Wednesday, November 21, 2012

ESPN's KC Joyner: "Aaron Murray's Heisman Case"


I tend to ignore ESPN.com when I can, partly because I have developed certain tastes for certain writers that work for certain other sites, but mostly because I think the content provided by ESPN can sometimes resemble a warm bucket of piss. This is definitely not indicative of every writer that works for ESPN, but when you employ the likes of Rick Reilly, your margin for error is significantly reduced in my mind.

I especially shy away from the college football content provided by ESPN.com – the way they did the great Bruce Feldman left a sour taste in my mouth and certain bloggers covering the Big 12 never really impressed me much. However, sometimes the midweek doldrums of the college football news cycle lead me to see what ESPN.com has to offer. This morning was one of those times.

The front page of ESPN.com was hyping the Heisman race, with a little thumbnail of our very own Johnny Manziel. Naturally, I was pulled in like a moth to the light, only to discover that “The Football Scientist” who “uses proprietary metrics from game tape study” aka “NFL Insider” KC Joyner was using his platform to convince the masses that Georgia’s Aaron Murray, not A&M’s Johnny Manziel, should be the SEC’s best shot at winning the Heisman trophy.

Thanks, KC, for giving me such a good laugh. In all honesty I'm not too concerned about this topic, as I don't think Aaron Murray has any legitimate shot at the Heismant trophy. The actual logic of KC Joyner's column is what got me a little fired up. The arguments don't hold water.

Now, I’ll blow apart this lovely writing bit by bit, with actual “metrics”. The piece begins:

“In a season where there isn't one player who stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field, it is easy to see why someone like Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (aka Johnny Football) would have a strong candidacy for the Heisman Trophy.”

Johnny Manziel has gained over 1,000 total yards more than Collin Klein, Braxton Miller, and Aaron Murray. "Head and shoulders" is not defined in the dictionary, but as I've come to know the term, 1,000 yards after 10 games seems to measure about the height of a head and shoulders.

"Manziel has posted some impressive numbers, including setting the freshman quarterback record for rushing yards and total offense on his way to becoming the first freshman to pass for at least 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season."

Joyner conveniently declines to note that this feat has only been accomplished FOUR times in history and NEVER in the SEC. He also fails to mention that Manziel accomplished this in just 11 games, while the other four in this "impressive" club needed at least 13. Joyner also neglects the fact that Manziel has been on the sideline for EIGHT quarters this season due to blowouts. This means that Manziel reached the 3K/1K mark in essentially 9 games. Again, everyone else needed at least 12, in inferior conferences.

"Having given Manziel his due, upon closer examination it becomes clear that he isn't even the best Heisman quarterback candidate in the SEC.
That honor belongs to Georgia Bulldogs passer Aaron Murray, and it really isn't even close."

We'll agree to disagree on what constitutes "giving Manziel his due"; also LOL.

"Murray's 9.9 yards per pass attempt (YPA) is the highest total in the FBS. That number is so strong that it leads the second-place finisher (Clemson Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd) by four-tenths of a yard. It is also 1.3 yards ahead of Manziel's 8.6 YPA, which ranks tied for 14th in the FBS."

Did I miss the memo that yards per pass attempt is now a really important statistic in college football analysis? I understand its importance in the NFL, where QBs typically stay in the pocket and don't scramble. But in college football, total yards are far more relevant. I'm not disputing the fact that Aaron Murray leads this statistic, it's just not applicable. Using Joyner's logic, Johnny Manziel leads the nation in kittens saved from oncoming traffic. Does that help his Heisman case?

"One under-the-radar part of Murray's achievements this year is the amount of progress he has made in helping those around him play better.
Prior to this campaign, he had displayed more than a few consistency issues in this area. He would excel when throwing to his top pass-catchers, but then see his numbers come crashing to earth when throwing to other receivers.

That has not been the case this year, as five of Georgia's receivers with at least 10 receptions have a YPA of 8.3 yards or higher (Tavarres King 13.4, Arthur Lynch 11.9, Marlon Brown 10.4,Malcolm Mitchell 9.4, Chris Conley 8.3).

This trait has been especially important since Murray and the Bulldogs' passing game had to overcome a multitude of issues this season, including Mitchell having to play defensive back for a time as well as the season-ending knee injuries to both Brown and Bennett."

I'm not making this up, you guys. KC Joyner actually wrote this, and ESPN actually allowed this column on the homepage. I'm at a loss for words. If I become a Heisman voter, I'll be sure to give proper consideration to the candidates' "progress in helping those around him play better".

"One of the reasons Murray is not being considered a strong Heisman candidate is that he had poor showings against the South Carolina Gamecocks and Florida Gators.

To put those performances into perspective, consider that Murray posted a combined stat line of 23-for-55 for 259 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions in those contests."

Poor would be an understatement. But wait, he doesn't forget to use stronger language to describe Manziel's hiccups!

"While that kind of stat production is less than stellar, it should not be forgotten that Manziel had two terrible games of his own, one against Florida and the other against the LSU Tigers.

