Heisman curse

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The Heisman Curse is a term coined to reference a two-part assertion of a negative future for the winning player. The "curse" supposes that any college football player who wins the Heisman Trophy will likely lose his subsequent bowl game. The trend of post-award failure has garnered the attention of the mainstream media.[1] Talk of a curse in relation to Bowl results was particularly prevalent during the period 2003 – 2008 when six Heisman trophy winners compiled a 1-5 Bowl record, and five of those six led #1 ranked teams into the BCS National Championship Game as favorites (Heisman Trophy winners, including the disclaimed Reggie Bush, are 4-8 overall in the BCS National Championship Game and College Football Playoff National Championship, although prior to 2009 they were 1-6). Additionally, the Heisman Curse asserts that in most cases a Heisman winner will have either a poor career in the NFL, or in fact not even see such a football career at all. Although many Heisman winners have not enjoyed success at the professional level, including players like Matt Leinart, Andre Ware, Jason White, Rashaan Salaam, Eric Crouch, Ty Detmer, Troy Smith and Gino Torretta, proponents of the "curse" rarely cite highly-successful players such as Barry Sanders, Charles Woodson, Eddie George, Tim Brown, Bo Jackson, Marcus Allen, Earl Campbell, and Tony Dorsett among the notables.

Insofar as there is a "curse" of under performing Heisman winners, it seems to affect quarterbacks disproportionately. Although certain Heisman winners have gone on to win Super Bowls (Roger Staubach and Jim Plunkett), comparatively few have had successful NFL careers. Conversely, running backs seem generally to have fared better in the professional ranks, and wide receivers have had mixed results. The only primarily defensive Heisman winner, Charles Woodson, had a successful NFL career and final collegiate Bowl game appearance.

The "curse" does not imply that only Heisman winners have failed careers, only the irony behind college football's best underperforming after the award is given.[2] However, while there are numerous counts of players who underperformed after winning the award, an equal number of players have gone on to see great success,[3] evidence that the "curse" is more of an amusement than a reality.

While there is no statistical or empirical evidence that suggests Heisman winners under perform compared to other high profile collegiate players, some people[who?] try to explain the perception of the curse by reference to trends regarding voter selections. Some see the trend going back decades to other players, but it has most famously been observed since the 1990s. The accepted logical explanation for the discrepancy between success and failure of Heisman winners is that the people who pick the Heisman are sportswriters and former Heisman winners. This might mean that they vote for a winner based on reputation, without seeing him or really studying him, basically a qualitative approach. On the other hand, the people who pick players for the NFL are talent evaluators. They study tape, they interview players and they put them through workouts where their strengths and weaknesses can be quantified.[4]

