I often hear people say that the Heisman Trophy is irrelevant. I understand the sentiment. After all, it’s a team sport and the Heisman honors individual achievement. On Saturday night I tweeted out a link to my analysis of Montee Ball’s fading Heisman hopes and a Wisconsin fan responded “I think team is in more trouble than worrying about hardware. OC, QB and OL need to get on the same page.”
What people sometimes forget is that individual success, or lack of it, often points to larger issues about a team. Does anyone think that if Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator, quarterback and offensive line really were on the same page that Ball would be struggling the way he is? It’s not like he turned into a pedestrian talent overnight. And if Ball was tearing it up, there wouldn’t be all this complaining about the Badger offense and line coach Mike Markuson would still be employed. Ball’s declining production is merely a canary in a coal mine.
The ability of a program to mount a serious Heisman campaign is often an indicator (sometimes leading, sometimes lagging) of its overall health. There is a symbiotic relationship between team success and individual achievement. If Ball was a serious Heisman contender, Wisconsin would be a much better team and if Wisconsin was a better team, Ball would be a serious Heisman contender. The individual elevates the team and the team elevates the individual. Paul Hornung and Troy Davis aside, it’s always been like that.