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The ten worst Heisman winners of all-time...
Instead of worst Heisman winners, this should be the list of the
most average/least deserving. Some were products of the system, some
just so happened to be the most visible players on top teams, and some
flat-out robbed a more deserving candidate. I had to expand my list to
12 as I had a hard time cutting it down.
1957 RB John David Crow, RB Texas A&M runner-up: Alex
Karras, DT Iowa
Crow had a good year, but not a sensational one for a Heisman winner
playing in only seven games due to injuries and rushing for 562 yards
with six touchdowns. However, he picked off five passes as A&M won its
first eight games before losing the final three by a total of six points
1964 John Huarte, QB Notre Dame runner-up: Jerry
Rhome, QB Tulsa
Huarte had a good season leading the Irish to a 9-1 record, but it
was nothing special only completing 57% of his passes for 2,062
yards and 16 touchdowns.
1975 Archie Griffin, RB Ohio State runner-up: Chuck
Muncie, RB California
One of the great Heisman debates, Griffin won his second straight
Award despite only rushing for only four touchdowns (Pete Johnson
took carries and stats away rushing for 1,059 yards and 26
touchdowns) while Cal's Chuck Muncie ran for 1,460 yards averaging
6.4 yards per carry with 13 touchdowns. Worse yet, Griffin had his
only non-100-yard day against Michigan with a 46-yard performance.
The Buckeyes still won and went off to the Rose Bowl where they lost
to UCLA. Griffin ran for 93 yards.
1959 Billy Cannon, HB LSU runner-up: Rich Lucas, QB
Had Cannon won it in 1958 when he was the heart and soul of the 11-0 LSU
team, he wouldn't be be on this list. He was
good in 1959 remembered for a legendary performance in a 7-3 win
over Ole Miss, but he won the Award off the year before.
1958 Pete Dawkins, RB Army runner-up: Randy Duncan,
Dawkins was the leader of a mighty Army team that went 8-0-1. He ran
for 12 touchdowns and was a decent kick returner, but he primarily
won the Heisman for being the American ideal. He was smart,
good-looking, and the top player for Army.
1971 Pat Sullivan, QB
Auburn runner-up: Ed Marinaro,
Sullivan was a fine passer, but he was known more for being a great
winner getting Auburn to a 9-0 start. However, he had his worst
in the biggest game of the year throwing for only 121 yards with two
interceptions in a 31-7 loss to Alabama.
1947 Johnny Lujack, QB Notre Dame runner-up: Bob
Chappus, HB Michigan
Sort of the early version of Gino Torretta, Lujack won the Heisman
as the best player on a ridiculously talented team. Along with being
one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the first half of the 20th
Century, he was also known for being a top tackler.
1956 Paul Hornung, QB Notre Dame runner-up: Johnny
Majors, RB Tennessee
Either you could say Hornung won because of the Notre Dame name, or
you can just call him a victim of circumstance as he was a great
player on a lousy team. The only Heisman winner from a losing team,
he only ran for 420 yards and racked up 1,337 yards of total offense.
However, stats don't measure quite how good he was.
1992 Gino Torretta, QB Miami runner-up: Marshall
Faulk, RB San Diego State
Torretta gets an unfair rap because he did have a nice season, but
his name has become the term for a player who wins the Heisman
when voters can't decide on a candidate. He threw for a decent 3,060
yards and 19 touchdowns with seven interceptions before the Sugar
Bowl loss to Alabama.
2001 Eric Crouch, QB
Nebraska runner-up: Rex
Grossman, QB Florida
Had Grossman been a senior and Crouch
a sophomore, and not the other way around, it would've been a
Grossman landslide. Crouch had a great year rushing, but his claim
to the honor was a touchdown catch to seal a win over Oklahoma.
Grossman threw for fewer than 300 yards once, 290 in the win over
Florida State, and in the team's biggest games he threw for
362 against Tennessee, 464 against LSU and 407 against Georgia.
1953 Johnny Lattner, HB Notre Dame runner-up: Paul
Giel, HB Minnesota
Call this one for the Notre Dame hype machine. Lattner didn't even
lead the Irish in passing, rushing, receiving or scoring. He was a
great all-purpose player and a fantastic defensive back, but his
close win over Minnesota's Paul Giel is among the great
all-time Heisman arguments.
1967 Gary Beban, QB UCLA runner-up: O.J. Simpson,
The strangest of all Heisman victories, Beban only threw for 1,359
yards with eight touchdown passes and eight interceptions. His one
shining moment came on national television completing 16 of 24
passes for 301 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against
USC. There was one problem ... UCLA lost thanks to USC star RB O.J.
