Historical Heisman Competition

Mike Stobe

Comparing Heisman Winning QB's over the last 20 years.

The 2013 Heisman race is in full swing, and it looks like we have a clearer picture of who voters will be deciding between. If you missed it earlier this week, Fox completely snubbed Johnny Manziel by not placing him in their Heisman Watch graphic. Other analysts and talking heads out there are also starting to dismiss him as a potential Heisman candidate, and I just can't understand why.

I decided to take this year's Heisman hopefuls and stack them up statistically against all Heisman winning QB's since 1992. This includes all-time greats like Cam Newton and Carson Palmer, and in 2001 the nation was so locked in to the burgeoning war against terror that they just kind of gave a Heisman to Eric Crouch.

Here's what 2013's current ballot looks like:

  • Johnny Manziel - Because no one puts Johnny in the corner
  • Jameis Winston - Potentially the next Freshman Heisman winner
  • Bryce Petty - He's been playing Baylor Bold, which believe it or not, is a good thing apparently
  • AJ McCarron - Because he's earned it over his body of work, or some other similarly dumb argument
  • Derek Carr - Because I hate his brother so much that I feel bad for him
Between 1992 and now there were 14 different quarterbacks who won the Heisman Trophy. I projected the stats for each of the current front-runners based purely on their average performance after the games played so far. All of the data can be found in the table at the end of this article, and I threw out stats from bowl games. Only regular season games are accounted for.

Passing Categories

Here is where each of these guys stack up in major passing categories:

Passing Categories Rankings
Name Cmp % Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
Johnny Manziel 1 4 2 4 4 T-8 2
Bryce Petty 7 4 1 1 6 1 1
AJ McCarron 3 12 9 8 11 T-1 6
Jameis Winston 3 4 1 2 4 T-6 1
Derek Carr 3 1 15 13 2 T-3 12


Completion %

Johnny Manziel rules the roost here. If he keeps up his current track, he'll wind up with the best completion percentage of any Heisman winning QB in the last 20 years. Pretty spiffy for a running, scrambling QB huh narrative creators?

Bryce Petty on the other hand has been completing 2/3rds of his throws, which would put him in the Troy Smith / Cam Newton / Mett Leinart range.

Passing Yards

If somehow Derek Carr won the Heisman, which is completely ludicrous given the fact that he will have played no top 25 opponents, he would wind up with the most total passing yards out of this grouping with a projected 4941 yards.

Manziel, Petty and Winston all get bunched together here all pushing up towards the 4000 passing yard mark with only 10 yards separating Petty and Manziel, and Winston not far behind.

Adjusted Yards per Passing Attempt (AY/A)

I glossed over just the generic yards per attempt and jumped straight to AY/A. This is a number that factors in yards, attempts, touchdowns and interceptions. Right now, Winston and Petty would be up at the top of the list, only being split by Robert Griffin III. Johnny Manziel, as prolific as he has been as a passer, would wind up bunched around Cam Newton and Tim Tebow. AJ McCarron and Derek Carr are further down this list primarily because of the number of passing attempts they have, or total TD's that they contribute to their team's success.

Passing Touchdowns

Touchdowns and yards are the meaty stats that everyone can wrap their brains around and start applying all kinds of logical and illogical analysis to. If everything stayed on pace, Jamies Winston with 38 and Johnny Manziel with 37, edge out RG3's 36 passing TD's. Derek Carr would end up with 46, only 2 TD's behind Sam Bradford.

Interceptions

Bryce Petty and AJ McCarron are on pace to be best on this list. Bryce Petty, if he only wound up with 2 INT's, would be doing a phenomenal job. Unfortunately he is just hitting the meat of his schedule now, so I don't expect these numbers to hold up.

Manziel on the other hand would be tied for last place on this list with Danny Wuerffel at 13 INTs. It would still be hard to discredit him based on this, considering Jameis Winston would be sitting there in Eric Crouch land with 10 INTs.

Passer Rating

Based on passer rating (essentially passing efficiency) Bryce Petty, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel would all be putting up monster numbers that would have them at or near the top of this list.

Rushing Categories

Here is where each of these guys stack up in major rushing categories:

Rushing Category Rankings
Name Yds Avg TD
Johnny Manziel 5 3 5
Bryce Petty 8 8 5
AJ McCarron 10 11 15
Jameis Winston 8 8 8
Derek Carr 8 8 9

Johnny Manziel is on pace to be in the top 5 list in all rushing categories for QB's over the last 20 years. Again. The person currently sitting in the top 5 that he would knock out by placing his name in there twice? Robert Griffin III. That's a heck of an accomplishment.

Bryce Petty has gotten some sneaks to put him up there in TD's, but everyone else in this list would be considered an average rusher at best. No one has wheels like Manziel.

AJ McCarron would be at the bottom of this list with -32 rushing yards.

Totals

The stats tossed around the most are total yards and TD's Here is where everyone winds up in those categories:

Name Total Yards Total TD
Johnny Manziel 2 4
Bryce Petty 5 5
AJ McCarron 13 13
Jameis Winston 5 6
Derek Carr 1 4

Derek Carr would be at the top of the list with over 5000 total yards. Yards come cheap in the MWC.

