes to a quarterback or running back (23 of the past winners have played either position)
  • goes to a player from a major conference (again, 23 of the past 25 recipients came from teams that are presently in the BCS conferences)
  • goes to a player on a team having a great year (the past seven winners have all been from schools in the thick of national-title chase).

Most importantly, it always goes to an upperclassman.

This has been a season unlike any in recent memory, so it should come as no surprise that the Heisman appears poised to break a few trends as well. The heavy favorite is Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, just a sophomore on a team with three losses. Another of the finalists, running back Darren McFadden, plays for an Arkansas team that has lost four times.

But as long as unconventional candidates are being considered, the best one can be found 2,400 miles from the U.S. mainland. Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, another of the finalists, is the nation's "most outstanding player," yet is not likely to hear his name called Saturday night at the ceremony in New York.

Brennan was Hawaii's most valuable player, by a mile, in a year in which they experienced unprecedented success. The Warriors are the nation's lone undefeated team, and will face Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, having secured just the third BCS bid ever awarded a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference.

Brennan has been denigrated as a "system quarterback." Hawaii operates a run-and-shoot offense, passing on virtually every play. The same attack allowed the Warriors' previous starting quarterback, Timmy Chang, to set an armful of NCAA passing records. But dismissing Brennan's accomplishments as simply the result of an offense that is pass-first, -second, and -third is no more fair than awarding the trophy to Tebow because he is the Gators' primary ball-carrier as well as passer. Brennan's numbers are simply staggering. He has a career completion percentage of 70.7%, with 131 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 15 scores.

This year, the numbers are typically astonishing: 337-of-472 passing (71.4%), for 4,174 yards, and 38 touchdowns, with another eight scores rushing.

Comparing team success also gives the edge to Brennan, as Hawaii went 12-0 while Florida finished 9-3. True, Tebow and Florida played much tougher competition than Hawaii, but Tebow is also surrounded by far more talented players.

The biggest factors weighing in Brennan's favor are the pressure under which he has played, and his performance in Hawaii's biggest games. He entered the season knowing he and his team had to be perfect to even have a chance at a BCS game, and Brennan raised his game when Hawaii faced its most difficult stretch to close the season.

Hawaii's three toughest opponents, Fresno State, Boise State, and Washington (the only BCS conference team on the Warriors schedule) were among the team's final four games. In those contests, Brennan was marvelous, completing 110 out of 142 passes (78.7%) for 1,333 yards, 12 touchdowns, and just two interceptions. He also added a pair of rushing scores. That's an average stat line of 37-of-47, 444 yards, 4 TDs, 1 interception, and 1 rushing TD.

Brennan also showed his resiliency throughout the season -- rallying Hawaii for overtime wins against Louisiana Tech and San Jose State -- but never more so than in the final two games. He was knocked unconscious late in the win over Fresno State, missing the remainder of that contest. The following week against Nevada, he showed his unselfishness by playing two snaps on the first series in order to help create confusion for the Wolfpack defenders. In doing so, his per-game averages suffered and he lost a career-long streak of games with at least 200 yards passing, but may have helped his team win a close game.

Brennan returned for Hawaii's final two games, with the WAC title and a BCS bid on the line. Against Boise State, the Warriors fell behind early as Brennan threw two interceptions. From that point on, he was unstoppable, finishing 40-of-53 for 495 yards and five scores in a 39-27 win.

With the stakes even higher against Washington, Brennan also bailed the Warriors out of an early hole. Hawaii fell behind 21-0 thanks to penalties and turnovers, but Brennan went 42-of-50 for 442 yards and another five touchdowns -- the last giving Hawaii the lead in the final minute -- without an interception.

Contrast that to the outcome for Tebow and Florida in the Gators' five biggest games, against Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Kentucky, and Georgia. Though he played reasonably well, the Gators went 2-3 in that stretch to fall out of national- and conference-title contention.

The Heisman is not supposed to be a career achievement award, though it sometimes goes that way, such as when Nebraska's Eric Crouch won in 2001. If any player deserves such a career prize, it is Brennan. He has brought a Hawaii program with a limited budget, poor facilities, and the unique challenges of geography to the big money world of the BCS, an outcome that will have a lasting effect on the school's football operations for years.

The last player from a non-major conference school to win the Heisman was BYU quarterback Ty Detmer, also a "system" player, in 1990 -- a year that in many ways paralleled this one for strange results. If the traditional Heisman tenets are to be broken this season, they might as well be for the right player. That player is Colt Brennan.

