Heisman Trophy History: Looking Over The Numbers, Don McPherson Really Did Get Robbed

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: A detailed view of the Heisman Memorial Trophy after a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The fine folks at EA Sports are sponsoring the site again this week on behalf of NCAA Football '13. Given the Heisman Trophy Winner feature in this year's game, we're going to keep the conversation going in terms of how it applies to the Syracuse Orange.

Last time we talked about what might have been if Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders played for the 1988 SU squad. This time, let's talk about guys who actually played for the Orange(men) and who just barely missed out on hoisting the trophy themselves.

On the topic of players who did not win the Heisman but deserved to, just about every Syracuse fan focuses in on two guys. Don McPherson and Jim Brown. Both just missed out on winning the Heisman but for very different reasons.

For me, the McPherson argument has always been a strange one to wrap my head around. Back in 1987, I was a Notre Dame football fan (sorry) and it didn't even occur to me that some random dude from Syracuse was better than my Timmy Brown, wide receiver extraordinaire. Brown won the trophy with 45% of the vote while McPherson came in second place with about half of that. In fact, just looking at the voting numbers, it wasn't even close and McPherson barely beat out a guy from Holy Cross for second place.

But should McPherson have won?

There are Syracuse fans out there who can tell you what it was like to watch McPherson but I'm not one of them. I can, however, factor in the legendary finish to the West Virginia game, where Donny led the Orangemen down the field to preserve the undefeated regular season (before Pat Dye, who is and always will be a giant p***y, ruined it).

As for cold, hard numbers, McPherson threw for 2,341 yards, 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on 129 completions. He threw for 10.2 yards per completion and also rushed for 200 yards on the ground. If there was a QB Award, McPherson won it that year (Davey O'Brien, Johnny Unitas, Maxwell).

McPherson's numbers are extremely solid, even if they pale in comparison to today's wide-open offensive ones. Now, looking at Brown's numbers, that's where you start to wonder exactly what everyone was thinking.

As a fan, I remember Tim Brown as being amazing. However, when I look at his numbers in 1987, I begin to wonder what, exactly, was so amazing about him.

Brown caught 39 balls for 846 yards and three touchdowns. So far, that's not selling me. However, Brown gets a huge boost when you include his punt return numbers (401 yards, 3 TDs) and rushing numbers (144 yards, TD).

Even then, statistically, Brown does not wow me in retrospect. In fact, Brown's senior season was actually a step back in almost every statistical category from his junior season.

So why did Brown, playing for an 8-4 team, win the Heisman Trophy over McPherson, who led the upstart Orangemen to an undefeated season? Not only that, how did Brown run away with the trophy? Unfortunately, it's all too easy an answer.

First and foremost, he played for Notre Dame back when that mattered. He was on national television almost every week whereas only a handful of Syracuse games were watched nationally. Being the best player on Notre Dame trumped being the best player in the county for a regional college, which Syracuse was at the time.

Until recently, the Heisman Trophy was often more of a popularity contest than one based on statistics and results. Back in 1987, Robert Griffin III would have probably lost the Heisman Trophy vote to Brown as well.

Brown was a fantastic player, I don't mean to belittle him too much here. I grew up rooting for him and his quarterback, Tony Rice, and I do think he was a fantastic wide receiver. However, in retrospect, Brown seems to be the Shakespeare in Love to Don McPherson's Saving Private Ryan. One of them deserved to be honored as the best and the other one, while very good, only won because it was in a better position to promote itself.

This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.

EA SPORTS NCAA Football 13 TV: "Son" (via EASPORTS)

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