The Three Horsemen of Alabama
January 1, 2021 | View PDF
Hey, aren’t there supposed to be four? Yup, but right now I am not talking about the Apocalypse. I am going to write about something I never write about. In the ten-plus years of Robservations, I honestly cannot think of a time I have written an entire piece about sports. A little here and there but never the whole kit-and-caboodle. It is not because I don’t like sports. I love sports and played them for the better part of my life. It is just that getting wrapped up in debates about guys and girls playing games is really not my idea of fun. Besides, to me, if you did not shoot down 10–352 airplanes in World War II or fly bomber missions over the German Reich, for the most part and of course there are exceptions, I am pretty much unimpressed. Yet here I am and here goes nothing.
1. THE HEISMAN TROPHY. I have to be totally honest with you. In my non-sports centered mind, this has become one of the most overrated discussions in college football. I love college football but I hate this constant “Race for the Heisman” crap these sportscasters push on us from the very first day of the season. How many times have you turned on the television and before a single game has been played, before a single snap of the ball, these guys on College Gameday or SportsCenter are pushing for so-and-so before he has even stepped on the field? Ummmm, often. To be honest, I really do not think this conversation should even come up until the season is at least half over. Just because someone had a great season the year before does not mean in August of the following year, he should automatically be the Heisman front runner. Let the kids play and let’s see what shakes out.
Next, this is my biggest beef. Sometimes I would like to remind these sports pundits that believe it or not, there are actually positions on the field other than quarterback. Can you believe it? I know, heresy!! There are actually other young men, in other positions, who play the game, too. When you listen to these analysts, you might not remember that. Since 2000, in the 20 Heisman races this century, 17 have gone to quarterbacks: SEVENTEEN. In decades past, you at least saw other positions being honored. Whether running backs, halfbacks or receivers, it was recognized that the most outstanding player on the field was sometimes someone other than the signal caller. Let me be totally clear here, I fully recognize that many times the best player is the QB. Last year, Joe Burrows is the perfect example of that. But when I watch the Heisman presentation, year after year not only does a quarterback get the award, he is often surrounded by other quarterbacks in the hunt. If they want to only award the Heisman to the best college quarterback, then so be it. At least be honest about it. There are other players on the field whose efforts are worthy of notice. And here is a dirty thought. Sometimes that guy might actually play defense.
2. NEXT, LET’S TALK ALABAMA. Being a Tennessee guy, this is actually not hard for me to discuss. In 1924, that continually overrated school nestled in South Bend, Ind. had four players who were called the “Four Horsemen of Notre Dame.” For their time they were pretty good players and made headlines that entire season. When I look at the threesome of Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris, I like to call them the “Three Horsemen of Alabama.” Okay, if you want a fourth, throw in Saban. It is the first time in history that three of the top five Heisman vote recipients have come from the same team. In my not so humble opinion, they should be three of the four finalists – period! I am not going to go through all their numbers right now but we all know where they can be found. What those three accomplished together this year is insane. But watching them play and listening to the announcers, too often you would get the same feeling that there are no other players on the field other than quarterbacks. It was not until the final two games that even some of the most ardent “we hate everybody but quarterbacks” crowd started having to admit what Smith and Harris have accomplished this season. But too often all we ever heard about was Kyle Trask of Florida or Trevor Lawrence of Clemson. It was almost as if these gushing male announcers wanted to have Trask’s or Lawrence’s baby. Annoying to say the least.
During the SEC Championship game, they kept talking up Trask and all of his touchdowns on the season; comparing him to Joe Burrows from last year. But here is the only stat I want to put in here. Yes, Trask threw for 45 touchdowns and Jones threw for “only” 33 but Florida only had 11 rushing touchdowns while ’Bama had 35, 24 of those by Harris (2 in the SEC Championship game alone). This simply tells me that Alabama had the more balanced offense. I guess Jones could have thrown a bunch of short TD passes to boost his numbers but why? Throwing a lot of touchdowns in today’s pass-¬happy football world should not be a sole indicator of Heisman potential. Yeah, but Trask threw for . . . blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
In short, in a perfect, intellectually honest world, Harris, Jones and Smith along with either Lawrence or Trask should be sitting in the virtual presentation on 5 January. I really do not care about the two non-Bama guys because neither should get the award above Bama’s three although Harris was dutifully snubbed and will not be in contention. That, folks, is a shame. I for one would like to see a non-quarterback finally win. It is interesting to note that the last two non-QBs to win were both Alabama running backs. By the time this column hits the streets, the award presentation will have been made and hopefully the Heisman will have made its way back here to Alabama where in 2020, it most certainly belongs.