Simpson. Simpson led his team to the national title highlighted by a
historic 64-yard touchdown run against the Bruins to finish with
1,543 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns. Beban did run for 11
scores, but he only gained 227 yards.
The ten worst Heisman winners of all-time...
10. George Rogers, South
Carolina (1980) – Rogers was an outstanding college back, but he won
the Heisman in a terrible year for the award, and probably shouldn’t
have finished ahead of Hugh Green and Herschel Walker. Rogers led
the nation in rushing, but on an 8-4 South Carolina team, didn’t
play any meaningful games after losing to Georgia on Nov. 1.
9. Angelo Bertelli, Notre Dame (1943) – It wasn’t Bertelli’s
fault that he got drafted by the Army to fight in WW II, but his ten
touchdown passes in just six Irish blowout wins make for one of the
weakest Heisman resumes of all-time.
8. Andre Ware, Houston (1989) – I love offense and gaudy
numbers as much as the next guy, but when it comes to the Heisman,
system guys are a major turn-off. Ware was unstoppable in Jack
Pardee’s run-and-shoot offense, but he and the Cougars fattened up
on a crappy schedule and didn’t even pick up a bowl invite as a door
prize. It’s not that anyone could have succeeded in the
system, but it sure seemed that way when David Klingler put up even
bigger numbers a year later.
7. Eric Crouch, Nebraska (2001) – Crouch got a heavy dose of
career achievement sentiment in 2001, and won an award that should
have been earmarked for Florida’s Rex Grossman. Grossman basically
got screwed for having the audacity to author one of the best
seasons ever for a Gator quarterback, despite being just a
6. Paul Hornung, Notre Dame (1956) – It’s certainly not as if
Hornung was a chump or anything, but that Jim Brown didn’t win the
Heisman in 1956 is one of the great injustices of American sports.
Unless a kid is otherworldly or rewriting record books, he has no
business winning this award on a sub-.500 squad.
5. Pat Sullivan, Auburn (1971) – Rule No. 1 of the Heisman
Trophy: Thou must be a monster in big games. Sullivan beefed up on
a pretty flimsy schedule, but was mediocre in two of Auburn’s three
biggest games of 1971. In what should have been a coronation right
before votes were cast, Sullivan was held to 121 yards and a pair of
picks in a 31-7 Iron Bowl loss to ‘Bama.
4. John Lattner, Notre Dame (1953) – Yeah, Notre Dame was
loaded in 1953 and there was a dearth of really good contenders, but
what does it say about the power of the Irish that Lattner won the
award, yet didn’t even lead the team in rushing, passing, receiving
3. Archie Griffin, Ohio State (1975) – If he wasn’t Archie
Griffin, defending Heisman champion, there’s absolutely no way he
would have won the award again in 1975. I’ve heard all kinds of
excuses over the years, but when a teammate, in this case
Pete Johnson, scores 22 more touchdowns than the candidate in
question, he’s got no business even getting a New York City invite.
2. Gino Torretta, Miami (1992) – You sort of hate to pile on
at this point, but Torretta has become the poster child for Heisman
mediocrity. His numbers were pedestrian by anyone’s standards and
he won a lot of games, but then again, who didn’t for the ‘Canes in
the 1980s and early 1990s?
1. Gary Beban, UCLA (1967) – Beban’s was arguably the oddest
choice of all-time. He threw as many interceptions as touchdowns in
1967, wasn’t a jackrabbit as a scrambler and was upstaged by USC’s
O.J. Simpson in the biggest game of the season for both teams.
Simpson was the better player that year, but lost votes for being a
junior at a time when voters overtly favored the senior player.
The ten worst Heisman winners of all-time...
1. 1992 Gino Torretta – I would’ve
selected: Marshall Faulk
In the biggest games of the 1992 season, Torretta didn’t bring a lot to
the table, except for the Syracuse game in the Dome. At Penn State, the
defense saved the Hurricanes. Against Florida State, he had one throw
under pressure that helped put Miami in the lead. Miami’s defense was
the best ‘player’ at the U. So, it had to be his numbers, right. Uh,
no, he was barely a 3,000 yard passer with only 19 touchdowns. Faulk,
on the other hand, torched BYU for 299 early in the season, but his
health, or lack thereof, at the end of the season kept him from
accepting the stiff-armed statue, which was a shame. A 1,630 yard
season with 15 touchdowns got him second place.
2. 1987 Tim Brown –
I would’ve selected Don McPherson
If anyone created a campaign based on an early performance on national
television (well, also Desmond Howard), it was Brown. His two punt
returns for touchdowns against Michigan State were stellar, but the
remainder of the season, he didn’t do much to light the world on fire
(in fact he only had 39 catches on the season). In fact, his selection
was more the lesser of two evils than anything else. McPherson had a
strong season with the Orange during that undefeated regular season
(leading passing efficiency leader in the nation), but any year that a
Golden Domer could make a decent case for the Heisman, forget it.