This article appeared in Wednesday's New York Sun. To read Allen Barra's companion piece in favor of Tim Tebow, please click here.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 07 Dec 2007

55 comments, Last at 11 Dec 2007, 3:50pm by zlionsfan


by rick (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 4:32pm

Does anyone think that Colt Brennan is half as good an athlete as Tim Tebow ?

by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 4:46pm

Colt is not that valuable to Hawaii. Keep in mind that Hawaii went undefeated despite Brennan missing a couple of games. Take Tebow off Florida, and they'd have a few more losses. Take Dixon off Oregon, and they're essentially early season Notre Dame.

The Heisman is not a career acheivement award, it is a season per season award. Eric Crouch didn't win it as a career achievment, he won it because he produced highlight reel runs, passes, and catches, while the conventional QB vote was split between a good Rex Grossman, an undefeated Ken Dorsey, and a supremely promoted Joey Harrington. There are players who are having a better season than Brennan.

And FO of all people should know that gutting out close wins over mediocre to flat out bad competition is not a sign of a good team. If you want to award Brennan the Heisman based on Hawaii's being undefeated, you might want to go read through your books again, because it goes against everything this site preaches.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 4:46pm

A lot of people think he's a better quarterback.

The Olympics are for atheletes, not the Heisman.

by Dean (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 4:56pm

RE#1: Does anyone think Tim Tebow is half as good a quarterback as Brennan?

If Tebow were to go pro today, he'd be a draftable running back. In 2 years - barring a complete overhaul of his mechanics - he'll probably still be a draftable running back.

Either way, the Heismann should go to McFadden.

by Eric J (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 5:00pm

According to FEI, Florida has the #1 offense in the country (and the #75 defense). So, Tebow is both the quarterback and primary ball carrier for the best offense in the country. Sounds like a good pick for the Heisman to me...

by Adam Gretz (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 5:21pm

People still care about the Heisman Trophy?

I stopped paying attention the year Jason White won over Larry Fitzgerald.

by hrudey (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 5:23pm

Tebow played eight games against teams in the top 25 in pass defense. If you count taking two snaps vs. Nevada, Brennan played four games against teams in the top 75 in pass defense. Of course, when you're throwing five interceptions vs. the 95th ranked pass defense or four more vs. the 80th ranked pass defense, I guess it doesn't matter. But against the unbelievably softer pass defenses he faced, Brennan did put up a passer rating that is only 11.5 points behind Tebow, and he managed to top 10 yards per attempt three games. Tebow, of course, only managed 9.9 per attempt for the season. ;)

But I can see the point. Brennan was better than Tebow in every way, other than passing for fewer yards per attempt, a worse TD%, a worse INT %, and against a remarkably softer schedule. Oh, and something about running the ball.

The numbers put up by Brennan in his last three 'competitive' games are good. 1347 total yards with 14 TDs vs. 2 INT against the 60th, 38th and 102nd ranked pass defenses (or 78th, 22nd and 103 overall defenses) is certainly an accomplishment. Meanwhile, Tebow against Vandy, SC and FSU (19, 5 and 74 in passing, 21, 57 and 37 in overall defense) put up merely 1090 total yards and 17 TD / 2 INT.

by Beano Cook (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 5:25pm

Tim Tebow will win three Heismans before he's done!

by rick (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 5:33pm

Graham Harrel 468-644 .727 5298 yds. 45td-14int 160.5 rating in Big 12. Colt 337-472 .714 4174 yds. 38td-14INT 166.3 rating against the !@#$% WAC. Are you kidding me ?

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 5:34pm

Re: 2

I'd vote for Tebow, but you can make a legitimate case for Brennan. It's not just about the numbers. His accuracy allows his receivers to make plays. He doesn't turn the ball over. He can use his feet to make things happen. And he rarely makes a bad read (his knowledge of that offense is incredible).

Hawaii is 23-2 in its last 25 games. In the last 2 years of the Timmy Chang era they were 17-10. We've seen Hawaii without Brennan and I thinks its clear he's taken this team to a new level.

by LyleNM (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 6:09pm

If you surrounded Colt Brennan with the rest of the Florida offense, there wouldn't even be a question of who is winning the Heisman Trophy. If you surrounded Tim Tebow with the rest of the Hawaii offense, he probably wouldn't be considered as good as Jay Cutler was.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 6:25pm

Colt is not that valuable to Hawaii.

I have to agree there - Hawaii's offense comes from a combination of Colt (who is a very, very good quarterback) and having 3 NFL-quality wide receivers.