Johnny Manziel on the other hand would be third on this list if he kept on pace and wound up with 4,709 yards. He would also be 4th in TD's.

As far as total yards and TD's go, any of the candidates available would be good picks except for AJ McCarron. He is far behind the pack in offensive contribution based on these data points.

Other Notes

There have only been two Heisman trophy winning quarterbacks in the last 20 years who have played 3 or less AP Top 25 teams during the regular season. Matt Leinart played 2, and Eric Crouch played 3. Bryce Petty and Jameis Winston will both 3 this year, Derek Carr will play 0, and both AJ McCarron and Johnny Manziel will play 4.

Only 4 quarterbacks who won the Heisman in the last 20 years were completely undefeated after their regular season and conference championship games: Gino Torretta, Matt Leinart, Troy Smith and Cam Newton.

Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, Tim Tebow and Carson Palmer all won the Heisman Trophy with 2 or more losses.

Over 5% of Eric Crouch's pass attempts wound up as Interceptions. This is mind numbing.

If I had to pick between AJ McCarron and Derek Carr to win the Heisman, I would do a write-in for Eric Crouch.

Full Stat Table

Passing Rushing Top 25
Year Name School Pos Class Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate Att Yds Avg TD Total Yds Total TD INT/A % Opp W L T
1992 Gino Torretta Miami (Fla) QB Sr. 228 402 56.7 3060 7.6 7.8 19 7 132.8 34 -24 -0.7 0 3036 19 1.74% 4 11 0 0
1993 Charlie Ward Florida State QB Sr. 264 380 69.5 3032 8 8.9 27 4 157.8 65 339 5.2 4 3371 31 1.05% 6 11 1 0
1996 Danny Wuerffel Florida QB Sr. 207 360 57.5 3625 10.1 10.6 39 13 170.6 63 -100 -1.6 2 3525 41 3.61% 4 11 1 1
2000 Chris Weinke Florida State QB Sr. 266 431 61.7 4167 9.7 10.1 33 11 163.1 30 -97 -3.2 1 4070 34 2.55% 4 11 1 0
2001 Eric Crouch Nebraska QB Sr. 105 189 55.6 1510 8 6.3 7 10 124.3 203 1115 5.5 18 2625 25 5.29% 3 11 1 0
2002 Carson Palmer USC QB Sr. 288 458 62.9 3639 7.95 8.36 32 10 148.3 45 -118 -2.6 4 3521 36 2.18% 8 11 2 0
2003 Jason White Oklahoma QB Jr. 265 414 64 3744 9.04 10.1 40 8 168 35 -104 -3 1 3640 41 1.93% 4 12 1 0
2004 Matt Leinart USC QB Jr. 251 377 66.6 2990 7.93 8.7 28 6 154.5 47 -33 -0.7 3 2957 31 1.59% 2 12 0 0
2006 Troy Smith Ohio State QB Sr. 199 297 67 2507 8.44 9.7 30 5 167.9 62 233 3.76 1 2740 31 1.68% 4 12 0 0
2007 Tim Tebow Florida QB Sop 217 317 68.5 3132 9.88 10.9 29 6 177.9 194 838 4.32 22 3970 51 1.89% 4 9 3 0
2008 Sam Bradford Oklahoma QB Sop 302 442 68.3 4464 10.1 11.7 48 6 186.3 40 65 1.63 5 4529 53 1.36% 6 12 1 0
2010 Cam Newton Auburn QB Jr. 185 280 66.1 2854 10.2 11.2 30 7 182 264 1473 5.58 20 4327 50 2.50% 5 13 0 0
2011 Robert Griffin III Baylor University QB Jr. 267 369 72.4 3998 10.8 12.1 36 6 192.3 161 644 4 9 4642 45 1.63% 4 9 3 0
2012 Johnny Manziel Texas A&M QB Fr. 273 400 68.3 3706 9.27 9.57 24 8 161.9 184 1181 6.42 19 4887 43 2.00% 5 10 2 0
2013 Johnny Manziel Texas A&M QB Sop 276 378 73 3976 10.5 10.9 37 13 186.8 132 733 5.55 12 4709.2 49 3.44% 4 8 2 0
2013 Bryce Petty Baylor University QB Jr. 203 303 67 3986 13.2 15 32 2 211 66 177 2.68 12 4163 44 0.66% 3 8 0 0
2013 AJ McCarron Alabama QB Sr. 230 331 69.5 2948 8.91 9.99 27 4 168.8 23 -32 -1.4 0 2916 27 1.21% 4 9 0 0
2013 Jameis Winston Florida State QB Fr. 240 347 69.2 3844 11.1 12 38 10 192.6 77 227 2.95 4 4071 42 2.88% 3 9 0 0
2013 Derek Carr Fresno State QB Sr. 467 672 69.5 4941 7.35 8.32 46 6 152.1 45 113 2.51 3 5054 49 0.89% 0 9 0 0
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