Friday, October 4, 2013

Madden Curse, What About a Heisman Curse?

     I am not really that much of a superstitious person, though I may have "pre-game rituals". NFL players that have graced their presence on the cover of that Madden video games series, have coincidentally fallen to what is known as "The Madden Curse". The likes of Mike Vick, Ray Lewis, Donovan McNabb, Vince Young, and many others who would appear on the latest edition of Madden, would all either see a drop in production in their performance on the field, season ending injuries, or off the field issues that interfered with their football career. Ostensibly, appearing on the cover of Madden was/is suppose to be an honor, but instead appeared to be a sign of a bad omen. As eye popping as this alleged "Madden Curse" is, one thing I have always taken notice to is something equally intriguing on the college level, and that is the winner of the Heisman Trophy (awarded annually to the person deemed the most outstanding player in collegiate football). A majority of the Heisman Trophy winners have never been able to transport and duplicate their success on the college level into the NFL! Let us take a look at the most recent Heisman Trophy winners and how they fared in the NFL.
(If they were even lucky enough to get there)

     1999. Ron Dayne Running Back -Wisconsin

     During his four seasons at Wisconsin, Running Back Ron Dayne amassed 6,397 yards to set the NCAA record for most rushing yards in a collegiate career, a record that stands to this day. Dayne would find the end zone 71 times on the ground in those four years and won the 1999 Doak Walker (College Football's Top Running Back) and the Maxwell Awards (College Football Player of the Year) along with the Heisman. When Ron Dayne was drafted by the New York Giants in the 2000 NFL Draft, he was expected to provide a combination of (his) power with starting Running Back Tiki Barber's speed. Dayne however would see limited playing time over the course of his career. A lack of commitment to lose weight was one of the reasons Dayne received limited carries and would end up being released after the 2004 season. Perhaps the "highlight" of his pro career came in 2005 when he won the "CBS All Iron Award." His performance in a 2005 match up against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day would help lead the Broncos to victory with a rushing Touchdown (TD) and 98 yards, including a 55 yard run that helped set up the game winning field goal for Denver. Dayne was never consistent and eventually retired from the NFL after the 2007 season, finishing his pro career with 3,722 rushing yards and 28 TD's in 8 seasons.

     2000. Chris Weinke Quarterback -Florida State

     Before attending Florida State University, Chris Weinke was pursuing a professional baseball career, but ultimately decided to take his talents onto the gridiron. Weinke was already 25 years old when he first arrived on campus in 1997. He made an immediate impact by his sophomore year, and lead the Seminoles to three straight national championship appearances (1-2 record). In four years, Weinke passed for 9,839 yards with 79 TD's through the air and won the Davey O'Brien Award (Nation's Top Quarterback) in 2000 along with the Heisman Trophy. The Carolina Panthers selected Weinke in the 4th Round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Weinke, a 28 year old rookie would be the the Panthers starting QB that season, unfortunately it was a disaster as the Panthers finished with record of 1-15. After the season, Weinke would become the backup QB and would only end up winning one more game, which was in 2005 vs Detroit Lions, when he came in relief after starting QB Jack Delhomme went down with an injury. Weinke would remain as a career back up QB, and retired after the 2007 season, finishing with a career win loss record of 2-18 and 15 TD's 26 INT's to go with his 3,904 passing yards.

     2001. Eric Crouch Quarterback- Nebraska

     Despite being a QB, Eric Crouch was known for his legs and speed more so than his arm and passing, and the numbers speak for themself! Crouch passed for 4,481 yards and 29 TD's through the air, but his speed and ground attack while running the option created problems for opposing defenses as evident by his 3,434 rushing yards and 59 rushing TD's! Despite his offensive numbers in college, and speed (running a 4.47 40), Crouch was deemed to small for a quarterback by many NFL teams (standing maybe 6ft tall with a bump on his head). Crouch was drafted by the St. Louis Rams as they still saw value in him as a potential Wide Receiver (WR). Crouch however never played a down in the NFL due to an injury and his reluctance to play any position other than QB.

      2002. Carson Palmer Quarterback- USC

     With some success in the NFL, Carson Palmer, ironically had minimal success until his senior season when he led the USC Trojans to an 11-2 record and an Orange Bowl win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. For his performance, Palmer was named the MVP of the Orange Bowl to go along with his Heisman Trophy award a few weeks prior. Palmer finished his collegiate career with a whopping 11,668 Passing yards and 72 TD's through the air. ( Palmer also had 9 Rushing TD's )
Palmer would be the number 1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, being selected by the Cincinnati Bengals, and though he did not play a down his Rookie Season, Palmer was able to take the time and study the game from the sidelines. By his 3rd season, Palmer lead the Bengals to their first winning season in 15 years with a 11-5 record en route to a division title all the while leading the league in TD passes with 32. Unfortunately Palmer has not had any success beyond the regular season and has only appeared in the playoffs twice(0-2 record).
(NFL Career Stats prior to beginning of 2013 NFL Season- 2 Time Pro Bowler, 29,465 passing yards 189 TD's 130 INT's  7 Rushing TD's, 54-67 Win-Loss Record)