That being said, I'm not that 'up' on Tebow either. It's funny that Colt gets the "system quarterback" label, whereas Tebow is more what I would consider a 'system quarterback' - I think his success is more a function of other teams simply not figuring out how to deal with Florida's offense yet. In contrast, I don't buy the whole "Hawaii's got a funky offense" thing - it's just a heavy dose of West Coast-like timing patterns (slant/flat combos, swing passes, etc.). Teams certainly should know how to deal with those - they just can't because of the receivers and Brennan.

Still, as was pointed out, the Heisman's a year-long award, and if it takes teams more than a year to figure out Florida's offense with Tebow in it, he kinda does deserve it.

by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 6:29pm

#10, And Tebow's accuracy doesn't allow his recievers to make plays? Or is that just a fancy way of saying that Brennan gets a ton of extra yardage on YAC?

He doesn't turn the ball over? His 14 INTs tie him for the 23rd most in the country. Tebow is tied for 103rd. Maybe that's just a function of Brennan throwing a lot more? Nope, Brennan throws a pick every 39.93 attempts, Tebow every 52.83. If not turning the ball over is a plus for Brennan, it's an even bigger advantage for Tebow.

And the same thing goes for the whole using his feet to make plays thing. Brennan had 65 yards rushing, averaging .9 yards per rush, and 8 TDs. Tebow has 838 rushing yards, is averaging 4.3 yards per rush, and has 22 TDs. This migh be an argument if you were talking about a QB like Jake Locker or Dan LeFevour, but with Brennan it's simply no comparison.

An if you're going to try and bring up Brennan's record, then at least don't skate by with strategically placed cutoffs. They've played 26 games over the last two seasons, and that game you left off was a loss to an Alabama team that would finish the season with a losing record, in which Brennan's vaunted offense put up a whole 17 points.

by thestar5 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 6:49pm

Personally, I don't know who should win the Heisman, both sides make good arguements.

But as far as the NFL, I just don't think Brennan will be a good quarterback.

by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 6:50pm

#11, you don't know that. Hawaii has better WRs than Florida does. And Tebow's high school system was a June Jones Clone, and he put up scorching numbers in it. And given the weaker defenses in the WAC, I think Tebow's numbers would be through the roof if they switched places. And Jay Cutler was SEC offensive player of the year, over Darren McFadden and JaMarcus Russell, if he weren't hitched to Vanderbilt, he'd have been a Heisman finalist for sure.

#12, while the routes aren't that odd, what makes Hawaii a system school is the fact that they attempted 606 passes. It's kinda like how Navy's rushing offense puts up phenominal numbers and no one cares. If you're going to throw 600 passes then you'd better throw 40-50 TDs, if there are teams out there attempting 300-400 passses and throwing 25-35 TDs.

Teams haven't figured out how to deal with the spread? Teams have been running it for over a decade. Click the link on my name, there's a video I found on Heisman Pundit that shows every TD Tim Tebow scored this season. He threads the needle in the passing game as admirably as any QB in college football this season, and on most of his TD runs there are defenders who read the play well, and are in position, but Tebow breaks them off. That's individual ability, not a system.

by Tiresias (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 7:02pm


You point out that the Hawaii system produces insane numbers with the likes of Timmy Chang, then spend the rest of the article talking about Brennan's numbers. The stats argument is paper thin. I think you pretty much said it all when you wrote:

"Hawaii’s three toughest opponents, Fresno State, Boise State, and Washington..."

For fairness sake, I'll point out that I'm an Auburn alum and probably less than neutral when it comes to the SEC. That said, Darren McFadden was the most impressive player I saw this year. Arkansas sucks in the passing game, but he's just such a beast that their offense actually works.

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 7:02pm


I mentioned nothing about Tebow in my post, other than the fact that I would vote for him. This isn't about a Brennan/Tebow comparison. I was simply pointing out that you can make a case for Brennan to win the trophy.

Tebow's "accuracy" and completion percentage is a function of his being, in effect, a great running back. What I was trying to state in regards to Brennan is his ability to put the ball, with a very quick release, in a spot on say a screen pass where the WR catches it in stride and can make a play. That's not Tebow's strength.

When I stated he can use his feet to make plays, again I was pointing out that he has an ability to scramble and that he's not a statue back there.

