BOZICH | Deshaun Watson great, but Lamar Jackson earned his Heisman
Discussion about Lamar Jackson's 2016 Heisman Trophy victory percolated after Deshaun Watson led Clemson to the college football national championship.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Dabo Swinney and Clemson took down Alabama, Nick Saban, Bear Bryant, Joe Namath, Dreamland Bar-B-Que, the mythology of the Southeastern Conference and everything else that matters in college football's national championship game Monday night.
Swinney and Clemson earned a pass to say anything and everything they’d like to say until blocking and tackling resumes next fall.
Doesn’t mean they’re right.
Simply means they can say it. National champions get a pass.
After the Tigers’ 35-31 victory over the Crimson Tide in Tampa, Fla., Swinney was at his hyperkinetic best.
This was the celebratory statement Swinney made about Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson that is most likely to draw further review in Louisville:
“(Watson) didn’t lose out on the Heisman. They lost out on him. They lost an opportunity to be attached to this guy forever … That was his Heisman tonight.”
And we’re off.
Welcome to life in the post-Heisman World, Lamar Jackson. As soon as you’re finished striking the pose, assume a defensive posture and be prepared to be struck from every direction. It's official -- you're a target.
Clay Travis of OutkickTheCoverage.com never needs encouragement to deliver a crackback block — and he was ready with this post-game Tweet:
“Any doubt Deshaun Watson unanimously wins the Heisman Trophy if award is given this weekend?”
If you’re arguing Heisman organizers should postpone balloting until after the playoffs, that is certainly a worthwhile and overdue discussion.
Voting for the Wooden Award closes after the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Perfect? No. Better than voting the first weekend in March? You bet.
If you’re saying that Lamar Jackson did not deserve the trophy, you’re wrong by the current guidelines. The rules this year were the same rules that Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, Gino Torretta, Ty Detmer and dozens more followed.
I also wasn’t surprised that I found a story that suggested Watson deserved to win two Heismans (actually he didn’t win in 2015 or 2016). I was surprised I didn’t uncover stories suggesting Watson should have won three or four (and, yes, I know he only played three seasons).
Just this: ProFootballTalk rushed forward with its look at the 2017 Heisman Trophy field. The first name on the list was not Jackson.
It was quarterback Sam Darnold of Southern Cal.
Followed by Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma.
Followed by Jake Browning of Washington.
Followed by the winner of the 2016 Heisman Trophy.
Strike that. Let me say it again:
Followed by the player who deserved to win the 2016 Heisman and won it from here to Sheboygan, earning nearly twice as many first-place votes as Watson (525 to 269). That is Lamar Jackson.
That’s worth noting because when the 2016 college football season began Watson, Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette, Stanford halfback Christian McCaffery, Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Mayfield dominated the Heisman hype.
They were featured on all the magazine covers. They were interviewed by ESPN. They were listed on the pre-season all-American teams. They had all the advantages.
And they whiffed.
He wasn’t even considered first- or second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference.
That perception changed. Jackson changed it.
He changed it with his arm, throwing 26 touchdown passes in Louisville’s first nine games.
Jackson changed it with his legs, crackling to 19 TDs in the same nine-game stretch.
Few people argued that Deshaun Watson was a better quarterback than Lamar Jackson in early November.
You were more likely to read about Watson’s struggles.
Watson threw 10 interceptions in Clemson’s first eight games. He rushed for more than 60 yards once, scrambling for two touchdowns in the Tigers’ first 10 games. Two touchdowns were a bad game for Jackson.
If North Carolina State makes a 33-yard field goal, Clemsoning remains in the college football vocabulary. They were that close to being the biggest bust in college football.
If James Quick grinds his way for a first down, Louisville would have been positioned to take down the Tigers in Clemson.
Didn’t happen. Clemson survived and advanced. Clemson improved. Clemson took down the teams the Tigers needed to take down. The Tigers got what they earned -- the national title.
What also happened is that Louisville floundered over the final three games of the season, losing to Houston (big), Kentucky (as a 28-point favorite) and Louisiana State (big).
Jacksons ran for two touchdowns and passed for only three more in the Cards’ final four games.
Watson, meanwhile, played like the guy who deserved all those pre-season magazine covers. He was masterful in the fourth quarter.
Watson helped Clemson hang 66 points on Ohio State and Alabama by completing 59 of 92 passes for 679 yards and four touchdowns. Dazzling.
Deshaun Watson was Mr. December and January.
The Heisman Trophy has never been a December and January award. Those aren't the rules. Maybe the rules should be changed. But Lamar Jackson won the Heisman -- and deserved it.
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