The Times West Virginian

June 19, 2013

‘Heisman curse’ may come to an end

By Jarrod Harris
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — When you hear the term “Heisman Trophy,” you think of Desmond Howard striking the pose in the end zone against Ohio State in the 1991 football season. You think of Tim Tebow’s speech following the loss to Ole Miss. You think of the hail mary from Doug Flutie to Gerard Phelan that gave Boston College the win over the Miami Hurricanes.

Even though Howard was a wide receiver, when you hear the term Heisman, you think of a quarterback. Heck, they even created a video game titled “NCAA Football 2013 Year of the Heisman.”

But do you ever think of the impact these players had in the NFL?

Desmond Howard was a sub-par receiver/kick returner who couldn’t maintain a job with a team more than three seasons.

He did play 11 seasons in the league, but in those 11 seasons, he played with five teams — Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions.

While with those teams, he tallied 1,597 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as a wide receiver. As a kick returner, he didn’t score a touchdown, but did post 7,959 yards. He did most of his damage as a punt returner where he scored eight touchdowns and 2,895 yards. But with special teams and his regular offensive game combined, that’s just a total of 15 touchdowns in an 11-year career.

We all know what happened to Flutie. Everyone said he was too small to play in the NFL. Of course, after his tenure in the CFL, he led the Buffalo Bills to a few successful seasons.

So just because you win a Heisman Trophy, does that make you an automatic success in the NFL?

If you look down the list of all Heisman Trophy recipients, you will be amazed by all the flops who have been given that glorious title at the collegiate level.

It all began with the “Heisman Curse,” where any college football player who won the Heisman Trophy would lose his subsequent bowl game.

Since 2000, only six Heisman winners — Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Mark Ingram, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel — have gone on to win their following bowl game.

Then the curse carried over to the NFL where pressure becomes even greater and success is harder to come by. In the National Football League, fans expect greatness. Immediate success is a tough task to accomplish when the speed of the game is increased 100 percent.

“There was a time — like pretty much the last 50 years — when a Heisman Trophy wasn’t a very good thing for a quarterback to have on his resume as he entered the NFL,” Pat Yasinskas stated in his ESPN blog earlier this week.

Let’s go down the quarterback list — Troy Smith, Eric Crouch, Danny Wuerffel, Charlie Ward, Gino Torretta, Ty Detmer, Andre Ware and Pat Sullivan. All these guys had little to no success in the NFL.

What about Oklahoma’s “Mr. Everything” in Jason White?

“I didn’t even remember Jason White,” Yasinskas said. “I had to go back and look up White. He won it in 2003 while putting up some gaudy numbers. White didn’t even get drafted and quit football altogether after a short training-camp stint with the Tennessee Titans. He never even played in a regular-season NFL game.”

Even though these guys didn’t have successful NFL careers, they did put up gaudy numbers with their distinguished Division I football programs. Although they put up the numbers in college, these quarterbacks were surrounded by great athletes. These guys all lacked size, speed or arm strength.

Lacking in one of these categories allowed scouts to look past them when it came time for draft day.

“Prior to Tebow, (Sam) Bradford, (Cam) Newton and (Robert) Griffin, you’ve got to look at a list of 18 quarterbacks who won the Heisman before you find one who really made it big,” Yasinskas said. “You’ve got to go all the way back to Roger Staubach, who won it for Navy in 1963. He went on to have a great career for the Dallas Cowboys and earned a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Since Staubach won the Heisman, other quarterbacks have had to settle for just getting into the College Football Hall of Fame.

“Sure, there have been a few Heisman winners to come out and have some success. Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls, but his career didn’t really take off until he landed with the Raiders after mediocre stints in New England and San Francisco.”

Then there’s Vinny Testaverde, who had a long NFL career, but he never had the kind of career many people imagined when he was taken No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987.

So is the hoax finally over? Is the jinx done?

Thus far, Griffin, Tebow, Bradford and Newton have put a stop to the long drought in the quarterback department, but remember, they still are very young.

In order for a quarterback to be successful, they have to have tools to work with — a line, running back and a healthy batch of receivers.

Time will only tell whether the streak will end, but remember, it’s been 50 years since Staubach.

Email Jarrod Harris at jhar­ris@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @JarrodHarrisTWV.