Heisman Trophy winner's bowl game results

Year Player Team Bowl Game Opponent Bowl Game Result
1935 Jay Berwanger Chicago Maroons No Bowl - -
1936 Larry Kelley #12 Yale Bulldogs No Bowl - -
1937 Clint Frank #12 Yale Bulldogs 6 Bowl - -
1938 Davey O'Brien #1 TCU Horned Frogs 1939 Sugar Bowl #6 Carnegie Tech W, 15-7
1939 Nile Kinnick #9 Iowa Hawkeyes No Bowl - -
1940 Tom Harmon #3 Michigan Wolverines No Bowl - -
1941 Bruce Smith #1 Minnesota Golden Gophers No Bowl - -
1942 Frank Sinkwich #2 Georgia Bulldogs 1943 Rose Bowl #13 UCLA Bruins W, 9-0
1943 Angelo Bertelli #1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish No Bowl - -
1944 Les Horvath #2 Ohio State Buckeyes No Bowl - -
1945 Doc Blanchard #1 Army Cadets No Bowl - -
1946 Glenn Davis #2 Army Cadets No Bowl - -
1947 Johnny Lujack #1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish No Bowl - -
1948 Doak Walker #10 SMU Mustangs 1949 Cotton Bowl Classic #9 Oregon Ducks W, 21-13
1949 Leon Hart #1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish No Bowl - -
1950 Vic Janowicz #14 Ohio State Buckeyes No Bowl - -
1951 Dick Kazmaier #6 Princeton Tigers No Bowl - -
1952 Billy Vessels #4 Oklahoma Sooners No Bowl - -
1953 Johnny Lattner #2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish No Bowl - -
1954 Alan Ameche #9 Wisconsin Badgers No Bowl - -
1955 Howard Cassady #5 Ohio State Buckeyes No Bowl - -
1956 Paul Hornung Notre Dame Fighting Irish No Bowl - -
1957 John David Crow #9 Texas A&M Aggies 1957 Gator Bowl #13 Tennessee Volunteers L, 0-3
1958 Pete Dawkins #3 Army Cadets No Bowl - -
1959 Billy Cannon #3 LSU Tigers 1960 Sugar Bowl #2 Ole Miss Rebels L, 0-21
1960 Joe Bellino #4 Navy Midshipmen 1961 Orange Bowl #5 Missouri Tigers L, 14-21
1961 Ernie Davis #14 Syracuse Orangemen 1961 Liberty Bowl Miami Hurricanes W, 15-14
1962 Terry Baker Oregon State 1962 Liberty Bowl Villanova Wildcats W, 6-0
1963 Roger Staubach #2 Navy Midshipmen 1964 Cotton Bowl Classic #1 Texas Longhorns L, 6-28
1964 John Huarte #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish No Bowl - -
1965 Mike Garrett #10 USC Trojans No Bowl - -
1966 Steve Spurrier Florida Gators 1967 Orange Bowl #8 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets W, 27-12
1967 Gary Beban UCLA Bruins No Bowl - -
1968 O.J. Simpson #2 USC Trojans 1969 Rose Bowl #1 Ohio State Buckeyes L, 16-27
1969 Steve Owens Oklahoma Sooners No Bowl - -
1970 Jim Plunkett #12 Stanford Indians 1971 Rose Bowl #2 Ohio State Buckeyes W, 27-17
1971 Pat Sullivan #5 Auburn Tigers 1972 Sugar Bowl #3 Oklahoma Sooners L, 22-40
1972 Johnny Rodgers #9 Nebraska Cornhuskers 1973 Orange Bowl #12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish W, 40-6
1973 John Cappelletti #6 Penn State Nittany Lions 1974 Orange Bowl #13 LSU Tigers W, 16-9
1974 Archie Griffin #3 Ohio State Buckeyes 1975 Rose Bowl #5 USC Trojans L, 17-18
1975 Archie Griffin #1 Ohio State Buckeyes 1976 Rose Bowl #11 UCLA Bruins L, 10-23
1976 Tony Dorsett #1 Pittsburgh Panthers 1977 Sugar Bowl #5 Georgia Bulldogs W, 27-3
1977 Earl Campbell #1 Texas Longhorns 1978 Cotton Bowl Classic #5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish L, 10-38
1978 Billy Sims #4 Oklahoma Sooners 1979 Orange Bowl #6 Nebraska Cornhuskers W, 31-24
1979 Charles White #3 USC Trojans 1980 Rose Bowl #1 Ohio State Buckeyes W. 17-16
1980 George Rogers #18 South Carolina Gamecocks 1980 Gator Bowl #3 Pittsburgh Panthers L, 9-37