Fine, Hawaii's 23-3 in their last 2 seasons. But since you mentioned the Alabama game, tell me how many SEC teams had more yards than Hawaii's 372 last year against Bama? 1-LSU

by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 7:22pm

#17, several of Tebow's TD passes came of well designed screen passes. A few came on blown coverages, as all good QBs take advantage of. But the majority of them came on extremely well placed balls put through tight coverage. Tebow's accuracy is overshadowed by his running ability, but he's in an offense that takes shots farther than 10 yards far more often than Hawaii's does, and yet Tebow's completion percentage is very comperable to Brennan's. Brennan is a naturally accurate QB, but no more accurate than Tebow, Bradford, Brohm, LeFevour, Daniel, or any of the other naturally talented QBs who play in a different passing system. Even on Hawaii's team, less talented QBs have inflated completion percentages. Brennan's backup, Tyler Graunke completed over 65% of his passes this season, Graunke's backup, Inoke Funaki, is completing over 66%. These are not phenominal natural talents, they are mediocre players who play in a system that lends itself to a higher completion percentage.

by Harris (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 7:33pm

You'll never convince me Detmer deserved the Heisman over Rocket Ismail. The man averaged more than 25-yards per touch that year, scoring TDs rushing, receiving and returning punts and kickoffs. Plus, he beat Michigan and Colorado damn near single-handily (I'll be cold and dead before I'll believe that was really a clip).

by LyleNM (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 7:59pm

#15: "#11, you don’t know that. Hawaii has better WRs than Florida does. And Tebow’s high school system was a June Jones Clone, and he put up scorching numbers in it. And given the weaker defenses in the WAC, I think Tebow’s numbers would be through the roof if they switched places. And Jay Cutler was SEC offensive player of the year, over Darren McFadden and JaMarcus Russell, if he weren’t hitched to Vanderbilt, he’d have been a Heisman finalist for sure."

Well, my point is that you can't use the "Look at his competition" card without also considering the "Look who he's playing with" card. Probably none of the rest of Hawaii's offense will see NFL playing time. How many Gators will? (And let's not forget about defenses, either. They matter - that's why Cutler wasn't a Heisman contender and Russell was.)

by mrh (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 8:02pm

From that point on, he [Brennan] was unstoppable

So Colt Brennan is really Eli Manning?

by LyleNM (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 8:07pm

And by the way, I thought at the time that Andre Ware was a horrible pick for Heisman. Ditto for Torretta and Jason White. I don't think Brennan falls into that category. Brennan helped make an average team into a great (hmmm, how about "nearly great" or "very above average") team. Tebow helped make a great or nearly great team into, umm, a nearly great team.

by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 9:02pm

#20, And how many of Florida's recievers will? Andre Caldwell isn't as good a prospect as Davone Bess. Percey Harvin will be drafted, but he's the next in line of the long line of "I'm really fast but don't know how to run a single route" WRs. I'd take Cornelius Ingram over Hawaii's tight end, but that's only because Hawaii never uses a tight end. Niether team has any running backs who'll get NFL attention. Florida might eventually eventually have some decent offensive linemen, but aside from Drew Miller, they're fielding a flock of Freshmen.

Florida as a team is not as talented as people think. The physical ability is there, but they've got 13 seniors and 59 freshman on the roster, as opposed to Hawaii's 30 and 28. There's no experience on Florida. Right now, there aren't a whole lot of sure fire NFL prospects on Florida.

And Russell was never really a heisman canidate, he didn't get a single vote.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 9:23pm

Probably none of the rest of Hawaii’s offense will see NFL playing time.

I'll take that bet. In a heartbeat. Bess, if he declared this year, would probably be a late first-day or early second-day pick. If he has a decent year next year (and Graunke looks like a serviceable QB at least) he'll probably go in the 2nd round in 2009.

Rivers probably should be higher than he typically is - he's got good size, above-average speed, and ridiculous experience - and he'll probably end up rising at workouts.

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 9:56pm

"If Tebow were to go pro today, he’d be a draftable running back. In 2 years - barring a complete overhaul of his mechanics - he’ll probably still be a draftable running back."

I dunno, I see him more as a classic H-Back. He'd be a pretty interesting threat on an NFL team, as long as he's not lined up under center.

I'm fascinated as to where Brennan will be drafted. I just have no clue.

by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Fri, 12/07/2007 - 10:34pm

23: Plus, he's the brother of Reche "Bug Eyes" Caldwell. Total guilt by association.

But seriously, am I alone in thinking it would be nice to have seen Dixon as a finalist? I'm not an Oregon booster, but seeing that offense with and without him was like night and day (anyone who saw the Arizona game could testify to that). I think the offense was 6th in offensive REI with him, and sunk to 21st after just 2+ games without him.

