The Season Dwayne Haskins Just Put Together Deserved Much More Attention Than It Got

By Johnny Ginter on December 9, 2018 at 7:35 am
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins

I timed it. Five minutes and twenty-eight seconds.

That's how long the Dwayne Haskins portion of the Heisman ceremony lasted (which, as an aside, is a program that's as ungainly and awkward as trying to put a Christmas sweater on an obese house cat). In it, we were treated to the 89893278th showing of a very wee Dwayne proclaiming he would be a quarterback at Ohio State someday, a nice little interview with the Haskins family, a perfunctory rundown of his destruction of Michigan and... that was it.

Five minutes and twenty-eight seconds to boil down the greatest passing season in the history of the Big Ten, besting the likes of Drew Brees, Troy Smith, Jim freaking Harbaugh, and a bunch of other guys that weren't Heisman finalists so we won't bother to list them here. Five minutes and twenty-eight seconds that were spent ignoring all the records, consistency, and the solid fact that for a good 80% of the 2018 Ohio State football season, Dwayne Haskins and the passing game was the only thing keeping Urban Meyer from taking a significant amount of Ls in final season as a head coach.

I could spend the next 800 or so words recapping every achievement Haskins was able to accomplish, but others on this site have already done that better than I could hope to do, so I won't, and instead just say that as someone who watched Troy Smith's Heisman campaign up close and personal, what Dwayne Haskins did in 2018 far surpassed that. Saying that it's the greatest single season from a Big Ten quarterback in history isn't hyperbole, it's statistical fact.

And yet, you wouldn't really know it from how Haskins has been advertised in Columbus. Here is the most obvious Ohio State endorsement of Dwayne Haskins' Heisman candidacy from the football program:

Cool, I guess. It's not a billboard or a website or a bobblehead, but a tweet with a joke about a movie that came out before Haskins was born is better than literally nothing.

For his part, Urban Meyer was vocal about Dwayne being a Heisman finalist, but it's also probably notable that he only publicly engaged in that kind of talk at the very end of the season, when Michigan was defeated and the Rose Bowl was largely set in stone.'s Doug Lesmerises wrote this about a conversation he had with Haskins:

“He (Urban Meyer) does a great job of keeping me humble and doesn’t really give me too much praise,” acknowledging what I’d thought I’d seen for months.

So I asked Haskins if he’d felt that, too, that Meyer was a little stingy on the compliments when it came to the player at the heart of it all.

“Yeah, everyone sees how well we do on offense, and the last thing he wanted to do was for me to get big-headed, and he didn’t want me to stop getting better,” Haskins said. “It was my first year starting, and the last thing he wanted me to do was for me to stop thinking of my teammates, stop thinking of the coaches, and think it was all about me. So he did a great job with that.”

Which is great coaching! It means you can keep your star quarterback on the right path to win games and a conference championship. It also means you cede control of the story to a media that won't appreciate that effort if it runs contrary to the storyline of the season that they want to create.

For instance, there was a small flap on Saturday about Dwayne being kept separate from Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa during interviews that appeared on ESPN, which implied to some that only two finalists were considered worth talking about.

What bothers me about this response from Rece Davis is that he's acting like this narrative just fell in their lap. The difference between the people who produce what ESPN puts out and the people that watch it are that guys like Rece Davis actually have a say in the worthiness of a Heisman candidate before early December.

One example of how this narrative was shaped is ESPN's Heisman Watch. ESPN doesn't keep an archive of the Heisman Watch, but luckily's Wayback Machine does! And it reveals that by mid-October, Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray were the only two serious Heisman contenders in the eyes of the 10 ESPN writers who voted in it, with neither player budging from the top two for nearly half the season. Dwayne, a contender early on, took a huge hit because of the Purdue loss (in which he set the single game passing record at Ohio State), and never seriously challenged after that.

Yes: Kyler and Tua were considered the top two candidates (because they're great, but also because that's how they've been presented for the last month and a half). No, having Dwayne get a one-on-one with a former Heisman winner wasn't a slight (but both men having played for Urban Meyer was the reason why that interview was done).

And look; I get it. It's a lot less of a headache to construct a 4 minute segment for College Gameday about players everyone already knows who play for teams that are more likely to get in the playoff.

But just because it's topical and expedient to focus on the same two dudes for most of the season doesn't always make it the right choice.

This is not a slight against Kyler Murray (who was amazing in 2018 and did deserve the Heisman) or Tua Tagovailoa (who was also incredible and didn't deserve the Heisman), as college football has this issue in general. There are many players in 2018 (including a few on the same teams as the finalists) who deserved Heisman consideration and never did. Non-Power 5 players and teams have continued to be shut out of the conversation for both the playoffs and postseason awards, despite promises of efforts to include them. Preseason polls and the relative perception of conferences continue to hold massive sway over which teams, players, and individual games are given priority.

So I'm not crying for Dwayne Haskins. He led his team to a 12-1 record and a Big Ten championship, was feted in New York City as a Heisman finalist, and will likely go on to destroy the Washington Huskies in the Rose Bowl and make millions in the NFL. He's fine.

Same for Ohio State in general, as the Buckeyes are in no danger of sliding into irrelevance just because their Heisman finalist only came in third instead of second. Heisman laziness aside, ESPN and the media at large love talking about Ohio State because of the clicks and views Buckeye fans provide.

But What's aggravating is that it just feels like an enormous missed opportunity.

Dwayne Haskins didn't just have a good or great season, he had a historic season that is utterly unmatched in both the Ohio State and Big Ten record books. That should've been celebrated, loudly and repeatedly, as both an example of his excellence and the kind of surprisingly great tradition of Big Ten quarterback play.

For Ohio State not to acknowledge that as evidence for a Heisman run during the season and for national media outlets to ignore it in favor of a Tua versus Kyler narrative of their own creation is dumb and bad and a symptom of a larger problem that needs to be addressed. For Haskins to be left off nearly 40% of Heisman ballots is really dumb and bad.

What makes college football great is the enormous patchwork of teams and players and stories that span across 130 teams in 41 states, not the goings on in a small handful of preordained winners. If Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins can't get a fair shake, imagine what other stories we're missing.

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