1981 Marcus Allen #8 USC Trojans 1982 Fiesta Bowl #7 Penn State Nittany Lions L, 10-26
1982 Herschel Walker #1 Georgia Bulldogs 1983 Sugar Bowl #2 Penn State Nittany Lions L, 23-27
1983 Mike Rozier #1 Nebraska Cornhuskers 1984 Orange Bowl #5 Miami Hurricanes L, 30-31
1984 Doug Flutie #8 Boston College Eagles 1985 Cotton Bowl Classic Houston Cougars W, 45-28
1985 Bo Jackson #16 Auburn Tigers 1986 Cotton Bowl Classic #11 Texas A&M Aggies L, 16-36
1986 Vinny Testaverde #1 Miami Hurricanes 1987 Fiesta Bowl #2 Penn State Nittany Lions L, 10-14
1987 Tim Brown #12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 1988 Cotton Bowl Classic #13 Texas A&M Aggies L, 10-35
1988 Barry Sanders #12 Oklahoma State 1988 Holiday Bowl #15 Wyoming Cowboys W, 62-14
1989 Andre Ware #13 Houston Cougars No Bowl - NCAA Probation - -
1990 Ty Detmer #13 BYU Cougars 1990 Holiday Bowl Texas A&M Aggies L, 14-65
1991 Desmond Howard #4 Michigan Wolverines 1992 Rose Bowl #2 Washington Huskies L, 14-34
1992 Gino Torretta #1 Miami Hurricanes 1993 Sugar Bowl (National Championship Game) #2 Alabama Crimson Tide L, 13-34
1993 Charlie Ward #1 Florida State Seminoles 1994 Orange Bowl (National Championship Game) #2 Nebraska Cornhuskers W, 18-16
1994 Rashaan Salaam #4 Colorado Buffaloes 1995 Fiesta Bowl Notre Dame Fighting Irish W, 41-24
1995 Eddie George #4 Ohio State Buckeyes 1996 Florida Citrus Bowl #5 Tennessee Volunteers L, 14-20
1996 Danny Wuerffel #3 Florida Gators 1997 Sugar Bowl (National Championship Game) #1 Florida State Seminoles W, 52-20
1997 Charles Woodson #1 Michigan Wolverines 1998 Rose Bowl #8 Washington State Cougars W, 21-16
1998 Ricky Williams #20 Texas Longhorns 1999 Cotton Bowl Classic #25 Mississippi State Bulldogs W, 38-11
1999 Ron Dayne #4 Wisconsin Badgers 2000 Rose Bowl #22 Stanford Cardinal W, 17-9
2000 Chris Weinke #2 Florida State Seminoles 2001 Orange Bowl (National Championship Game) #1 Oklahoma Sooners L, 2-13
2001 Eric Crouch #2 Nebraska Cornhuskers 2002 Rose Bowl (National Championship Game) #1 Miami Hurricanes L, 14-37
2002 Carson Palmer #5 USC Trojans 2003 Orange Bowl #3 Iowa Hawkeyes W, 38-17
2003 Jason White #1 Oklahoma Sooners 2004 Sugar Bowl (National Championship Game) #2 LSU Tigers L, 14-21
2004 Matt Leinart #1 USC Trojans 2005 Orange Bowl (National Championship Game) #2 Oklahoma Sooners W‡, 55-19
2005 Reggie Bush #1 USC Trojans 2006 Rose Bowl (National Championship Game) #2 Texas Longhorns L, 38-41
2006 Troy Smith #1 Ohio State Buckeyes 2007 BCS National Championship Game #2 Florida Gators L, 14-41
2007 Tim Tebow #9 Florida Gators 2008 Capital One Bowl Michigan Wolverines L, 35-41
2008 Sam Bradford #1 Oklahoma Sooners 2009 BCS National Championship Game #2 Florida Gators L, 14-24
2009 Mark Ingram #1 Alabama Crimson Tide 2010 BCS National Championship Game #2 Texas Longhorns W, 37-21
2010 Cam Newton #1 Auburn Tigers 2011 BCS National Championship Game #2 Oregon Ducks W, 22-19
2011 Robert Griffin III #12 Baylor Bears 2011 Alamo Bowl Washington Huskies W, 67-56
2012 Johnny Manziel #10 Texas A&M Aggies 2013 Cotton Bowl Classic #12 Oklahoma Sooners W, 41-13
2013 Jameis Winston #1 Florida State Seminoles 2014 BCS National Championship Game #2 Auburn Tigers W, 34-31
2014 Marcus Mariota #2 Oregon Ducks 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship #4 Ohio State Buckeyes L, 42-20
2015 Derrick Henry #2 Alabama Crimson Tide 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship #1 Clemson Tigers W, 45-40

