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Bryce Young Wins the Heisman Trophy


For this 12 months’s 928 Heisman Trophy voters, the instructions were as straightforward as ever: Select as many as three candidates for school football’s most eminent player.

The news media members (145 in each of six geographic regions) and former Heisman winners (58 currently living) who submitted their votes electronically by 5 p.m. on Monday weren’t told to think about how priceless a player had been to his team’s success, to think about whether a player had played at the very best level — an Oberlin College player is just as eligible as one from Oklahoma — or to value one position or side of the football over one other.

There was no suggestion that academic prowess, community involvement or questions of ethical turpitude needs to be a part of the equation.

Just select probably the most outstanding player.

Yet, while voters in the knowledge age have more data points than ever to think about, how they select the Heisman Trophy winner has modified little over time: Quarterbacks dominate, winning matters, and the body of labor have to be buttressed by a Heisman moment, the more viral the higher.

So it was again on Saturday night as quarterback Bryce Young became the second consecutive Alabama player — and the fourth within the last 13 seasons — to win the Heisman Trophy, ending comfortably ahead of the opposite finalists who had been invited to Latest York: Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Consider that Young, a precocious sophomore who played behind an often leaky offensive line and delivered a sterling performance in Alabama’s upset of Georgia last Saturday within the Southeastern Conference title game, may not even be the very best player on his team. That honor has been bestowed by many upon Will Anderson, a menacing pass rusher who leads the nation with 32½ tackles behind the road of scrimmage. (Anderson finished fifth within the voting.)

The identical might be said of Stroud, a freshman quarterback who, after some early struggles, directed the highest offense within the country, which is built around a trio of elite receivers who repeatedly make themselves open. Pickett, a senior, put up similar video-game numbers and will definitely make a claim for having influenced the sport: The fake-slide-and-touchdown-run play he utilized in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game was outlawed inside every week.

Hutchinson, who has 14 sacks — including three of Stroud in Michigan’s win over Ohio State — is barely the third defensive player to complete among the many top 4 since one other Wolverine, Charles Woodson, became the one defensive player to win the Heisman in 1997. Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o also finished second, in 2012.

Still, for considered one of American sports’ most cherished awards, there was little evolution in how selectors make their selection. Over the past decade or so, more sophisticated statistical evaluation has dramatically modified how baseball awards are determined, with old standbys like batting average and pitcher wins diminished in favor of other metrics that will even take ballparks under consideration.

And in basketball, points and rebounds have been put into greater context to detail the efficiency with which they were compiled.

“The blokes who’re inefficient and put up highlights, it was easier to make a case for them 10 years ago,” said Ryan Jones, a former editor of SLAM magazine, noting that high-volume shooters, like Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant, can be appraised somewhat less favorably today.

“You don’t must be a tough core analytics guy to understand Steph Curry, or what Jokic has done — or Giannis,” he added, referring to the N.B.A.’s best shooter and its past two most precious players, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, each of whom have well-rounded games. “A few of it’s real obvious, however the advanced stats sometimes inform you otherwise how impressive a few of that stuff is.”

There was a good greater reconsideration in baseball.

In 1990, Bob Welch, who posted a 27-6 record for the Oakland Athletics, won the American League Cy Young Award, comfortably outdistancing Roger Clemens, who was 21-6 for the Boston Red Sox. But Clemens registered a league-best 10.4 in wins above substitute, or WAR, a newer metric that evaluates a player’s value to the team based on more detailed data. Welch, who recorded far fewer strikeouts and allowed way more home runs, had a modest 2.9 WAR, the bottom among the many top seven vote-getters that season.

Nowadays, wins have been so devalued in favor of other measures that Jacob deGrom won back-to-back Cy Young Awards for the Mets while compiling a pedestrian 21-17 record over the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

A more nuanced lens has also modified how baseball Hall of Fame voters have given recent life to candidates like Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker who were omitted because they fell in need of milestones like 3,000 hits, 500 home runs or 300 victories.

“They’ve been on the ballot for a very long time, but they got put excessive by voters taking a look at the brand new metrics and giving them more weight,” said Ryan Thibodaux, who tracks Hall of Fame voting as writers have made their ballots public. “The younger voters depend on those metrics greater than the old-school voters do.”

Football has taken longer to catch as much as other sports in using data to clarify performance. After all, numbers have been a part of the material of baseball so long as the box rating has existed, and tracking of point totals has at all times been elemental to basketball. Metrics which may higher explain offensive line performance or the playmaking ability of a linebacker or the context of a quarterback’s performance in today’s game are removed from a typical currency.

Anthony Treash, who analyzes college football players for Pro Football Focus, said the Heisman Trophy — like other awards — had essentially change into a team award. His message to voters: Transcend the box rating and what you see on the web.

“I don’t need to query the voter’s credibility, but do we actually have the very best information to know who the very best players are?” he said. “Keep your mind open to recent ideas in player evaluation.”

Until that happens, players like Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum, who was given the very best grade for a Power 5 conference center in eight years by Pro Football Focus, or Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner, who allowed 96 receiving yards in 12 games — just about all of it in press coverage — or Alabama’s Anderson could have to look at the Heisman ceremony from home.

And the rare defensive player, like Michigan’s Hutchinson, who does earn an invite to Latest York could have to be content with using his front-row seat to applaud the winner.

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