Sterling Sharpe: Heisman Trophy Winner?

Like last week, we're doing a post about the Heisman Trophy sponsored by EA Sports, who has a new Heisman-specific feature in this year's version of its game. This week's post answers the question, who is the biggest Heisman snub?

I'm not going to go with who I think the biggest all-time snub is, but rather the Carolina Gamecock I feel might have deserved more credit than he received from the voters. I do this not so much because I believe this particular player was definitely the best player in the country the year he might have been considered for the Heisman, although I do think that, even if he wasn't dominant statistically, that he proved to be in the argument for best player of his college generation. The player I have in mind is Sterling Sharpe. Sharpe was a dominant wide receiver in 1986 and 1987 for the Gamecocks, catching for 1106 and 915 yards, respectively. These were both 11 game seasons, making those accomplishments all the more impressive.

Was Sharpe the best player in the country either of these years? That's unclear. Vinny Testeverde won the trophy in 1986, and Tim Brown won it in 1987. (Some other notable players from these classes were Emmit Smith, Craig Heyward, Thurman Thomas, and Cornelius Bennett.) You could easily argue that Sharpe was a better player than either of these two winners; in fact, there's a reasonable argument that Sharpe would have proven among the best few receivers ever, had his career not ended with a tragic injury. But that's not the real reason I'm bringing him up here.

The main reason I mention Sharpe is because there's a major problem with the Heisman's logic. (As if you didn't know.) The voting is heavily biased towards running backs and quarterbacks. When a player makes a run, that player is almost always an all-purpose guy who has several highlight-reel plays in the return game. Brown, in fact, is a great example of this.

I've (and I'm certainly not alone here) long thought that this is incredibly wrong-headed. The great thing about football is that it's a complicated game where mismatches at any particular position can make a big difference. Does having a talented QB or RB make up for deficiencies at other positions? Can you win with a good tailback but crappy receivers? To say nothing of a crappy defense? Obviously, the answer is "no."

I believe that the Heisman should go to a player who not only racks up huge statistics, but a player who also makes a major difference in his team's fortunes. There are certain players who perform statistically because they play for great teams that pave the way for their fortunes, and there are some players who make their team's fortunes despite deficiencies at other positions. Unfortunately, the former sometimes win the Heisman, partially because the Heisman is biased towards certain positions, and partially because it's biased towards certain teams, which is a topic for another day. In fact, since we bring up a receiver here in Sterling, it's worth wondering how many Heisman winners won on the basis of their receivers, and how many running backs won solely on the basis of their passing game and offensive lines.

Would Sterling have won it under these standards? Maybe not, but at least he would have had a fair shot.

This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.

EA SPORTS NCAA Football 13 TV: "Son" (via EASPORTS)

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