He went 52-for-86 for 449 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions in those games, or passing numbers that are about as bad as Murray's. He didn't do much more in the area of rushing, either, as Manziel managed to post 87 yards on 34 carries in those contests."

Terrible... as in doubling Aaron Murray's total yardage in the two games being compared here? Look, Johnny didn't play his best against LSU and Florida, but the guy is a FRESHMAN and had the lead in both games, making both defenses look ordinary for at least a half each. I'd say his performances were far from terrible (in fact, against Florida, Manziel didn't turn the ball over, the offense just stalled out in the second half). Keep in mind Manziel got to play Florida in the VERY FIRST GAME OF HIS CAREER. Murray got to feast on five cupcakes before facing South Carolina. We've all seen the strides Johnny has made as the season has progressed.

"This shows they both had multiple subpar games, but Murray still ends up with the edge here because he was able to guide his team to a game-clinching touchdown midway through the fourth quarter of the battle against Florida.

Manziel, for all of his heroics this year, did nothing of the sort in the Florida or LSU matchups. In the fourth quarter of those games, he went 10-for-21 for 109 yards, two sacks and an interception on his aerials, and managed to tally a meager 21 yards on nine carries. The only fourth-quarter points he led his team to in those 30 minutes was a touchdown that closed a 24-12 gap against LSU to 24-19 with 1:17 left in the game.

What this means is simple: Even in his bad games, Murray still found a way to step up and lead his team to the one win that made all of the difference in getting Georgia a division title. Manziel was not able to do the same and it is part of why, unless the Auburn Tigers pull off one of the greatest upsets in college football history this weekend against the Alabama Crimson Tide, his team will finish one game out of tying for its division title."

Did Joyner watch the Georgia vs. Florida game? In a battle of teams trying to lose, Georgia eked out a narrow victory by virtue of their defense creating SIX Florida turnovers. Reason suggests Jarvis Jones and the defense led Georgia to the win, not the QB who threw 3 INTs.

"When LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, one of the lowest-rated passers in the SEC this season, racked up 298 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions on 24-for-35 for passing against Alabama on Nov. 3, the general reaction was that the Crimson Tide defense was highly overrated because it let someone of Mettenberger's caliber throw the ball with such success.

The very next week, Manziel went out and posted a very similar passing stat line (24-for-31 for 253 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions) while adding in adds 92 rushing yards to boot. All totaled, his performance really wasn't that much better than Mettenberger's, and yet somehow the general reaction of the college football world was that this was the moment Johnny Football put his stamp on the 2012 season.

However, a group of highlight-reel plays against an overrated defense shouldn't be enough to vault Manziel to the Heisman lead.

The good news for Murray is that he'll also get his shot at the Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game. If Murray has a strong showing while leading his team to a victory, it would give his resume a direct equalizer on the Alabama front and also add a conference title and berth in the BCS title game (assuming Georgia Tech doesn't pull off a huge upset against Georgia this weekend) that Manziel cannot match.

In a fair world, that would move Murray to the top of the Heisman Trophy list."

It's fair to say that Manziel and Mettenberger had similar stats against a common opponent, Alabama. However, Mettenberger had the luxury of playing at home, while Manziel put up his numbers on the road, at Bryant-Denny Stadium no less. 

Stats and grammatical errors aside, what shocks me here (actually, if we're being real, no one should be shocked this far into this BS column) is KC Joyner's disregard for Manziel's victory over Alabama TWO PARAGRAPHS after claiming Aaron Murray's ability to lead Georgia to victory over Florida is a distinguishing factor in his bid for the Heisman trophy. You just can't make this stuff up.

In the end, what will most likely happen is Nick Saban and Alabama's defense will throttle Aaron Murray just like South Carolina and Florida did earlier this season. Joyner wants to leave open the possibility of a strong Murray performance in the SEC Championship game. That isn't happening. After playing Texas A&M, Alabama played lowly Western Carolina and faces terrible Auburn this weekend. That's essentially two scrimmages that require minimal game prep, leaving the coaching staff plenty of time to scheme for Aaron Murray and Georgia.

I am fully aware that I spent far too much time critiquing such a spare column on ESPN.com, but this joke of an opinion from KC Joyner is exactly the kind of disrespect Johnny Manziel and, to a larger extent, the Texas A&M football team have received all season. 

The Aggies have let their play on the field speak for itself this year. I have no doubt that the Heisman voters will see that, and that our very own Johnny Football will become the first freshman to win the Heisman trophy.

2 comments:

  1. Not sure if you are attempting to be humorous or not, but Murray is the better QB.

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  2. I'm sick of idiots who say Florida and uga tried to lose or played sloppy. these were two great defenses and when you put two great defenses on the field they make each others offenses look pathetic. defense wins every time. uga had the better defense so they won. by the way uga forced those six turnovers courtesy of Jarvis Jones and co. Florida didn't beat themselves ugas defense beat them.

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