Jameis Winston will not win a second consecutive Heisman Trophy.
The above stance has nothing to do with crab legs or the mishandling of the sexual assault investigation that lingered over his 2013 Heisman run. Nor is it a criticism of Winston’s ability, and certainly not a prediction that he will regress in his redshirt sophomore season.
Winston could be markedly improved in 2014, but Heisman history tells us a reigning winner’s path to the Downtown Athletic Club podium is more treacherous than any other candidate’s.
Former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the award’s sole repeat winner. In an era when college football records fall seemingly every week, Griffin’s Heisman repeat is one achievement that might never be duplicated.
We’re approaching 40 years since Griffin completed the first leg of the now-impossible feat, and in the past decade alone, there have been several compelling candidates.
Texas A&M’s 2012 recipient Johnny Manziel is the most recent, and a textbook case-study into just how difficult it is to repeat.
Manziel was better statistically in 2013 with less help around him. Now, Manziel may not have been deserving of the 2013 award, but he was better than the startling fifth place he finished in the voting.
His candidacy took a hit from late-season struggles, the result of a shoulder injury.
Results 1. Winston (2,205), 2. AJ McCarron (704), 3. Jordan Lynch (558), 4. Andre Williams (470), 5. Johnny Manziel (421), 6. Tre Mason (404
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) December 15, 2013
However, he finished behind Boston College running back Andre Williams, who was also hurt down the stretch. Williams even missed the better part of an entire conference game at Syracuse, which the Eagles lost.
Still, Manziel’s bid for a second Heisman also suffered because of the turmoil that persisted well before he took a snap in the 2013 season, a circumstance Winston now faces.
But while off-field transgressions may have soured voters on Manziel as they could Winston, personal conduct is only a part of the equation.
To wit, consider the 2008 Heisman candidacy of squeaky-clean Tebow. The former Florida Gators quarterback became the first sophomore to win the award in 2007, which at the time was a huge deal. He was transcendent in that campaign, and just as good the following season.
And he finished third in the Heisman balloting.
Tebow’s 2008 season was a few years before his philanthropic work and religious convictions were spun into a quasi-political platform by hucksters. There wasn’t a thing controversial about Tebow at the time, and he met virtually every criteria—explicitly or implicitly stated:
His individual statistics were among the best for his position.
He led his team to a conference championship and BCS Championship game berth prior to the voting (Florida won the national title a few weeks after the balloting).
His off-field behavior was exemplary.
The only questionable facet of Tebow’s candidacy was that he’d won the award before. Recent precedent has proven it’s exceedingly difficult for a Heisman contender prominently on the radar going into the season to win the Heisman. And one cannot be any more prominently on that radar than to be the reigning winner.
If Robert Griffin III uses jaw-dropping plays to lead perennial cellar dweller Baylor in November upsets, it makes a bigger impression on voters than if Andrew Luck leads a preseason top-10 Stanford team to an 11-win finish. The latter is just expected, thus taken for granted.
And Luck never even won the Heisman. He was just the returning runner-up and presumptive favorite. If expectations on him were set impossibly high, imagine the standard for a past winner.
So while we may see plenty more of this from Jameis Winston in 2014:
Don’t expect to see another round of this: