Scooter Hobbs column: Daniels can rest easy now
Published 9:52 am Wednesday, January 10, 2024
So I guess now Jayden Daniels gets to keep his Heisman Trophy after all.
Don’t worry. This essay is not about piling on Washington’s Michael Penix, who was the worthy runner-up to the LSU quarterback for the most prestigious trophy in all of sports.
But Daniels can rest easy now. You win it in early December voting, but it’s not unusual for public opinion to change and almost force you to apologize.
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Leading up to Monday night’s national championship game, you may have detected a rumbling, a ground swell of opinions that this season, any season probably, was just more proof that the Heisman, Inc., should wait until all the games have been played before voting on the award.
It’s an old debate.
In this case it was a thinly disguised argument, in advance of the title game and in the wake of the aerial strafing that Penix put on Texas in the CFP semifinals, as media worrywarts got ready to declare voters’ remorse and declare that the wrong player won the thing because they had to vote too early.
It was laying the ground work, just in case he went off on Washington in similar fashion, for the more specific accusation that Penix — and not Daniels — should have won the thing.
Probably the most notable instance of this was in 2005 when Southern Cal’s Reggie Bush — who was the soon-to-be Saints top draft pick — won the Heisman without much dissent. But then runner-up Vince Young of Texas had the game of his life in BCS title game to almost single-handedly beat Bush’s Trojans. The second-guessers all but demanded that Bush go home and retrieve his Heisman to give it to Young, with all due remorse, during the championship victory celebration.
The Heisman folks did eventually take back Bush’s trophy but it had nothing to do with Young. In one of the major sports injustices, it turned out Bush was getting NIL-style extra benefits at Southern Cal long before it was legal. So the presenting Downtown Athletic Club got in a big huffy-puff, took the trophy back and vacated it for that year.
I aways wondered what they would have done if Bush had refused to hand it over.
Anyway, Daniels can rest easy.
If anything, he looked more like the Heisman winner after Penix’s struggles in a 34-13 loss to Michigan for the national championship than he did the night he accepted the trophy.
Yeah, the voters got it right. There’s no requirement that you win or even play for the national championship.
Again, nothing against Penix. And, yes, the game was better and certainly more
intriguing that the final score would indicate.
But … let’s just say it wasn’t his finest few hours.
Also, his corps of receivers, which were often compared favorably to LSU’s, didn’t give him a lot of help.
So when Penix wasn’t overshooting his targets — especially on what would have been an easy score on one of the Michigan defense’s rare blown assignments — his receivers were developing slippery fingers.
Michigan’s defense was also pretty dang good, as you may have noticed.
I suspect the two most deserving teams, maybe the best two, played for championship — we just didn’t see either one’s best game.
Particularly Washington; its defense in the first quarter would have made LSU blush.
But Hail to the victors.
As for the Heisman, it has worked fine for all these years awarding it right after the conference championships.
But that may change out of necessity.
When the CFP expands to 12 teams next year, you won’t have the longer lull between the regular season and the start of the playoffs.
It might be a forced-fit to work the ceremony in amidst more urgent prep work for the expanded playoffs.
Either way, Daniels was the winner this season. And he deserved it.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org