At the time I watched the Arizona game (before the injury), I was thinking "why would they risk injuring his leg by starting him rather than resting him"? Then, after seeing Leaf the Younger play, I understood why.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 12:45am

The "right" player is Tim Tebow, and this is coming from a Gater Hator. The fact that Tebow is a sophomore should not be held against him.

by Dave (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 2:04am

#25, I don't know when he'll go, but I'd bet he's the 4th QB taken behind Brian Brohm, Andre Woodson, and Matt Ryan.

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 3:52am

Re: 13

"An if you’re going to try and bring up Brennan’s record, then at least don’t skate by with strategically placed cutoffs."

And then you go and mention Funaki, who's attempted 15 passes all year as some type of "proof" that Brennan's a system QB? Alex Smith threw for 32 TDs and only 4 INTs, ran for 10 more scores, and had a nearly 0.5 yard better YPC than Tebow his senior season (with 630 rushing yards). Seems to me, Meyer has a "system" as well.

In effect, they are all "systems." Some are going to lend themselves to better statistics than others.

by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 8:36am

#29, I mentioned Funaki in passing, but the emphasis was on the fact that Graunke, a mediocre talent at best, completed 77 of 118 attempts for 1,092 yards and 9 scores. His 13.1 attempts per TD is very close to Brennan's 12.4. Pro-Rate Graunke's performance for the 472 attempts Colt Brennan had and you're looking at 4,366 yards, 36 TDs, and 20 INTs. Compare that to Brennan's 4,174 yards, 38 TDs, and 14 INTs, and the production is extremely similar. It's a system when you can plug in someone like Graunke and have the same performance as Brennan, unless you'd like to argue that Graunke is as good as Brennan. Do you think Florida would be getting the same production with Cameron Newton starting?

And in the end, if all you have to try and prop up Brennan with are statistics, then you've already conceeded because Tebow has Brennan beat in nearly every statistic when you take into account the disparity between the two's attempts. and even if you don't, Brennan has a whopping 269 yards from scrimmage over Tebow, compared to Tebow's 6 more TDs, and 8 fewer turnovers.

The notion of Hawaii trying to play the system QB card is laughable. It's like Chad Pennington calling Rex Grossman injury prone.

by rich (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 1:49pm

I don't know about who should win the Heisman, but if I was in the position of drafting any of these players, I'd take McFadden. In my opinion, he was the best offensive player in College Football this year.

by Grizzled Old Scout (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 1:56pm

If Tebow were to go pro today, he’d be a draftable running back.

I dunno, I see him more as a classic H-Back.

Are these jokes? If that's a genuine sentiment then I don't understand it at all. What makes people think that Tebow cannot throw at an NFL level? His statistics are exceptional and came against high-quality competition. He's very accurate and doesn't have a too-slow release. He does lack a JaMarcus Russell gun, true, but neither is he stuck with the Pennington pop-gun. He's smart and poised, too.

I'm not suggesting he'll be an eight-time Pro Bowler (and his physical running style is a concern), but by the above two comments one would think that might as well resign himself to the arena league.

Are there really as many as, say, 10 college QBs who are better pro prospects than Tebow? If so, who are they and why?

FWIW, NFLDraftScout.com lists Tebow as its #1 QB (Brennan is 4th).

by Eddo (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 2:31pm

32: What makes people think that Tebow cannot throw at an NFL level?
Because there's a history of disappointment for quarterbacks with his skill set/playing style.
Here's a list of more run-oriented college quarterbacks to be drafter early in the last 10 or so years:

Michael Vick - exciting, but never became a very polished QB
Daunte Culpepper - maybe the most similar, sizewise, to Tebow; had one exceptional year and some other good ones, but those may have been inflated due to Randy Moss
Vince Young - won rookie of the year, but still leaves much to be desired as a passer
Donovan McNabb - the most successful, but still was more of a pass-first QB in college
Alex Smith - here's the biggest case against Tebow: he played for Meyer at Utah, put up similar numbers (as someone earlier pointed out), and has been a disaster as a pro

I'm sure I left some out - that's what happen when you post first thing on a Saturday morning :P

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 2:33pm

re: 31

I haven't watched all the Florida games, but I've never seen Tebow actually have to decipher defenses and go through progressions like an NFL QB. That, of course, didn't stop VY from being drafted 3rd, but as we've seen, that hasn't exactly been a smooth transition. The fact that he can throw accurately and has a good arm doesn't mean he'll be a good QB at all. It seems to me that his throwing success is due to the fact that most teams spend the entire game getting run over by him, and gameplanning to stop that from happening.

re: 28

I think that's a given, but maybe Ainge will be picked ahead of him. Mid First round? Late second?

by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 2:48pm

Wow this is a pretty pointless discussion to this point. There are only two ways to look at the Heisman: the best player, or the player most likely to fulfill the "Rules" listed at the top of this article.