     2003. Jason White Quarterback- Oklahoma

     During his time in Oklahoma, Jason White led the Sooners to two appearances in the National Championship Game. Though unsuccessful both times, White had a remarkable career, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2003, and came back his senior year as a finalist. White won the 2004 Maxwell Award his senior season and finished his career at Oklahoma with 7,922 Passing yards and 81 TD passes. (As well as 2 Rushing TD's). White had devastating knee injuries that he sustained during his college career, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and had reconstructive knee surgery. Because of the poor conditions of his knees, Oklahoma had to run plays from the shotgun as they could not rely on White to scramble from the pocket. White went undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft, and though he had tryouts with the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans, he never played a single down in the NFL and "retired" due to the damage in his knees.

   2004. Matt Leinart Quarterback- USC

     The heir to Carson Palmer's throne, Matt Leinart, picked up where Palmer left off with the USC Trojans. During Leinart's tenure, he led the Trojans to two national championships (1 split- taking the AP in 2004 and 1 outright in 2005, until it was vacated due to Reggie Bush receiving improper benefits) and compiled a record of 37-2 as a starter, throwing for 10,693 yards and a school record 99 TD Passes. Leinart was also the recipient of the 2004 Walter Camp Award (Collegiate American Football Player of the Year). Leinart entered the 2006 NFL Draft as a highly touted prospect. Though not having one of the strongest arms, Leinart was considered a complete quarterback with a 6ft 5in stature to go with his 230lb. frame. Leinart was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the 10th overall pick, and was projected to be the franchise quarterback in due time while essentially being mentored by starting veteran Kurt Warner. Leinart would have relatively minor success during his time with the Cardinals as he never really materialized into the quarterback they anticipated, thanks in part to two season ending injuries in his first two years. Even after Warner's abrupt retirement, Leinart remained as a back up for Arizona as the team gave veteran Derek Anderson the starting spot. Leinart continued to fall on the depth chart, and was released by the Cardinals prior to the start of the 2010 NFL season. The Texans would sign Leinart to be Matt Schaub's backup in Houston (though he did not play at all during the 2010 season). In 2011, when Schaub went down with an injury, Leinart was called upon to the starting role. Unfortunately, Leinart would fracture his collarbone, immediately ending his season. Houston released Leinart that offseason. After brief stints with the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills, Leinart is currently a free agent.
(NFL Stats Prior to 2013 Season- 4,065 passing yards, 15 TD's 21 INT's, 8-10 Win-Loss Record)

     2005. Reggie Bush Running Back- USC

     What can't you say about Reggie Bush? He did it all with his versatility. He could run, return and even throw the ball and always made an impact whenever he was on the field! Bush finished his career at USC with 6,551 All Purpose Yards (APY) (3,169 Rushing, 1,522 Receiving, 1,522 Kickoff Return, 559 Punt Return) and won the 2005 Doak Walker and Walter Camp Awards  Despite Bush's on field success at USC, his off field issues in which he received improper benefits, cost him his Heisman Trophy (voluntarily returning it in 2012) and USC had to vacate their 2005 National Championship and were hit with 2 year sanctions as a result of Bush's actions. Reggie Bush was selected 2nd overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.(with whom he won a Super Bowl with in 2010)  With success though, came hardship as Bush has dealt with nagging knee injuries. A partially torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in 2007. Sprained  medial collateral ligament (MCL) in same knee in 2008. In 2010, Bush suffered a broken bone in his right leg, causing him to miss eight games in his final season in New Orleans. Miami Dolphins signed Bush prior to the 2011 season and revived his career a bit as he finally surpassed the 1,000 rushing yard mark for the first time. Bush has since signed with the Detroit Lions, and though he has been productive, nagging knee injuries have limited his ability to perform.
(NFL Stats Prior to 2013 Season- 4,162 Rushing Yards 29 TD's, 2,730 Receiving Yards 15 TD's, 772 Punt Return Yards, 4TD's.