3. 2001 Eric Crouch – I would’ve selected Rex Grossman
What’s the adage? No freshman or sophomore shall take home the Trophy?
That applies here for Grossman in a year that Crouch was good, but not
great. Crouch did throw and run for over a thousand yards, but so did
Antwaan Randle-El. Grossman had a tremendous throwing season, throwing
for over 300 yards in every game but the Florida State game where he
threw for only 290. However, a loss to Tennessee (and if the Gators had
been able to stop Travis Stephens just once in that game, maybe ‘ol
Rexie would’ve had enough push to win the Trophy) late in the season
probably shut out his hopes, unfortunately.
4. 2003 Jason White – I would’ve selected Larry Fitzgerald
This one is more about what I thought Fitzgerald did for Pitt, as
opposed to what White didn’t do for Oklahoma (Fitzgerald had 92 catches
for nearly 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore receiver).
Throughout the year, Fitzgerald kept bringing down tremendous catches
and kept the Pitt offense in the end zone with a touchdown per game
streak that hit 18 before Virginia shut him out in the Tire Bowl. White
did much of his work against weaker than usual Big XII competition and
then after the voting was completed, got hammered by both Kansas State
5. 1964 John Huarte – I would’ve selected Dick Butkus
1980 and 1964 were the two years that a defensive candidate had a true
shot at winning, before Charles Woodson actually did so in 1997. In
1964, Huarte came out of nowhere to lead the Irish to nine straight wins
before heading to LA for the season finale against USC (a loss that
ended Ara’s first year at ND), while Butkus was wrecking havoc all over
the Big Ten, on his way to AFCA Player of the Year honors for a
magnificent 1964. The one reason that I lean toward Butkus was his
ability to dominate from both his center position and middle linebacker
spot. Comparing numbers is nearly impossible for these two, but again,
a Domer involved? It’s his Trophy.
6. 1956 Paul Hornung – I would’ve selected Jim Brown, Johnny Majors
or Tommy McDonald
Take your pick on any player in this season other than Hornung. Now,
did Hornung show heart, guts and guile for the 2 and 8 Irish? Sure.
But, at 2 and 8 how valuable and outstanding are you? Brown’s physical
dominance and versatility were a sight to behold, especially on a
Syracuse team that went to the Cotton Bowl. McDonald? He was just the
key cog in the Sooners 47 game winning streak. Majors was another
versatile threat from the South, overlooked by the Domer influence, once
7. 1967 Gary Beban – I would’ve selected OJ Simpson
It’s hard to imagine that with so many great players in the history of
college football that Archie Griffin is the only two time winner. OJ
should’ve been another, winning this one instead of Beban. The Bruin
leader piled up enough panache leading the Bruins to a stunning Rose
Bowl upset win over Michigan State after the 1965 season as a sophomore,
but Simpson had the better 1967 season and fared better, individually
and from a team perspective, in their fabled 1967 matchup.
8. 1935 Jay Berwanger – I would’ve selected Sammy Baugh
Of course, it’s hard to argue with a versatile talent like Berwanger as
the best player east of the Mississippi, which is how the award was
‘labeled’ in 1935. Had Baugh been a candidate for the award, he
would’ve taken it home to TCU as the first Horned Frog to win the
Trophy, instead of Davey O’Brien.
9. 1957 John David Crow – I would’ve selected John David Crow, by
JDC didn’t play but in seven games on the season and put up decent
numbers for the games that he did play, but it’s hard to say that anyone
in 1957 deserved this award, really. I think that the dearth of great
candidates and the versatility shown by the former Aggie forced the
voters to give it to Crow.
10. 1994 Rashaan Salaam – I would’ve selected: Ki-Jana Carter
Although he was a 2,000 yard rusher, I believe that Carter was more
dominating on fewer carries than Salaam. Carter was sitting on the
sideline for much of the fourth quarter at least in 80% of his games
that season because the Penn State offense was so powerful.
Furthermore, not that this has to be the case, but Carter was the most
valuable player on an undefeated Penn State team, while you could
actually make an argument for Kordell Stewart being the most valuable
player on his team, instead of Salaam. But, once Salaam hit the 2,000
yard mark, the Trophy was his.
The ten worst Heisman winners of all-time...
This invites a firestorm of
outrage, but please note that these selections are not based on any
assessment of these players' Heisman-winning seasons or their college
careers. Moreover, these choices aren't based on any assessment of these
players' eventual professional careers, either. The specific criterion
used for determining a "bad" Heisman winner (surely, one can see how
fundamentally oxymoronic that is) is simply that someone else was more
deserving of the award. That player will be named in parentheses.
