Tua Tagovailoa did not win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night. The outcome didn’t match my ballot, which was 1) Tagovailoa 2) Kyler Murray and 3) Dwayne Haskins.
This was my first time ever to vote for three quarterbacks, but the three all had great years and college football is becoming a quarterback’s game in the NFL mold. Look at the six teams that were in final-weekend contention for the College Football Playoff. Every one had a strong quarterback.
Ian Book of Notre Dame and Jake Fromm of Georgia may not be quite as dynamic as the three quarterbacks that went to New York, but they will be on a lot of 2019 preseason watch lists. Trevor Lawrence of Clemson could very well be considered as Tagovailoa’s top competition going into 2019. You have to have a quarterback these days. Heisman voting will continue to acknowledge that.
So this isn’t going be a scalding screed about Tagovailoa getting “robbed” like the Peyton Manning hijacking that continues to haunt Tennessee football to this day. There is going to be no bashing of Murray, an explosive playmaker who put up impressive numbers all year, nor any public pillorying of fellow voters, except for the 13 (at least, and probably more) that did not include Tagovailoa on their ballots at all. The same applies to any Murray omissions.
Why did I vote for Tagovailoa over the eventual winner? A few factors — and the fact he plays for Alabama, while it did mean that I saw every snap he played over the 13-game schedule, really wasn’t one. For the record, I voted for Baker Mayfield last year. And I don’t pretend to be perfect. I’d change my 2016 ballot to DeShaun Watson if I could.
One thing that may have subliminally affected voters was the fact Tagovailoa, a sophomore, will have another chance. That shouldn’t be a consideration. Things can happen. Ask Bryce Love, last year’s runner-up who never seemed to get healthy this season. Ask Colt McCoy, perennial bridesmaid but never a bride. Herschel Walker didn’t win in 1980 and while he did win in 1982, that didn’t “even things out.” It meant he had one but deserved two. The season is the season, not next season or last season.
Another “criteria” that was frequently cited was Murray performed under more pressure because Oklahoma’s defense could not stop anybody. There is something to “carrying the team” — Johnny Manziel basically won because he had to shoulder a lot of the load.
But to somehow punish Tagovailoa because Alabama was good on defense seems convoluted. The “Tua never played in the fourth quarter” argument is a close relative of this one and again, boils down to diminishing a player because his team was too good.
The third point: while there was a strong social media opinion that no one should vote before the last game (of course they shouldn’t), one had to wonder if that last weekend was the only one that some voters watched. It’s hard to explain the late Murray wave of support otherwise. Tagovailoa did not have his best game against Georgia.
Injuries played a factor in that, but leaving those aside, that “head-to-head” viewing created a false comparison, unless you could extrapolate how Murray, who did not face statistically strong defenses all year, might have fared against the Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome, or what Tagovailoa might have accomplished against Texas.
With that said, having Murray and Tagovailoa on the same field on Dec. 29 creates a great storyline — even if won’t change a result that could have been different on Saturday.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.
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