Heisman Trophy 2009: How I Voted And Why

For the past several years, I have had the honor of being on the panel of voters for the Heisman Memorial Trophy. It is an honor that I do not take lightly, but it is a task that is usually not very difficult.

Most years, the choice is pretty much cut and dried. Three years ago, the clear favorite was Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith. The only thing left to decide was placing Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn in second- and third-place order.

My vote has always been a personal thing. It has never been about trying to project the winner although I have cast my ballot for the Heisman winner most often than not. The last time I missed picking the winner was in 2005 when I went with Texas quarterback Vince Young. He finished second to USC running back Reggie Bush.

My reasoning for that pick was pretty simple. When I tried to project how each team would have performed without their star player, I thought USC would probably have done very well even without Bush. I doubt the Longhorns could have done as well without Young in their lineup, so his value to his team led me to place Young in the No. 1 spot on my ballot. Bush was No. 2.

Obviously, not many of my fellow voters agreed. Bush won the 2005 award in a landslide, garnering 784 first-place votes and 2,541 overall points. Young finished second with 1,608 votes but was named on only 79 first-place ballots.

This year presented the most unique Heisman race since I have been a voter. The season began with three clear favorites – Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford (last year’s winner), Florida QB Tim Tebow (the 2007 winner) and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy.

Bradford quickly dropped off the radar with a season-ending shoulder injury and that left Tebow and McCoy to duke it out for frontrunner status. Along the way, other players began to make headlines as the college football season played itself out with five undefeated teams and a handful of bona fide Heisman Trophy candidates.

Unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame balloting where you can vote for as many players as you like, Heisman voters have to narrow their voting to three players. Five players were invited to New York this week as finalists for the award and I can think of at least three more that were more than deserving of being invited to the Big Apple ceremony.

My final pool of candidates came down to quarterbacks McCoy, Tebow and Kellen Moore of Boise State, running backs Mark Ingram of Alabama, Tony Gerhart of Stanford and C.J. Spiller of Clemson, defensive lineman Ndamukong  Suh of Nebraska and receiver/kick returner Mardy Gilyard of Cincinnati.

With eight names and only three ballot spots, I had to begin the process of elimination and began comparing the bodies of work from each of the candidates.

At quarterback, there was no doubt that Moore had the best season. He led the nation in pass efficiency, threw for 3,325 yards, had 39 touchdowns to only three interceptions, and quarterbacked his team to an undefeated season. In any other year, Moore would be a slam-dunk to be on my ballot, but the fact that he is a sophomore and plays for a non-BCS conference team, I reluctantly crossed his name off my list.

McCoy and Tebow were left in a virtual dead heat. Tebow was better in pass efficiency; McCoy had the numbers in passing yards and touchdowns. In the end, I truly did not feel Tebow’s overall body of work this season rose to the level of being a Heisman Trophy award winner. I passed on him and left McCoy on my list.

I had always considered Suh and Gilyard as my wild card picks. Unlike some who only noticed Suh during his dominating performance against Texas, I knew the Nebraska defensive star was a candidate for nearly every major award – except the Heisman. I had already pretty much made up my mind before last Saturday that if he had a standout game in the Big 12 title matchup, I would put Suh on my ballot. He had that standout game – and then some.

Gilyard, too, had an outstanding game for Cincinnati against Pittsburgh. While head coach Brian Kelly and the quarterback tandem of Tony Pike and Zach Collaros got most of the attention in the Queen City this season, Gilyard was establishing himself as the best player on that team. He is an excellent receiver, a lethal kick returner and his life story is a truly compelling story.

Unfortunately, there were receivers with better seasons and kick returners with more touchdowns and more yardage, so Gilyard’s name was dropped from my list.

That left me with a conundrum at running back that was more easily solved than you might think.

Like Gilyard, Spiller is a double threat. He ran for 1,145 yards and 11 TDs and tallied five more scores on kick returns – four kickoffs and one punt. There were, however, holes in his résumé. He disappeared in too many games, and failed to top 80 yards in six of his 13 games.

That left me to decide between Gerhart and Ingram. I know the Alabama running back is probably the frontrunner for the trophy, and he did have an excellent outing in the SEC championship game against Florida. Despite his 1,542 yards, though, Ingram had three games during which he failed to crack 60 yards.

Meanwhile, Gerhart was the nation’s top rusher with 1,736 yards and 26 touchdowns. He rushed for 100 yards or more in 10 of his 12 games – topping the 200 mark three times – and never ran for less than 82 yards in a game all season.

Critics of Gerhart will argue that he played against competition inferior to that of Ingram. That is simply incorrect. In games against opponents who finished the season with winning records, Gerhart averaged 156.4 yards per game. What’s more, those opponents averaged a national ranking of 43 against the rush. Using the same criteria, Ingram averaged 127.1 yards against teams that averaged a national ranking of 57 in rushing defense.

That left me with McCoy, Suh and Gerhart as the three names on my ballot. Three great players any one of which would be deserving of this year’s Heisman.

But I had to rank them some way. I placed Gerhart third because his team finished out of the running for the Pac-10 championship.

Then I used the same criteria to break the tie between McCoy and Suh that I did four years ago with Bush and Young. Would Nebraska have been 9-4 and headed to the Holiday Bowl without Suh? Maybe. Would Texas be undefeated and playing for the national championship without McCoy. Probably not.

Yes, McCoy nearly had an epic blunder at the end of the Big 12 title game. But he didn’t have that blunder. What many tend to forget is that he moved his team into position to win that game and have a chance to play for the national championship. That is what great players are supposed to do. That is what Heisman Trophy winners are supposed to do.

Therefore, my final ballot read: 1. Colt McCoy; 2. Ndamukong Suh; 3. Toby Gerhart.


  1. “I had already pretty much made up my mind before last Saturday that if he had a standout game in the Big Ten title matchup, I would put Suh on my ballot.” Uh, Suh plays at Nebraska, a Big Twelve, not Big Ten team. It would be a lot more meaningful if the Heisman voters knew the basics of College Football.

    How you could give McCoy your top spot in a head-to-head vs Suh is beyond me. The Heisman is an individual award. As individuals, Suh completely eclipsed McCoy in the title game. McCoy did virtually nothing to put his team in the position to win. Texas won the game on a Nebraska kickoff out of bounds, a horse-collar, and an awesome field goal kicker. McCoy was pathetic.

  2. yeh dude ur full of it if you say that the pac ten is good on defence!! mark was hurt during the early part of the season thats why he had 99 yards vs tennessee but man if you are going to make comments like this ur full of it! marks preformance against top 25 teams is unbelieveable he destroyed the number one defence in the land 113 yards three touchdowns!! put gayhert in the sec and he wouldnt last three games!!

  3. “What many tend to forget is that he moved his team into position to win that game and have a chance to play for the national championship.”

    What? 40 yards off the kickoff was a gift from Adi, 15 yard personal foul (horse collar) was a gift from Asante. McCoy completed 1 pass for 15 yards (and several no gain plays with the biggest mistake of his career) on that “drive” that makes him a Heisman Winner in your opinion? Give me a break – at one point in the game McCoy had more KICKS than COMPLETIONS.

  4. Moved his team into position? He completed one pass for 16 yards, was Sacked for 2 yards and almost ran out the clock. Give Adi Kunalic the Heisman for moving Texas into position to win the game.

  5. It should be noted that Suh played head-to-head against two Heisman candidates in Spiller and McCoy. Suh held Spiller and Clemson to 4 yards rushing. Suh forced McCoy into the single worst game of his career.

    You say McCoy did lead his team to a victory. That final drive for McCoy, he got 35 free yards from Nebraska mistakes that he had nothing to do with. McCoy completed one pass, lost yards twice in a row (while on the edge of field goal range, losing yardage was a critical mistake), and then threw an incomplete pass.

    He wasn’t paying attention to the game-clock and didn’t take the snap fast enough. And then he sailed a pass rather than throwing a bullet out of bounds.

    McCoy played very poorly in the game, but played even worse on that final possession. He was very lucky the entire officiating crew, and replay officials all seemed to forget what is reviewable and what isn’t. According to the NCAA rule book, you can’t use a review to put time on the clock.

    Texas won because he was awarded a TD when replays showed he didn’t get in. Texas won because the refs didn’t call pass interference on a jump ball in the endzone when the defender was shown to clearly push off hard with two hands at the last second. Texas did benefit from 3 bogus PI calls, so bad that Musberger (who rarely criticizes calls) and Herbstreit (who has publicly said he hates Nebraska) criticized them.

    Couple that with the officials breaking the review rules, and Texas is very lucky to walk away with a win.

