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Jayden Daniels: The Wrong Heisman Winner

On Saturday evening, LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels was announced as the Heisman Trophy winner over Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr., Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, and Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. In most seasons, Daniels would be a deserving winner of the award, but in this season, one where LSU was not a great team, finishing with a 9-3 record, it deserved to go to someone else.


Daniels finished the season with a 72.2% completion percentage, 3,812 passing yards, 40 passing touchdowns, and only four interceptions; he also added 1,134 rushing yards on 8.4 yards per carry and ten rushing touchdowns to his resume. It was undoubtedly a great season, but Bo Nix had an even better one.


In 13 games (to Daniels’ 12), Nix finished with a 77.2 completion percentage, 4,145 passing yards, 40 passing touchdowns, and just three interceptions, and he added six rushing touchdowns, too. Additionally, Nix led an Oregon team that was in the thick of the CFP race and would have gotten in if they had scored eight more points across their two games against Washington.


By winning, Daniels became the first dual-threat quarterback to win the Heisman since Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray in 2018, and he became the second LSU quarterback to win the award in the last five years after Joe Burrow in 2019. Daniels’ dual-threat ability undoubtedly factored into his win, but the player's play-style shouldn't factor into the voting for the award.


Other dual-threat quarterbacks have won the award in the past, like Murray, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in 2016, and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in 2014. However, the difference between Daniels and these other winners is the fact that they led their teams to great seasons; the potential exception is Jackson, whose Louisville squad went 9-4 and lost their last three games, but they were ranked third in the country for three weeks and dismantled second-ranked Florida State 63-20 early in the season.


There is also the “Heisman Moment” argument that is being tossed around on social media. Each player has a “Heisman Moment” for which they are often remembered, but Daniels doesn't have that.


LSU had a 1-3 record against ranked teams this season, and the lone win game against a ranked team came against a Missouri team that hadn't broken out yet. People remember Johnny Manziel's heroics against Alabama, Joe Burrow's destruction of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Reggie Bush's stop-n-go against Fresno State, and even Doug Flutie's “Hail Flutie.”


But what does Daniels have? Seventeen of his 50 total touchdowns this season came in blowouts against Grambling State, Army, and Georgia State. Sure, there's the comeback against Missouri, but even then, the Tigers almost came back and won the game in the end, and it's not like a 15-point comeback against the 21st-ranked team in the country is one of the greatest performances of all time.


Bo Nix (and even Michael Penix Jr., who also had a better season than Daniels) wasn't lacking in the “Heisman Moment” category. Nix's “Heisman Moment” came in one of his Ducks’ blowouts. Still, it was the most impressive of them all: against 16th-ranked Oregon State, who had an underrated defense, Oregon won 31-7, and Nix finished with an 82.5% completion percentage, 367 passing yards, and two touchdowns. On a day when the running game couldn't get anything going, Nix took over against a good defense and a heated rival and had one of his best performances of the season.


Even Penix Jr., who finished second in the Heisman voting, had his “Heisman Moment” in Washington's two games against Oregon when he led the Huskies to two upsets and helped them go 13-0 and make the CFP for the first time since 2016.


Bo Nix deserved to win the Heisman this year, and if he didn't, it should have gone to Michael Penix Jr. Jayden Daniels had a great season, but in 10 years, his college career and Heisman trophy win will be little more than the answer to a trivia question.


(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)


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