A Handful of Heisman Voters Screw Up, Ingram Wins Honor
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Alabama RB Mark Ingram has won the Heisman award for 2009, in a race that was close enough to invite five different players to New York City for consideration of the award.
My take: Ingram was the least deserving of the five.
The Flint, MI native averaged 6.2 yards per carry in 2009, and ran for 140+ yards in a game 6 times this year. More impressively, Ingram was only shut down in two games this year: against Arkansas and at Auburn, when he was held at or under 50 yards in both games.
Ingram beat out Toby Gerhart in the voting totals. Gerhart averaged 5.6 yards per carry, but was the workhorse of the Stanford Cardinal, carrying 311 times, and his worst game of the year came against Wake Forest. Without looking at advanced metrics, it’s clear that Gerhart played a tougher schedule, showed up every week, and was overall the more valuable runner than Ingram.
Ingram’s selection over Gerhart, however, is defensible if you consider the relative receiving value of each player. Gerhart was used primarily as a pass protector in Stanford’s schemes, while Ingram was used as an outlet receiver, contributing 30 receptions for 322 yards, more than double what Gerhart contributed. A receiving yard for a RB tends to be more valuable than a rushing yard under the same circumstances, generally speaking. You could argue that, independent of the pass protection that Gerhart and Ingram provided for their offense, they offered equivalent values to their team.
Both players finished ahead of Texas QB Colt McCoy and Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh in the voting. Suh had the best game of his career against Texas in the Big XII championship game, and probably cost Colt McCoy the Heisman in the process. It’s incredibly difficult to quantify Suh’s contributions on the same scale as the other candidates. My feeling is that those who voted Suh second or third on their ballots were probably doing so because of biases towards some of the other candidates.
Suh’s dominance in the championship game was unmatched, but it was also a poor representation of who he is on the football field game after game. The guy is a clearly dominant force out there, but had 8 1-sack games for Nebraska during the regular season until a 4 sack performance against Texas on the national stage. With that said, I think his case is a lot stronger than Ingram’s was.
Every year, three or four running backs will statistically outperform Ingram’s Heisman winning season. I threw up his stats above, and while I think they’re very good, it’s easy to see why he won: Ingram was seen as the best player on the best team, and by faulty logical extension, the best player in college football. I don’t know if Ndamukong Suh is the most dominant player in college football, but I know he was more remarkable than Ingram. I don’t know if Toby Gerhart is the most dominant player in college football, but it’s not uncommon to think that his running style produced a more remarkable product than Ingram, who ran behind a much bigger OL, and played against a much greater average talent disparity.
And even with McCoy, who had a remarkably indistinguishable season throwing the football, had a remarkably accurate season minus the big plays we had come to expect from the Texas offense, but did it without a running game. McCoy’s numbers, even on a 13-0 team, would not have competed for the Heisman in any other year, which makes his case indistinguishable from Ingram’s.
To me, that’s the most telling thing. McCoy was no further from getting jipped from the Heisman than he was last year when he completed 77% of his passes for nearly 9 yards an attempt, and simply lost to a guy with a case every bit as remarkable as him: Sam Bradford. When you scale the votes to include two additional legitimate candidates, McCoy didn’t come up shorter than he should have really.
I’m disappointed that the award went to neither Gerhart or Suh, but it’s not like the process was flawed, and everyone missed the mark on this one or screwed up. Ingram only got enough votes to have finished 4th with the exact same resume last year.
This year, he finished first, but the difference between him and Gerhart, and even McCoy in the voting was semantical. The difference between Ingram finishing 1st and 3rd was just a handful of regional votes heavily in his favor. Why else would Tim Tebow, with basically the same case as McCoy, and even more historical media love (Tebow got more first place votes than McCoy last year), finish a distant 5th and with only 43 votes? It’s not that the media is tiring of Tebow, it’s that he lost his SEC regional votes to Ingram, which made all the difference.
Like I pointed out, you could make an argument for Ingram over any of the other candidates, but it only holds up as long as you internalize all of the successes of the Crimson Tide football team into Ingram while discrediting any accomplishments of the rest of the players beyond the statistical side of things. And I think Gerhart got jobbed with the award.
But, clearly, it’s not due to a lack of respect for what Toby Gerhart accomplished, nor did Colt McCoy or Ndamukong Suh get less pull than they should have (Suh, maybe, but he was more of a cult-hero longshot than a favorite). Ingram was the favorite to win the whole time, but only in the nominal sense. If this was the NFL MVP, you would have had a co-MVP split between Ingram and Gerhart.
Because it’s the Heisman, Gerhart gets nothing. But I still think he had the more remarkable season, and that a handful of voters ruined a really awesome chance to reward someone having a remarkable season, in exchange for the right to give the award to the best player on the best team in the best conference, which is ashame.