If it's the best player, then it ought to be awarded to either Darren McFadden or one of the really great linemen coming out this year (Jake Long, Glen Dorsey, Chris Long, etc.). Only the fact that college football has been so insane so there is no ridiculous Troy Smith or Jason White candidate from an undefeated team is even allowing McFadden to be discussed; that he is still in the running and was throughout the year despite four losses is a statement to his overall level of play.

If you look at it with an eye to the historical trends of the Heisman voting (meaning you check the Heisman polls on various sites, they're all the same), this crazy season has wrecked havoc. All anybody wants is the QB on the best team... unfortunately that best team never emerged. First everyone thought it would be someone from WVU, but then they lost to South Florida, so they were knocked out. Matt Ryan was on top for a while, but then they lost. Dennis Dixon led for a while, but then he lost. Chase Daniel was on top while Missouri was, but then he lost.

It's gotten bad enough that the voters have actually had to look hard at people from 3-loss and 4-loss teams. In my opinion, given the body of work, Dennis Dixon is easily the best choice for the traditional Heisman voter. Unfortunately not playing the full season apparently disqualifies him in their minds.

So everybody get off your high horse about Tebow or Brennan... they weren't the best players, just AMONG the best QBs.

#6: Great post. That's what did it for me too. He wasn't even the best QB that year, it was easily Phil Rivers.

by Grizzled Old Scout (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 2:58pm

Brohm and Ryan are better prospects than Tebow, but, setting aside the list in 33 (and wasn't McNabb more of an option QB at Syracuse? anyone got his college stats?), I can't think of reasons to prefer Brennan's or Woodson's pro potential to Tebow's. Colt's June Jones offense is no more NFL-like than Tebow's Urban Meyer system.

I concede Eddo's point that, fairly or not, Alex Smith will be held against Tebow come draft time, and it does seem that high-mobility quarterbacks disappoint in the NFL. Last truly great ones were probably Elway & Steve Young.

34: I'll draft Danny Ainge before Erik.

by kibbles (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 5:12pm

Re #35: Wow this is a pretty pointless discussion to this point. There are only two ways to look at the Heisman: the best player, or the player most likely to fulfill the “Rules� listed at the top of this article.

If it’s the best player, then it ought to be awarded to either Darren McFadden or one of the really great linemen coming out this year (Jake Long, Glen Dorsey, Chris Long, etc.). Only the fact that college football has been so insane so there is no ridiculous Troy Smith or Jason White candidate from an undefeated team is even allowing McFadden to be discussed; that he is still in the running and was throughout the year despite four losses is a statement to his overall level of play.

There's a difference between the "most talented player" or the "best pro prospect", and the "best player". McFadden is most certainly both of the former, but the BEST PLAYER IN THE NATION does not average 3 yards per carry THREE TIMES... once against Auburn, once against Ole Miss, and once against Florida... International. That bears repeating- the so-called "best player in the nation" averaged 3 yards per carry against Florida International.

The Heisman doesn't go to the best player, it goes to the most outstanding player. McFadden had perhaps the two most outstanding games, and if the award went to "The most outstanding player in the 2007 season with the exception of the entire month of October", then McFadden would have a legitimate argument. It's not, so he doesn't. If you have a problem with that, then next time average more than 3 ypc against Florida International.

If you want to talk about MOST OUTSTANDING, it has to be Tebow or Kevin Smith. Both dominated their peers on the field of play. Tebow was pretty much the entire offense for what is far and away the best offense in the nation (which means he's easily the best offensive player in the nation, right?). Kevin Smith has a resume like McFadden's would look like if McFadden didn't decide to mail in the month of October. Both have been consistently outstanding.

by Herm? (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 5:37pm

I say let Tebow have it. Florida will be the end of his career. Yes, he'll get drafted, and it will be nice to make $375,000 for holding a clipboard, but this is his peak.
I like Brennan's chances - he has the concept, I'm interested to see if he can run an offense where the best choice is passing to a receiver who's tightly covered, but only single covered.
And for what it's worth, if I have a top 4 draft pick, I'm very afraid of McFadden and his dangerous route to almost 370 carries this year.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 12:26am

And Tebow it is. They got it right.

For all of the criticism of the Heisman, when was the last time they got it wrong? 2001.