Because of the sensitive nature of this topic for
fans of the winning players and their schools, I'll only rank the number
The first nine:
George Rogers, 1980. (Hugh Green) The year in
which the Heisman's bias against defensive players was magnified.
Paul Hornung, 1956. (Johnny Majors) If Hornung
played for any team other than Notre Dame, would he have won? Probably
Gary Beban, 1967. (OJ Simpson) OJ made one of the
greatest runs in the sport's history to beat Beban's Bruins in the money
game of that '67 season.
It's not that Beban--a collegiate legend--didn't
have a Heisman-worthy season; it's that OJ eclipsed him.
Jason White, 2003. (Larry Fitzgerald) A year that
magnified the Heisman's bias against underclassmen. Fitzgerald carried
his Pittsburgh team on his solitary shoulders, while White was
surrounded by ample weapons on all sides. It all came down to the
climactic Big XII Championship Game, in which the Sooner
quarterback--with even a modestly good performance--would have earned
the benefit of the doubt and the right to be considered the Heisman
White pulled a porker in an abysmal night against
He still won the award.
Another one of the many nights the Heisman lost
credibility instead of gaining it.
Eric Crouch, 2001. (Rex Grossman) As bad as the
2003 Heisman was in revealing its bias against underclassmen, this was
worse. Crouch was part of a great play in a memorable win against
Oklahoma earlier in the season--and that one play generated most of his
Heisman buzz, a very inappropriate way to decide an award of such
magnitude. Crouch was a great leader and an above-average performer, but
he was plainly overmatched as a quarterback in a season-ending
crash-and-burn against Colorado. Yes, there was the small matter of his
defense allowing 62 points, but Nebraska's inability to score early in
that contest--partly because of Crouch's deficient passing
skills--enabled Colorado to gain runaway freight-train momentum.
Grossman, meanwhile, presided over a bona fide
juggernaut and performed extremely well in every game but one, a narrow
road loss at Auburn. In what would be Florida's final regular-season
game, an epic against Tennessee, Grossman singlehandedly kept the Gators
competitive on a day when Tennessee's offensive line destroyed Florida's
defense, and when Gator running back Earnest Graham was out with an
injury. If anyone put his personal stamp on the award in 2001, it was
clearly Grossman. But when voting time came around, another
underclassman was left out to dry.
Andre Ware, 1989. (Anthony Thompson) If beating a
fresh-from-the-death-penalty Southern Methodist team by a 95-24 score is
what helps you win the Heisman, there has to be something of a cloud
over the award, right?
Matt Leinart, 2004. (Jason White) Leinart is a
decorated, legendary, all-time, all-world college football great. But
White did have a better 2004 season. Had White not won the 2003 award,
he would have been voted the winner in 2004. But politics dictated that
White not win the award twice.
Reggie Bush, 2005. (Vince Young) Upon reflection,
there were shades of 2001 in this vote. Bush--like Eric Crouch--made the
sexy plays in the sexy games.
Meanwhile, though, VY was Grossman-like in being a
consistent, productive leader who had a more regular effect on his
team's (and his offense's) quality. Sadly, Heisman voters were seduced
by sex appeal and lacked the devotion to duty needed to make the
Chris Weinke, 2000. (Josh Heupel) This is one of
the more subjective calls in Heisman history, but as a card-carrying
member of the "Jay Barker is a great all-time college quarterback" fan
club, I firmly believe that "greatness," in a college quarterback, has
to account for intangibles and clutch play as well as "pure" excellence,
in which a player is athletically awesome and statistically impressive.
And Heupel made many more clutch plays in 2000 than Weinke did. Yeah,
Weinke didn't have to make that many clutch plays partly because his
team was more dominant on a weekly basis (though, it should be pointed
out, FSU did lose to Miami, while Heupel's Sooners went undefeated). But
the way Heupel performed in leading a once-proud program back to the
mountaintop was, from this writer's perspective, the more notable feat.
The worst Heisman winner ever:
Gino Torretta, 1992. (Marshall Faulk) Is there any
doubt here? On every conceivable level, in every relevant category, by
any significant measure, Faulk earned the award while Torretta stole it.
Torretta was the beneficiary of virtually every well-known bias to
afflict the Heisman balloting in the award's oft-tainted history: being
a senior, a white quarterback, a quarterback on a winning team, a
quarterback on a sexy, big-name program, and a quarterback who plays in
big games before a massive national audience.
Faulk had better numbers despite drastically fewer
resources and helpmates, and got left in the cold. Whenever fraudulent
Heismans are talked about and the words "career achievement award" are
mentioned, Gino Torretta's name will always be the first one to trip
lightly off the lips.