   2006. Troy Smith Quarterback- Ohio State

      Troy Smith did not come to Ohio State originally as a Quarterback. Smith won the starting job in 2005 and led the Buckeyes to a share of the Big Ten Championship and a victory in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. Smith and the Buckeyes entered the following season as favorites to win the National Championship, and did not fail to live up to they hype as they coasted through the regular season with a 12-0 perfect record and a spot in the National Championship game. For Smith's efforts (2006 stats: 2,507 passing yards 30 TD's.) would with his Heisman , be honored with the prestigious Archie Griffin(College Football's MVP for entire season) Davey O'Brien and Walter Camp Awards. Even with these accolades, Smith was too small for a quarterback by NFL Standards and would not get selected until the 5th Round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. Smith was projected to compete for the starting spot at the beginning of the 2008 season, but came down with an illness (Lemierre's Syndrome) and Rookie Joe Flacco took over, and would go on to eventually be the full time starter at the beginning of the 2009 season. Smith was eventually let go after the season, and had a brief stint with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010 and has not been in the NFL since. Today, Smith is in the Canadian Football League (CFL) after signing a 2 year contract with the Montreal Alouettes
(NFL Stats 8 Touchdowns 5 Interceptions 1,734 passing yards)

   2007. Tim Tebow Quarterback- Florida

     Perhaps the most decorated college football player off all time, 2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow, is the inspiration for this list! Tebow was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and during his time at Florida he re-wrote a lot of the NCAA history books by shattering many records! (5 NCAA, 14 Southeastern Conference, and 28 University of Florida statistical records). During his four years at Florida he compiled a total of 12,232 yards of offense(9,285 Passing 2,947 Rushing) and a total of 145 TD's(88 Passing 57 Rushing). Tebow was the recipient of the Maxwell (twice, 1 of only 2 players to do so) Davey O'Brien, and Manning Award (best college quarterback) amongst many other accolades. Tebow helped guide the Gators to two national championships in four years. Tebow was a proven winner who is a coach's dream player, however his lack of a strong throwing arm had many NFL scouts question his ability to play quarterback at the next level. Tebow was surprisingly drafted in the 1st Round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. In 2011, the Broncos, despite an 8-8 record, captured the AFC West Division Title. Denver won its Wild Card Round playoff game against Pittsburgh after Tebow threw an 80 yard TD Pass to Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas to win in overtime. Denver would be eliminated the following week and despite Tebow's success, the Broncos traded him in the offseason to the New York Jets and barely saw any playing time with them during the 2012 season. After the conclusion of that season, Tebow was let go by the Jets and then was cut by the New England Patriots after their final 2013 preseason game. Tebow who is currently a Free Agent, still has admiration's of one day being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Some say the Jacksonville Jaguars(his hometown team) would be a possible fit for him. It may be a little early to label Tebow as a bust and to have fallen to an alleged "Heisman Curse", but comparing his college career to that of his pro, is like comparing apples to oranges.
(NFL Stats prior to start of 2013 season: 8-6 regular season record(1-1 playoffs) 2,422 Passing yards 17 TD's, 989 Rushing yards 12 TD's in three seasons)

     2008. Sam Bradford Quarterback-Oklahoma

     To be fair, Sam Bradford, to date has had a very (statistically) productive career in the NFL. Coming off from the previous season in which Bradford led the Oklahoma Sooners to an appearance in the National Championship Game during his Heisman Campaign. Three games into the new season, Bradford suffered a serious shoulder injury (in which he took a couple weeks off, came back, and re-injured it) that caused him to have season ending surgery. Bradford would undergo surgery and announced that he would forgo his Senior season and declare himself eligible for the 2010 NFL Draft. The St.Louis Rams would select Bradford number 1 overall and as I mentioned, has had a very productive career statistic wise. Hell, Bradford won the 2010 AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, so where does a possible "Heisman Curse" come into play for Bradford? Well as a team, the Rams have had not any luck, even with Bradford as starting quarterback, St.Louis has posted a record of 15-26-1(prior to start of 2013 season). Speaking of "Luck", Andrew Luck, quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts (who was the Heisman Runner-Up in 2011) posted a 11-5 record in his rookie season(when it seemed the Colts were going to be in a rebuilding mode considering they parted ways with Peyton Manning in the off-season) and passed for over 4,000 yards and 23 TD's in his first season. While it may also be a little early to claim that Bradford has fallen to the "Heisman Curse" and that there is still time for him to do a 180 with his team's success, he could very well fade into abject obscurity.

UPDATE: Sam Bradford tore his ACL in Week 7 of the 2013 NFL Season.

     2009. Mark Ingram Running Back- Alabama

      Mark Ingram's success in the backfield is one of the main reasons the Alabama Crimson Tide would have success in the 2009-10 season. Totaling 1,992 yards of  offense (1,658 rushing, 334 receiving) along with 20 TD's (17 rushing, 3 receiving) Ingram led the Crimson Tide to an undefeated season(14-0) en-route to a National Championship. Ingram did not have as much success the following year, registering only 1,157 yards from scrimmage (875 passing, 282 rushing) and 14 TD's (13 Rushing, 1 Receiving). Despite his slip in production, Ingram was still projected as a 1st round pick for the NFL Draft, and thus he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2011 Draft. The New Orleans Saints would select Ingram where he is being utilized in a three man backfield alongside Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. Ingram has an important role in the Saints system, but that is all Ingram will be is a "role player" rather than a star running back. I guess that could explain the current rumors of Ingram wanting out of New Orleans as he may (and needs) a change of scenery and new system in order to become a premiere running back in the NFL.