    Suh is the only candidate to have faced two other Heisman candidates, and utterly dominated them in both instances.

    And given that Nebraska had one of the worst offenses in the country, I doubt Nebraska would have been one play away from a BCS game without him. Where as Texas was loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. Haven’t they had top 5 recruiting classes every year for the past 5 years? Shipley was arguably the better offensive player on Texas, and perhaps more deserving than McCoy. I do believe Texas without McCoy would have been a better team than Nebraska without Suh.

    If that is supposed to be your final qualification, I can’t understand putting McCoy over Suh.

    • I agree with almost everything you say and overall a really good post to read 🙂

      However… Nebraska’s defense could be BETTER next year without Suh (he is a great loss) – even Pelini agrees. This begs the question – how would Nebraska have done without Suh? Would they still be in position to win games like Va Tech, Baylor, Iowa State, Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma with a still good defense lacking Suh? Maybe (as Rea says).

      Would Texas have a chance without McCoy? I also think maybe… After all Texas scored 3 TD’s without a first down versus Colorado to win that game (a game CU deserved to win without the 3 mistakes that led to TDs), beat Nebraska with the aid of Big 12 officials, and really never looked stellar offensively in the first half.

      When it comes down to the voters – will they be able to look past the fact that McCoy had a less than average year? Will they just look at the fact that he’s the most winningest QB in CFB history? Will they see he has 12 4th Q comebacks and proclaim “the next Peyton Manning” or will they realize the TRUE story going on and see that Texas is a great team and program year in and year out (a team that deserved to go to the national championship in 2008, not 2009) and see that McCoy although very good, did not have a Heisman quality year in 2009.

      Will the voters be able to look past the fact that Suh is a defensive player making a statement? A lot have already and it’s quite an honor to be in the position he is in right now.

  6. With you on all your picks, but I really struggled leaving Tebow off — An absolute class act, and a guy that college football should model its athletes after… The same can be said for Colt – and he gets my vote.

  7. McCoy and Tebow are both class acts. But they didn’t do enough this year to warrant a Heisman.

  8. I like the new theme and think Ingram is the best choice as Alabama is set to win the whole thing and Ingram was a big part of their success.

    • Too bad Ingram disappeared in the middle of the year and Gerhart got benched earlier this year.

      I honestly think no one deserves it more than Suh and it shouldn’t even be close. To bad you can’t pad defensive stats (and they are often a much lower representation than the impact in reality) or see the amount of times Suh would be triple teamed to allow others like Crick and O’Hanlon to get defensive players of the week.

      • When did Gerhart get benched? Or do you refer to his coach foolishly not calling running plays as being benched?

  9. The sole criteria for the Heisman Trophy is “best player.” By introducing your own criteria of “which player meant more to his team” and “Moore is a sophomore and plays for a non-BCS conference team” you make your vote meaningless. How about sticking to the rules?

  10. Great post. It is nice to hear voters who are not 100% focused on the last played game of the season. Every player is entitled to bad games…they are human after all. McCoy is a phenomenal player and person. He deserves the Heisman, and will lead his team to a National Championship on January 7th.

  11. You’re a complete idiot to even place McCoy in the top 3, let alone give him the nod over the only standout from this year’s pool of candidates. This is why the Heisman is rapidly losing any credibility as a meaningful award, but is becoming more of a popularity contest than selecting the prom king or student body president in high school. Consider this, McCoy wasn’t the best player on his own team or the best QB in his own conference, or even the state of Texas. There were two QB’s on Cincy’s roster alone this year that were better. He ranked just behind Reesing (Kansas) in yards and threw more interceptions, while benefiting from a much better defense. He ranked just behind Mallet (Arkansas) for QB rating while playing against much weaker defenses in the Big 12 (and I’m a Big 12 guy, not an SEC guy). This isn’t a lifetime achievement award, and if it was, it would still be more appropriate to award it to Suh or Tebow, as they’ve had more remarkable impacts on individual games (Suh had two interceptions and two TDs in 2008) and winning (Tebow has two titles…and I can’t stand Tebow). Please do the right thing and forfeit your right to have any voice in an award that has gotten so far from it’s mission that it’s become a punch line.


