With Tim Tebow getting cut, the realization that winning the Heisman trophy doesn’t guarantee NFL success, especially for quarterbacks, becomes stronger and stronger, as four of the last seven quarterbacks to win the award are now out of the NFL.
Winning the Heisman isn’t an indication of future NFL success. It simply gives an award to a player who excelled in College Football. And he might have been playing on a really strong team with a very simple offense for him to run. The Athletic Gap between big-time programs and the rest of the field is huge in the NCAA. It doesn’t exist in the NFL, or hardly does, and suddenly a college superstar looks close to embarrassing playing in the pros.
Jason White begins the trend. He won the award playing for Oklahoma in 2003. He went to two BCS national title games with the Sooners (losing them both). And yet he went undrafted, eventually signing with the Tennessee Titans but deciding to retire, citing his weak knees as the reason for him to giving up on the game, choosing to go into business instead.
Matt Leinart won the award in 2004, but decided to stay on for another season with USC, which turned out to be a big mistake. Instead of being a number one draft pic, he fell to the 10th spot in the 2006 NFL draft, getting picked by the Arizona Cardinals. He started 16 times during his first two seasons, but faced more and more demotions in his standing with the Cardinals, and later with Houston and Oakland. He didn’t make it out of preseason with the Bills, and is now out of the league.
Next up? Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman winner. The Ohio State quarterback was a fifth round, 174th overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens. He wandered around the league for five seasons, also being included in the squads for the 49ers and Steelers, but he wasn’t on a regular season squad since 2010, and ended up getting 8 starts in four NFL seasons. He recently signed a two-year deal with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.
Last but not least? Tim Tebow, who is the 2007 Heisman winner. He was a first round pick (25th overall) in the 2010 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos. In his second season it seemed like he got his big break, leading the Broncos to the playoffs, winning 7 games of his 11 starts. But he didn’t convince anyone he was the quarterback of the future for the franchise. Traded to the New York Jets, his career ended there. He didn’t start once for the Jets and was released. He played three times for the Patriots in preseason, but didn’t make the regular season cut.
We can also mention Robert Griffin III (2011 winner), Cam Newton (2010 winner) and Sam Bradford (2008) winner among the last 7 quarterbacks. Griffin and Newton were immediate stars (although Newton hasn’t developed from his rookie season as expected), and Bradford is still a franchise quarterback for the St. Louis Rams, still not giving up on him, hoping that the reason of having a bad team around him is the cause for his mostly disappointing play.