Rankings are from the AP Poll upon entering bowl games
‡—USC's 2005 Orange Bowl win was later vacated.[5]

Heisman winner's professional history

1980s

  • Andre Ware (1989) - After three years at the University of Houston, Ware declared for the 1990 Draft, skipping his senior year with the Cougars. Taken seventh by the Lions in the first round, he was expected to be a franchise quarterback for the team. Instead, over four seasons he was active in only 14 games, starting 6 of them and marking a career with the Lions with a total 51.6% pass completion rate.[6] He was signed by the LA Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars for the 1994 and 1995 seasons respectively, but was inactive and did not play for either team.[7] Ware went on to play in the CFL with the BC Lions in 1996 and the Argonauts in 1997. An eventual attempt to return to the NFL was made in 1999 when he was signed by Oakland, but ended up playing in NFL Europe with the Berlin Thunder. He is now an occasional announcer with ESPN as well as the radio color analyst for the Houston Texans, and considered by some to be the biggest Heisman bust in NFL history.[8]

1990s

  • Gino Torretta (1992) - A California native, Torretta attended the University of Miami, leading two championship teams,[9] including one to a co-national championship in 1991. Despite his success, his actual numbers were not impressive, including a career pass completion of only 56%.[10] He was taken with the 192nd overall pick, late in the seventh round by the Vikings.[11] He didn't see a single down with Minnesota in 1993, and though the Lions picked up his contract in 1994, he played as only a seldom-used backup quarterback. The 49ers signed him to their roster in 1995 after he was released by Detroit,[12] though he continued to find use only in a backup role. Torretta was transferred to play with the Rhein Fire, but was once again cut, only to be picked up by Seattle. He retired in 1998 after once more not being played, this time by the Colts. The only game that he played during his five-year career came with Seattle, in a match against the Oakland Raiders[13] As of October 2, 2011, Torretta is serving as Head, Marketing Team for Gabelli Asset Management Inc.[14] and has as regular broadcast show from 10am to noon on Sportsradio 560 WQAM.
  • Charlie Ward (1993) - Playing both football and basketball at Florida State, Ward excelled and was awarded the Heisman. He stated publicly that he wouldn't enter the NFL if not selected as a first-round pick in the 1994 NFL Draft,[15] a position that he felt he deserved. By declaring this, no team felt it wise to even consider him for the NFL,[16] as he had already been picked as a first-round, 26th overall choice by the New York Knicks in the NBA's 1994 Draft.[17] The feeling was that Ward was trying to leverage one sport against another.
  • Rashaan Salaam (1994) - Salaam was expected to have an enormous impact in the NFL at the running back position, having put up impressive numbers at UC Boulder. His career got off to a rocky start with a lengthy contract holdout[18] after having been selected by the Bears with the 21st pick in the first round of the draft. Despite impressive total rushing yards in his rookie season, fumbles and injury led to him being cut in 1998.[19] After one completely inactive season, Salaam was picked up in 1999 by three separate teams; Oakland, Cleveland and the Green Bay Packers. Despite being on the roster of three teams, he only played in two games during the season, both of which came while he was with the Browns. Admitted habitual marijuana use[20] kept other teams from showing interest. In 2001, Salaam played in the XFL for the Memphis Maniax, and though he was the leading rusher for the team, injuries prevented him from putting up bigger numbers. The Lions chose not to sign him after he tried out for the team when the XFL folded after their inaugural year. The 49ers signed him[21] in May for the 2003 season, but cut him in August before the start of the season.[22] Signed by the Toronto Argonauts in 2004,[23] he was later suspended and cut due to continuing problems with marijuana use,[24] ending his originally promising career anticlimactically in the CFL.
  • Ron Dayne (1999) - The University of Wisconsin running back earned a Heisman trophy with numerous records, including the NCAA record for career rushing yards (6,397),[27] a record which still stands. Taken high in the 2000 NFL Draft at the 11th pick by the Giants, he would go on to play as "Thunder and Lightning" with Tiki Barber all the way through Super Bowl XXXV (34-7 loss to the Ravens). He would never recapture this success, with difficulty losing weight possibly being the reason for his falling further down the depth chart.[28] After being released by the Giants, he was picked up by Denver for the 2005 season where he briefly appeared to be on a comeback to former glory.[29] However, he was cut on September 3, 2006 after only one season, though his contract was immediately picked up by the Texans.[30] He started eight games for the Texans, but while he continues to be officially listed as a free agent, he has not played in the NFL since the 2007 season. He is considered to be one of the worst draft picks in Giants history[31]

