Why Bo Nix Wins the Heisman Over Jayden Daniels

Mike Whitty Editorials

In the consideration of whether Bo Nix or Jayden Daniels should be awarded the Heisman trophy, I could not resist applying my professional experience as an appellate attorney to just what the voters should evaluate. Mainly, do they look simply to a candidate’s personal football skills, or do they also consider the candidate’s impact on the team. In the circumstance of two quarterbacks, how much does the voter weigh the outcome of the games, and the contribution of other players to that outcome?

The simple standard for Heisman voters is “The most outstanding college football player.” Looking at that standard to discern its meaning is difficult because the language is general. However, even general language is parsed by courts in the attempt to discover the meaning of the words and the standards in laws.

Courts apply what they call: “The plain meaning of the language.” Now there is tool that, like beauty, can be manipulated to fit the eye of the beholder. But sometimes, when language is specific to a particular topic, it does have a plain meaning. Unfortunately, there is no plain meaning to the “most outstanding” general language the Heisman voters apply.

For general language, one of the things a court considers is what they call: “legislative history.” That is, what were the authors of the law, the legislators, thinking when writing the law? What did the authors mean? What resources were available to them when the authors wrote the language?

There is no doubt about the talents of Jayden Daniels. (Screenshot from Scott Fisher Video)

If the law has been amended, what was the change and why was the change made?

When the Heisman was first awarded the standard was different from “The most outstanding college football player” that is employed today. In 1935 the award went to: “The most valuable college football player east of the Mississippi.” So why the Downtown Athletic Club changed from “most valuable” to “most outstanding” would be good for voters to know, if there are minutes of the meeting where the change was enacted.

Courts also look to other similar laws to help them determine meaning. For our purpose we can consider the standard for other similar awards. The Heisman and the AP Player of the Year honor the outstanding player, while the Maxwell and the Walter Camp awards recognize the best player, and the Archie Griffin Award recognizes the most valuable player.

When they cannot discern meaning from other methods, Courts also look to dictionaries to help them find meaning. From Merriam Webster, the dictionary resource most often relied upon by judges:

“Outstanding – marked by eminence and distinction”

And the definitions of different words used for other awards:

“Best – most productive of good: offering or producing the greatest advantage, utility, or

“Valuable – having desirable or esteemed characteristics or qualities”.

Bo Nix changed the play twice to create a touchdown at Utah. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling)

By now you are wondering: “Why doesn’t Grampa Duck just write about: “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”

There is a really good argument that Bo Nix is more valuable than Jayden Daniels because he has contributed mightily to a team with a better record. Daniels’ supporters will argue that Nix has a better cast of players to assist with the better Duck record.

Even looking at each player’s statistics cannot be separated from the performance of their teammates. Better receivers, better blockers, even a better defense that puts the QB back on the field while the opposing defense had less time to rest all have an impact.

For my very biased conclusion to this essay I argue that “most outstanding college football player” includes far more than a player’s personal physical skills but necessarily includes his mental facility and contribution to the overall goal. Football is a team game, and individual awards cannot ignore that essential fact. There are lots of very skilled athletes on the field at any one time, but only a very few have a “WOW” factor that changes the outcome of the game.

Both of the quarterbacks mentioned here have that “WOW factor”, but Bo Nix has it not only on the physical side, but also on the mental side. From what I have seen of LSU, some, but probably not enough, Jayden Daniels does not have the level of field general skills that Bo Nix brings to the field. And therein is the reason Bo will win out over Jayden.

Mike Whitty   (Grandpa Duck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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