The other sports get it wrong far more often than the Heisman.

by Pat F. (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 1:28am

Re: 38

2003: Jason White over Larry Fitzgerald
2004: Matt Leinart over Adrian Peterson
2006: Troy Smith over Darren McFadden

I would argue that all of those are "wrong" choices. And that's just comparing the winner to the runner-up; as the award ostensibly goes to "the most outstanding collegiate football player" in the United States, the perennial lack of linemen and defensive players among the finalists makes it incorrect most years almost by default.

As for whether "other sports get it wrong far more often than the Heisman," this may certainly true, but is also the very definition of "damning with faint praise" ;)

by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 1:47am

June Jones offense is no more NFL-like than Tebow’s Urban Meyer system.


Have you seen Hawaii games much? Hawaii doesn't run the ball, but who cares - are you trying to say Brennan will have a problem because he'll have problems handing off? ("Coach, I can't figure it out. I'm just supposed to give him the ball?")

Hawaii's offense is basically slant/flat combos, wide receiver screens, hitches, and just about every other staple of a modern NFL offense.

Virtually every play Brennan's run shows up each Sunday in the NFL (now, the defenses he'll face - that might take some adaptation). Tebow? Not so much.

by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 2:12am

39: Right on... personally I'd even add Larry Johnson over Carson Palmer in 2002. Johnson rushed for 2000 yards on 8 ypc, the highest ever, while Carson's numbers weren't even as good as Leinart's. 2003 was by far the dumbest though.

What sports are worse in their MVP voting? At least in baseball and basketball all positions are eligible, instead of 2 of 22. The NFL has the same position bias, but at least there it's usually the guy with the best stats instead of just the guy on the best team.

by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 3:55am

For all of the criticism of the Heisman, when was the last time they got it wrong? 2001.


by Josh (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 3:57am

2005: Bush over Young.

Of course, the Heisman SHOULD be handed out after the bowels, er, bowls...

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 4:28am

re: 40

Right, I'd be much more comfortable having a college QB transition from a spread offense to an NFL offense than a rush oriented offense with simple reads (one or two options, or half the field) to the pro game.

The only worry for QBs who operate out of the shotgun is adapting to a Holmgren-style timing based WCO.

by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 4:49am

#40, As I said, Hawaii completely eschews any sort of vertical passing game. Long gains are built by the QB hitting the WR on a slant and watching him run. They don't run the vertical routes, so Brennan's measurables will be extremely important with regards to his draft position because scouts don't have a real good idea of his true arm strength and mid to long range accuracy.

#41, Glenn Davis averaged 11.5 ypc when he finished second in the heisman voting, that's the record. And Palmer's statistics were quite comperable to Leinart's, just as Johnson's were quite comperable to JJ Arrington's in 04, when Leinart beat him for the Heisman. Because of the spread of talent between the 110+ teams in DIA football, there are enough good players that you can make a solid argument for many players being the best each year. In the end, the Heisman goes to one player, and that doesn't mean that the supporters of the other players were wrong, they simply lost the argument.

by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 5:53am

45: "Comparable," sure... I said worse, and they were. For two years Palmer wasn't even good, then he had his Heisman year. The next year, when Leinart didn't win the Heisman because OU had been ranked higher and he was a sophomore, his numbers were much better than Palmer's. Same completion percentage, but an extra yard an attempt and more touchdowns, QB rating of 164 vs. 149. (Actually both performances, and Jason White's, fall behind Phil Rivers)

When Leinart won the Heisman his junior year, the numbers were closer; Leinart had a 2% higher completion percentage, the same yards/att, but more touchdowns and fewer picks, 156.5 to 149. Leinart's final season's QB rating was also higher than both Palmer and his own Heisman years.

My point is simply that Palmer's year wasn't even that extraordinary... this season a 149 QB rating would equal Rudy Carpenter at #15 in the nation, outdone by Tebow, Brennan, Dixon, Brohm, Daniel, even Pat White. It would be around the same place (behind a minimum of 4-5 BCS conference QBs) in every year from 2000-2007 excluding 2002. 8 yards per carry would crush anyone but Felix Jones (McFadden's backup) and 2000 yards would top the best BCS player by more than 250. When the closest you can get across 8 years is 5 TDs and 0.7 yards per carry behind, that's an outstanding performance. Heck, I don't know though, I'm sure there was some incredible other players that should have been considered (glancing at the 2003 draft, the player that springs to my notice is Terrell Suggs, setting the sack record).

Anyway, this is besides the point... Palmer was a great player, and he wasn't the worst Heisman winner, or even the 5th worst in the past 10 years. But he wasn't the best player in the country, he was just the best QB on a top-5 historic power that passed a lot.