     2010. Cam Newton Quarterback- Auburn

     Out of all the players on the list, Cam Newton may very well disprove any indication of a "Heisman Curse", at least for his sake. Newton, who led the Auburn Tigers to a National Championship in 2011, has already done tremendous things in his young NFL career. To start, Newton is the only Rookie Quarterback to throw for more than 400 yards in a game, and in the process, broke Peyton Manning's rookie record. Newton was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to the Pro Bowl that season. The Carolina Panthers had selected Newton with the 1st overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. Like any team with a high draft pick (barring trades) many are usually in a rebuilding mode. Can Cam Newton put to rest a possible "Heisman Curse" and make the Panthers a contender along with his individual success? Or will Newton run into bad luck, via an injury or a slide in production, that will keep the Panthers from winning?

College Stats (Auburn- 1 year) 4,327 total yards of offense (2,854 passing 1,473 rushing) 51 total TD's (30 passing, 20 rushing, 1 receiving)

Pro Stats(Prior to start of 2013 season) 13-19 (win/loss record as starting QB) 9,367 total yards of offense ( 7,920 Passing, 1,447 Rushing) 40 TD's 29 INT's. 22 Rushing TD's

     2011. Robert Griffin III Quarterback- Baylor

     To be honest, I did not really hear too much about Robert Griffin (RGIII) until his Heisman campaign. In Griffin's Sophomore season, he tore his ACL and had to take a redshirt. In 2011, Griffin led the Baylor Bears to one of their most successful football seasons to date, going 10-3 on the year with RGIII leading the way with 4,992 total yards (4,293 Passing, 699 Rushing) and 47 TD's (37 Passing, 10 Rushing) in the process. Griffin would go on to be selected by the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft where he quickly found success as he compiled a 9-6 record as a starter and lead the Redskins to a playoff appearance as well as being named as 2012 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and selected to the Pro Bowl. The "Madden Curse" though reared its ugly head as Griffin would injure his knee towards the end of the season, and would re-aggravate it in the Wild Card Playoff Game against the Seattle Seahawks which required surgery in the off-season to fix the ligaments in his LCL and ACL.

College Stats- 12,620 yards offense (10,366 Passing 2,254 Rushing) 111 Touchdowns (78 Passing 33 Rushing)

Pro Stats- (Prior to start of 2013 season) 9-6 record, 3,200 Passing Yards 20 TD's  815 Rushing Yards 7 TD's

     2012. Johnny "Football" Manziel Quarterback- Texas A&M

     Johnny Manziel made history when he won the Heisman Trophy in 2012 when he became the first player to ever win the award as a Freshman! Manziel put himself in the national spotlight after he led the Texas A&M Aggies to an upset victory over the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. Manziel finished the season with 5,116 yards of total offense (3,706 Passing Yards, 1,410 Rushing Yards) and 47 TD's (26 Passing, 21 Rushing). Ever since winning the award, Manziel has essentially become the poster child for NCAA Football. Though it seems as if the attention Manziel has received in the media has made an equally strong impact like his performance on the field. In the early summer of 2013, Manziel was being kicked out of frat parties, and eventually came under more serious scrutiny when it was reported he sold his autograph for profit. Manziel received (what many would hardly call as punishment) a suspension of missing the first half of the Aggies first game of the 2013 season. Manziel would come in and dominate the second half by throwing for three TD passes. It did not come without controversy though when Manziel made a gesture with his fingers to insinuate being paid money and another in which he displayed himself signing an autograph. Many were critical of Manziel's actions, including former Chicago Bears Linebacker, Brian Urlacher, who stated that he (Manziel) "acted like a punk in that game." Yes, Manziel has all the talent in the world, but perhaps the "Heisman Curse" is already taking effect to Manziel before he even has a chance at the next level due to his antics both on and off the field.

     Is this all just a mere coincidence, or is there perhaps a "Heisman Curse"? Some say the Heisman does not even go to the best football player, instead it goes to (usually) the best player on the best team. In whatever the case is, recent history shows that Heisman Trophy winners have not had much success beyond the college level.

     I would like to give a special thanks to John Ziegler and my sister with editing this particular blog!

Ron Dayne-

Chris Weinke-

Eric Crouch-

Carson Palmer-
Jason White-

Matt Leinart-

Reggie Bush-

Troy Smith-

Tim Tebow-

Sam Bradford-

Mark Ingram-

Cam Newton-

Robert Griffin III-

Johnny Manziel-

Image Sources: (1.)!/img/httpImage/gal-jets-24-jpg.jpg

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