2000s

  • Chris Weinke (2000) - After an unconventional six-year stint in minor league baseball, Weinke joined the Seminoles at the quarterback position.[32] He took the team to the National Championship game in 2000, the same year that he won the Heisman. He was drafted with a deep overall 106th pick in round four by the Carolina Panthers[33] He spent four non-consecutive playing seasons with the Panthers (2001–2006). After a dreadful 2001 season in which he started only one winning game,[34] his duties were relegated almost entirely as a backup quarterback for Jake Delhomme. After having only two winning starts over four seasons, the Heisman winner was released in 2007,[35] then signed by the San Francisco 49ers due to a series of injuries to their starting quarterbacks.[36] He started only one game with the team, a 20-7 loss to the Browns. The 49ers did not return him to the roster in 2008. Weinke is now the director of the IMG Madden Football Academy.
  • Eric Crouch (2001) - The 2001 Heisman Trophy winner played quarterback for the University of Nebraska, winning awards and great recognition for running a highly successful option offense, completing a respectable 105 of 189 passes. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams late in the third round with the 95th overall pick.[37][38] Despite having won the Heisman as a college quarterback, he was considered too small to play under center and his athleticism better suited to play the wideout position. A hard tackle in a 2002 preseason game sidelined him before he played in any professional game with the NFL. He announced his official retirement from football before seeing a single play.[39] He is mockingly credited as having had a "stellar" three-week career. He eventually came out of retirement to sign with Kansas City in 2005, only to be sent to play the safety position in NFL Europe with the Hamburg Sea Devils.[40] A brief stint as primarily a third- or fourth-string backup quarterback in the Heisman-friendly CFL began in 2006 and ended with a debilitating 2007 injury leading to his being released by the Toronto Argonauts. He would not return to the league. Drafted in 2008 by Team Texas of the All-American Football League, his contract was released when the league postponed its inaugural season. He made a 2011 debut with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League,[41] competing for the position with Troy Smith, another Heisman winner. He is currently best known as a distributor of playground equipment.[42]
  • Jason White (2003) - Having played the quarterback position at the University of Oklahoma, White was considered an outstanding college athlete despite losing both the 2004 and 2005 BCS championship games. However, he was not courted by any team or taken at any position in the 2005 NFL Draft, with many experts citing durability issues and "marginal" physical skills.[43] As an undrafted free agent, he eventually signed with the Tennessee Titans in 2005 as a member of the practice squad.[44] Citing weak knees, he retired before the start of the season, never having touched the ball or seen a single down during his professional career. He now owns an "The Athlete's Foot" franchise and "A Store Divided", which sells Oklahoma and Oklahoma State merchandise.[45]
  • Matt Leinart (2004) - Leinart was generally seen to have enormous potential as a quarterback coming out of USC, being selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the tenth pick in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft.[46] However, during four seasons with the Cardinals, he completed only 340 of 595 pass attempts over 17 starts,[47] including a marginal rookie year with a 4-7 record. He suffered a shoulder injury at the end of the 2006 season and broke his left clavicle (collarbone) against the St. Louis Rams in 2007, a season-ending injury.[48] He never returned to even inconsistent play, showing weakly in training camps and preseason games, being replaced by veteran backup Kurt Warner, who would hold on to the position.[49] Leinart was later cut from Arizona's roster on September 4, 2010 and has been used only as a backup quarterback with the Houston Texans since the 2010 season.[50] Leinart has since been released after try outs with multiple teams.
  • Reggie Bush (2005-rescinded) - Bush has been inconsistent[51] ever since being drafted by the Saints in 2006. Plagued by injury, and the rescinding of his Heisman trophy due to multiple rules infractions by USC, the much-hyped running back is statistically one of the worst in the NFL.[52] He was traded to the Dolphins[53] in late July 2011, leaving New Orleans with an average of only 4.0 yards per carry. After 2 solid seasons in Miami, he signed with the Detroit Lions following the 2012 season.
  • Troy Smith (2006) - Impressive playing statistics[54] led to a Heisman win, but a definitive 41-14 loss in 2007 championship game significantly dropped his worth in the eyes of NFL recruiters. He was eventually taken by the Ravens with the 174th overall position, last pick of the fifth round and only as a compensatory selection. His first professional start was in a Week 16 loss to the Seahawks at the end of the 2007 season.[55] He finished the season with one win, and was expected to be the starter in 2008, but became ill with Lemierre's syndrome, a very rare disease - only 161 cases reported in the last century. During three seasons with Baltimore, Smith started only two games, and was only active for 14.[56] He was cut from the team on September 4, 2010[57] but picked up by San Francisco four days later.[58] Following the 2010 season in which he put up only a 50.3% pass completion, he was not re-signed by the 49ers. He recently played for the Omaha Nighthawks,[59] competing for the quarterback position rather ironically with Eric Crouch, another Heisman winner. He was recently signed by the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.
  • Tim Tebow (2007) - First sophomore to win the Heisman and a runner-up as a junior and senior, Tebow was heralded by many as one of the greatest college football players of all time, after contributing to Florida's 2006 National Championship as a freshman and then leading his team to another one as a junior. After being drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos, a team he brought to the NFL playoffs, he was subsequently traded to the New York Jets and then released, briefly picked up by the New England Patriots and then cut prior to the start of the 2013 season.
  • Sam Bradford (2008) - Was drafted with the number one pick overall by the St Louis Rams, but his professional career has been severely hampered by injuries. Was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the 2015 season with his pro record as a starter standing at 19-30-1.
  • Mark Ingram (2009) - Was drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints. In 2014 he rushed for 964 yards and 9 touchdowns in his best year so far as a pro. Over his career he is averaging 11.6 attempts per game at 4.2 yards a carry, and has scored 20 rushing touchdowns.

2010s

  • Cam Newton (2010) - Was drafted with the number one pick overall by the Carolina Panthers. Won offensive rookie of the year in his first season. Still active in the NFL and has pro record of 33-33-1 as a starter.
  • Robert Griffin III (2011) - Was drafted with the number two pick overall by the Washington Redskins after a blockbuster trade. Won rookie of the year in his first season, but his career has been disrupted significantly by injury. In 2015 the team named Kirk Cousins as the starter and would not confirm if Griffin III would be the second string or third string.

See also

References

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