NORMAN — I voted for Johnny Football. Not because he’s a freshman, though I like that, too. Not because he’ll make a great NFL quarterback one day, because I have no idea and find the possibility irrelevant.
I voted for him because I’m pretty sure he’s meant more to his team than anybody else has meant to their team. And, in the rare case another has meant as much — Collin Klein, hello! — I’m pretty sure Manziel had the bigger season.
It’s not perfect and it’s not even the measure I use every season. Or the only measure I use every season. The Heisman is part MVP, part Player of the Year, occasionally a team award as much as an individual award (and still, anybody who says, “Well, it’s really a team award,” has no idea what they’re talking about or is trying to anoint an average quarterback on an unbeaten team).
In the end, it is whatever you make of it. Or, whatever almost 900 voters make of it.
It is part of the oddity and charm of the Heisman, that the most prestigious end-of-season individual award in all of college sports, is strangely awarded by a huge electorate rather than a smallish panel of experts.
Almost 900 votes is enough to encompass every agenda, yet too many for any one to dominate. In the end, good decisions tend to get made (except for Eric Crouch, Gino Torretta, Andre Ware and Paul Hornung, whose 1956 Notre Dame team went 2-8; oh, all right, good decisions are frequently made).
So I’m throwing my lot in with Manziel. And here’s the fun part. I’m going defend it:
Here are Manziel’s season numbers: 273 of 400 (68.2 percent) passing, 3,419 yards, eight interceptions, 24 touchdowns, 155.85 efficiency; as well as 184 carries for 1,181 yards (6.4 average) and 19 touchdowns.
That’s 383.3 yards of total offense per game. Only Baylor’s Nick Florence has more, but Nick Florence didn’t beat Alabama (or Iowa State). Klein’s total offense each game was 281.7, which just goes to show that numbers aren’t everything, but also goes to show Klein’s numbers do not compare with Johnny Football’s.
Another way to measure Manziel? Running or throwing, he was a part of 43 of A&M’s 72 touchdowns, or 60 percent. Also, his cumulative total offense — 4.600 yards — was 69.4 percent of A&M’s 6,628 yards of total offense.
The only real challenger to Manziel is Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker. I was tempted to pick him. I voted for Nadamukong Suh a few years ago and when Bob Stoops said OU had to be aware of Te’o in a way the Sooners last had to be aware of Suh, that made an impression.
Te’o has 103 tackles (8.6 per game) and an amazing seven interceptions. When has a linebacker ever had seven interceptions?
I kind of thought the same thing about Suh. When has a defensive tackle ever led his team in tackles?
Basically, when I voted for Suh, my thinking was the difference between Suh and the next best defensive tackle in the country, whoever it is, was so great that Suh became the choice. Did that make Suh the nation’s MVP? Probably not, but he was doing things I’d never seen from anybody else at his position and, at the time, it seemed like enough.
So, Te’o has the picks. And he’s a leader, and his story, which includes losing his grandmother and girlfriend, to leukemia, on back-to-back days is as tragic as Manziel’s story is fun.
Te’o is clearly worthy.
Only I’m not sure his senior Irish season is as strong as Travis Lewis’ freshman Sooner season, when Lewis made 144 tackles in 14 games (10.3 per game), including 111⁄2 for losses totaling 38 yards (Te’o’s made 51⁄2 for 34) and 31⁄2 sacks totaling 21 yards (Te’o has 11⁄2 for 8.5 yards). Lewis even had four interceptions.
Also, Lewis was in on 144 of OU’s 984 tackles in 2008, or 14.6 percent. Te’o has been in on 103 of 796, or 12.9 percent. Lewis’ Sooners even played for a national championship, just like Te’o’s Irish will against Alabama.
Where’s Lewis’ Heisman?
Actually, it was stolen away by another Sooner, Sam Bradford (who, by the way, averaged 340.5 yards of total offense that season, and whose total offense represented 62.1 percent of his team’s total offense; neither figure as high as Manziel this season, though Bradford’s efficiency, 180.84, remains pretty historic).
There are other ways to look at it.
Manziel’s a more efficient passer than Landry Jones (146.5) and he’s run for almost 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns. Or, Jones is throwing about 47 more yards per game than Manziel, but Manziel has run for almost 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns.
And he’s like something out of a time capsule, like Fran Tarkenton come back to life in College Station. And he’s only 19 years old (though that will change tomorrow, when he turns 20).
Still, Te’o is worthy and he tugs at your heart, and he is leading the resurgence of maybe the nation’s most historic program.
You could go either way.
I don’t think it’s close.
Clay HorningFollow me @firstname.lastname@example.org