If it's about the best player, it should go to the best player, taking into account schedule, surrounding talent, accumulated and per-play stats. It should also be given, at least occasionally, to someone other than a QB or an RB. I think McFadden is better than any of the other finalists, though he's not really a compelling Heisman candidate either. If it's gotta be a QB, I guess Tebow is the most deserving.

Obviously it's a matter of argument who deserves it, my problem is that the criteria don't make any sense, and have very little to do with the actual player talent or impact on a team. It's more of a team award than anything, and it definitely doesn't make any sense to claim they "got it right" giving it to yet another major-power QB.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 2:21pm

39- I personally would have voted for McFadden last year, and Larry Fitzgerald in 2003. But both races were close, and neither White nor Smith were bad choices.

The Heisman voting takes ten times the flak of other sports' MVPs, but the Heisman voters make far fewer mistakes. They had an opportunity to make a bad decision this year- anyone buy Tebow would have been- but they did't. I give them credit.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 2:38pm

Since we've been discussing Hawaii...there's been a lot of talk of Head Coach June Jones moving east to UCLA. Jones is said to covet the job, and UCLA is interested.

by Grizzled Old Scout (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 2:51pm

No, Pat, other than the La Tech, Boise State, & Washington games I haven't seen Hawaii games much (save a snippet here and there), on the grounds that a team which plays Hawaii's schedule isn't worth paying attention to*.

I ask, have you seen Florida games much? The slats, WR "bubble" screens, quick throws, and hot reads are all a part of Tebow's skill set -- they have to be when you're in an empty-backfield, four- or five-wide set on a quarter of your snaps -- AND he throws the deep ball well. We aren't talking Jamelle Holloway here

Tebow has NFL size, a strong-enough arm, excellent accuracy, terrific mobility, undisputed poise and intelligence, and an impressive passing record against high-level competition. His mechanics aren't flawless (neither are Brennan's or Woodson's). None of the QBs listed in 33, save possibly McNabb (who wasn't nearly this effective a passer as a soph) and Young (ditto), have all of those things to the same degree.

* I recognize that this is not entirely UH's fault & it would play stronger teams if it could. It's still no reason to watch crappy teams.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 10:35pm

The fact that Marshall Faulk doesn't have two Heisman trophies on his mantle renders it moot in my opinion.

by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 12:20am

47: Jason White is only justfiable on the basis of team wins. He was outplayed by several QBs, including Phil Rivers, Matt Leinart, and Ben Roethlisberger. White's inferiority was even more obvious at the time, he threw a crazy number of touchdowns against the most miserable opponents and failed against the best ones, except Texas.

White actually exemplifies the problem with the Heisman, and with (as you rightly point out) other leagues' MVP awards... they end up counting team success almost as important as the player's actual ability. If Larry Fitzgerald had played for, say, 10-2 Ohio State, instead of Pitt, the voting would not even have been close.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 1:07am

Ah, but if Ohio State had Fitzgerald, maybe they win those two games. Then maybe the Heisman goes to Craig Krenzel!

by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:19pm

52: Sadly, that's probably how it would have worked.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 3:50pm

Alex Smith has been a disaster partly because the rest of the offense is Frank Gore when healthy, Vernon Davis, and weebles.

If it weren't for gaudy statistics translating to a Heisman, we wouldn't have to listen to Andre Ware's attempts at color commentary. (Perhaps some of this is bitterness from his draft-year fiasco: holding out rather than showing up to camp to play in a system nearly identical to his college system. Then again, I doubt he'd have done much better. The run-and-shoot with one good receiver and a few average receivers is no better in the NFL than any other offense with average personnel.)

I'm glad to see Tebow won, if only to break the "rule" that only juniors and seniors can win. (Also, IMHO, any mention of "career achievement" should disqualify a candidate - not to pick on you, Russell, just in general. If people want career recognition for four-year players, then have someone come up with a career-recognition award.)

But honestly, I find it difficult to put much stock in a process that attempts to recognize 1 player out of 85+ on one team out of what, 119? I mean, on this site, we can have some pretty decent discussions about the relative performance of individual teams, and even at the NFL level, there's not really anything that definitively measures an individual's performance separate from that of his teammates'. I think the best we could do would be to compare "the Florida offense with Tim Tebow at QB" to "the Hawaii offense with Colt Brennan at QB". (I don't even know what you'd do with McFadden. "The Arkansas offense when Darren McFadden is on the field"?)

So maybe we need to start campaigning for mandatory and consistent play-by-play for all NCAA I-A games ... it's not the solution, but it's a start ...