GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 10: Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals runs onto the field during introductions to the NFL game against the New Orleans Saints at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Saints 30-20. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
For the second post in the series sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football '13, (you can see the first here) EA asked us to rewrite Heisman history in a different way by choosing the biggest Heisman snub in recent memory. We could do it any way we wanted, whether it was by rewarding a player from our own school, ranking the Heisman runners-up, or choosing a player from a different school that didn't win but was worthy to do so. Because Baylor's recent football history is relatively checkered and I don't think you can make a legitimate argument for any Baylor player in the last two decades (outside of RG3, obviously), I chose the third option. Once I really looked at it, deciding who to write about wasn't really hard at all, either.
Here's the last 12 winners of the Heisman Trophy with their school, position, point total, and the percentage of possible points they received. I chose to stop at 12 because it puts us back to the 2000 season and the beginning of what I would call the modern era of the Trophy. Quarrel with the arbitrariness of my decision all you want; that's where I started.
|2000||Chris Weinke||Florida State||Quarterback||1,628||58.86%|
|2006||Troy Smith||Ohio State||Quarterback||2,540||91.63%|
|2009||Mark Ingram, Jr.||Alabama||Running back||1,304||46.99%|
|2011||Robert Griffin III||Baylor||Quarterback||1,687||60.66%|
You probably noticed that Reggie Bush's row in 2005 is highlighted in red and there are multiple players highlighted in a shade of ... orange? The red indicates that Bush's award was vacated due to his receiving impermissible benefits at USC, while the orange (we'll call it orange) means that player was also taken with the #1 overall pick.
Starting at the end and working backward, I don't think a reasonable argument can be made that someone else should have won the award over Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton. As we've covered before in detail, RG3 was the best choice this season just like Cam the season before him, my belief that he should have been ineligible notwithstanding. Stanford supporters might argue Toby Gerhart over Mark Ingram, Jr. in 2009, but I won't because I just don't care. I don't think there was a dominant choice that season, either way. Sam Bradford was the right choice over Colt McCoy in 2008, as was Tim Tebow over Darren McFadden. I don't even want to think about 2006.
2005 is the first season where I think you could make a legitimate argument that the wrong player won the award, but I'm not going to for two reasons. First, it would mean arguing for Vince Young. Screw that. Second, it's already been done at length. I'm not doing it again. 2004 was a great year for the Trophy with two deserving candidates, either of which could have won. I liked Peterson that year, but I also hate USC.
That brings us to 2003, where Oklahoma's Jason White beat out Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. in one of the closest Heisman votes ever (1481 points for White vs. 1353 for Fitzgerald). It was the junior QB of the high-flying 12-2 Sooners against an absolutely electric sophomore WR from a good, not great, Pittsburgh Panthers team.
Simply put, I think Fitzgerald should have won. Look at his highlights from that season and then hit the jump.
Before any Sooners get riled up enough to come after me, I'm not saying that Jason White didn't have an extremely good season in 2003. He did, throwing for 3846 yards and 40 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 61.6 and only 10 interceptions on the season. His passing efficiency rating for that year was a stout 158.1. He was the AP Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American, won the Davey O'Brien (best college QB), and, had the Sooners not been upset by K-State in the Big 12 Championship Game, probably would have played for the national title.
The problem is that despite White's gawdy TD and passing yard numbers, Larry Fitzgerald was a better player that season. Despite catching only 92 passes on the season, good for fifth in the country in receptions, Fitzgerald amassed 1672 receiving yards, 168 more than the next-highest player and almost half of Pittsburgh's total receiving yards. He had as many receiving yards than every other receiver on his team combined. His 22 receiving touchdowns was 6 more than the next highest player, USC's Mike Williams, and 6 more than the rest of his team (including running backs) combined. He was Pittsburgh's offense, everybody knew it, and he still absolutely dominated as a sophomore.
Fitzgerald's biggest problem is that Pittsburgh wasn't very good. In a relatively mediocre Big East, they went 8-5 that year, often losing when teams double or triple-covered Fitzgerald on the outside. With a QB most Pitt fans probably don't even remember, Rod Rutherford, Fitzgerald was able to put up absolutely insane numbers on a team relatively devoid of other great players.
So if you ask me who the biggest Heisman snub is in recent memory, I'm taking Larry Fitzgerald and feeling pretty good about it, and I don't just say that because he lost to the cybernetic man from Oklahoma, either. I genuinely believe he was the best player that season.
This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.
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