When Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer and the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton throw down in the NFC Championship game, it will mark the first time in NFL history that two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks clash in the postseason.
That fact is totally contradictory to the emphasis and significance the sports world places on Heisman winners. It brings to light how insignificant and hyped-up winning a Heisman is.
QBs get all of the blame and all of the glory on a football team, but true ballers understand the intricate relationships and various responsibilities each of the 11 positions hold on every play.
Signal-callers make the game go 'round, but the fact remains that winning National Championships and personal accolades in college just doesn’t equate to success in the pros. The franchise that selects you is often the determining factor in how good or bad a player you’ll be.
If you go to a squad with some world class talent and solid coaching, then obviously you will be able to have more success. If you are drafted by a dreadful organization with low-caliber talent and no leadership, then it could be hard for a young QB to become an All-Pro in that environment.
The most compelling and revealing reality of this game between former Heisman winners is that the energy we expend debating Heisman winners is boy’s play for college kids. It means nothing. It certainly doesn’t guarantee success at the next level.
In fact, since 1990, 17 of the 25 Heisman winner’s are QBs, and some of the names on the list are the same ones on NFL “missing QB” milk cartons. Ty Detmer and Gino Torretta weren't even viable prospects. Charlie Ward, who was very capable of becoming an NFL star but was a victim of outdated NFL philosophy concerning black QBs, played for the Knicks instead. Dudes like Danny Wuerffel, Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch, Jason White, Matt Leinart, Troy Smith and Tim Tebow couldn't cut the mustard.
Carson Palmer, who won the award as USC's quarterback in 2002, is the only Heisman winner during that span worth anything as a pigskin flipper.
Sam Bradford started the upswing in ‘08. He’s decent, but hasn’t found any playoff success. Cam Newton’s 2010 Heisman campaign ushered in a new breed of upper-echelon Heisman-winning QBs.
Cam has been followed by guys, who at least in appearance, looked ready to become instant NFL stars. RGIII followed Cam’s historic campaign with a culturally-influential rookie season that swarmed in like the Feds on a drug bust, but exited like a fly leaving your living room once you open the window.
Johnny Football followed. He’s talented but in the words of the late, great Notorious B.I.G., he can’t stop with the “party and bullsh*t.”
Jameis Winston is a Heisman godsend. His rookie campaign has helped rejuvenate the public infatuation with the Heisman and Marcus Mariota is a heck of a talent on a miserable squad. Both of these guys could meet in the playoffs very soon, if their franchises upgrade personnel.
It’s almost beneficial for a QB to NOT win the Heisman. It’s like a strange voodoo that inflicts the bodies and fortunes of most of these guys. You don’t even want to be drafted too high and have the pressure of being a savior before you learn to play in the NFL.
Ask Tom Brady or Russell Wilson about the overlooked and undervalued sneak attack.
That being said, the Heisman Jinx will be ending on Sunday in the NFC Championship. Palmer is looking to make his first Super Bowl appearance after 12 productive years in the league with Cincinnati, Oakland and now Arizona. Palmer’s put up his share of stats with more than 40,000 career passing yards, but he’s never elevated his team in epic moments. He'll get his shot on Sunday.
This is the defining moment of his career. He won’t get many more opportunities to become a Super Bowl champion. Is he a poor man’s Dan Fouts or Jim Plunkett?
Newton has silenced his critics and proved that he is the complete package. He’s Ironman, with a wicked wing and some lethal legs. He’s the new face of the NFL, Dab Dance and all. How fitting would it be if he got to officially snatch the torch from Tom Brady in Super Bowl 50?
In any event, this game is a winner for the Heisman committee, but it magnifies the lost luster and overrated fuss about the award. It’s proof that the trophy doesn’t make the player, the baller legitimizes the trophy.
And that’s what these two All-Pro QBs will be doing on Sunday.