    College Football Fans

  12. That is the most coherent, well-thought-out ballot that I have seen. What people tend to forget that the heisman is based on a body of work over the entire season. Ndamukong Suh is a great player, but honestly you have to be the best ever as a DT to win the heisman. If you look at the entire season stats and rate them according to the one stat that is the most important for a defensive lineman (Sacks), he just doesn’t stack up. He had 6 games without a single sack, and 6 more with only one. That leave only one multi-sack game. Toby Gerhart is also a great player, but you do have to factor in playing for Stanford. Looking at the 2 most important stats for a RB (yards per rush and touchdowns), his numbers also just dont stack up. He had 6 games with sub 5 yards per rush average and one with no touchdowns and only 80 yards rushing (vs. Wake Forest). Mark Ingram was not even close to being the best running back this year, so there is no way he should win the heisman. Looking at the most important stats for a running back, he was the 3rd best. This shows that you have to look at the whole season’s body of work and the overall value to their team.

  13. I thought it was very well thought out. I appreciate that you put time into it and even if I don’t agree completely with your ballot, the logic was sound. Well done. I don’t believe your vote will coincide with who wins this year, but that really doesn’t matter. You did an honest vote to the best of your ability and I applaud your honesty. Have a Merry Christmas.

  14. “(McCoy) moved his team into position to win that game and have a chance to play for the national championship.”

    How dumb do you think people are? Did you actually watch that game?

    After Nebraska scores to go up by 2 points, there’s 01:44 left on the clock. Nebraska kicks off, ball goes out of bounds, Texas starts on their own 40. Here’s how your Heisman hero “moved his team” into position:

    Play #1 – Pass complete to Shipley for 19 yards to Nebraska 41, plus 15-yard penalty against Nebraska for a horse collar, moving ball to Nebraska 26.
    Play #2 – McCoy sacked by Suh for a loss of 2 yards to Nebraska 28.
    Play #3 – McCoy rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Nebraska 29.
    Play #4 – McCoy scrambles and throws the ball out of bounds. Time runs out, but officials put one second back on the clock. McCoy watches from the sidelines as the Texas kicker squeezes the ball inside the upright.

    You should try actually watching a game sometime. You might learn something.

  15. I would have to say that Gerhart,McCoy and Ingram are the TOP Candidates. McCoy and Ingram basically on what they DID to position their TEAMS to play for the National Championship. Gerhart is a STUD………..his Personal Abilities were outstanding, but without a Cast of Teammates playing at his ability, Stanford failed to achieve to the level of Texas or Alabama. Suh also had a great year, but No Way to Tebow……..let him Go on ANOTHER Mission to earn his Sainthood!

  16. Would Nebraska be 9-4 without Suh? Did you really ask that question? Nebraska… the team that offense forgot? they would have been lucky to win 5 games without Suh. McCoy, certainly he had a great season. But he had a defense. Not only was it possible for Texas to win without him, but Texas DID win without him. TWICE! Yes, I know he played against Oklahoma and Nebraska. But he certainly did not post Heisman-like numbers in either of those games. McCoy disappeared against stout defenses. Suh played his best against the best offenses. Suh wins that battle.

  17. And yet another BCS Mafia cronnie speaking utter garbage. As stated, criteria for the Heisman Trophy is the best player. It doesn’t say only BCS conferences or upper classmen…… your rediculous comment that “Moore is a sophomore and plays for a non-BCS conference team” you make your vote, or your decision to drop Moore, completly rediculous. Another example of the BCS Mafia influence on the college football world. Put Moore’s statistics up agains Tebow and McCoy see who wins in every catagory. 1000 yards and 21 more touchdowns than Tebow, within 100 yards of and with 12 more touchdowns than McCoy and Moore beats both hands down in efficiency.

    Your own words clearly state “there was no doubt that Moore had the best season. He led the nation in pass efficiency, threw for 3,325 yards, had 39 touchdowns to only three interceptions, and quarterbacked his team to an undefeated season. In any other year, Moore would be a slam-dunk to be on my ballot, but the fact that he is a sophomore and plays for a non-BCS conference team, I reluctantly crossed his name off my list REDICULOUS

    Am I saying Moore should get the Hiesman? No, I would put Suh and even Gerhart above him even the Houston quaterback who threw for 420 yards a game should have been there before those two, but moore should have definatly been given more respect than, “He is only a sophomore and in a non-BCS conference. Thats garbage.

    I’m no Rocket Scientist but I can tell bull when I hear it, and I say BULL this is a Buncha Garbage…..

    Gerhart deserves it.

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