Does Johnny Manziel have an interception problem?

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There’s no doubt that Johnny Manziel is in the process of following up his extraordinary freshman season with a very successful sophomore year.

In some areas, he’s clearly ahead of where he was in 2012. For instance, he has improved his passing efficiency, his completion percentage, his passing yards per game and his number of touchdown passes. However, he is not gaining nearly as many rushing yards or scoring nearly as many rushing touchdowns as he did last season when he led the SEC in those categories.

Some contend that the decline in his ground game production is due to his development as a passer and that’s a valid argument to make.

But there’s one area where he has clearly taken a step backward.

Interceptions.

At the time of his Heisman triumph last season, Manziel had eight interceptions in 400 attempts. He’s got 11 in 315 attempts so far this season. That’s a significant increase

Now, I’ve always been of the belief that there will never be another two-time Heisman winner and that the factors that sink attempted repeaters tend to be more ephemeral than concrete. So perhaps Manziel’s interception total is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things, but I do believe it’s a factor that is weighing him down.

To better illustrate why that may be the case, let’s look at the interception totals of the past 12 Heisman quarterbacks at the time of the Heisman vote:

2012 — Manziel — 8

2011 — Robert Griffin III — 6

2010 — Cameron Newton — 6

2008 — Sam Bradford — 6

2007 — Tim Tebow — 6

2006 — Troy Smith — 5

2004 — Matt Leinart — 6

2003 — Jason White — 8

2002 — Carson Palmer — 10

2001 — Eric Crouch — 10

2000 — Chris Weinke — 11

1996 — Danny Wuerffel — 12

So you have to go back all the way to 1996 to find a Heisman-winning quarterback who has thrown more interceptions than Manziel has so far this season in 10 games. Manziel’s pick total looks even worse when considered in the context of current quarterback-friendly systems that have conditioned voters to expect relatively low numbers in this category (note that the higher totals come further back, before the advent of the spread).

Combine Manziel’s historically-high interception total with the abnormally low totals by his current Heisman rivals Marcus Mariota (0) and Bryce Petty (1), plus the conventionally-low number by front runner Jameis Winston (7) and there’s a stark contrast to be made in this area.

I don’t think Manziel’s 11 interceptions are, by themselves, the reason voters will downgrade his candidacy. But I do think they make his otherwise daunting task of winning a second Heisman much more difficult.

About Heismanpundit

Chris Huston, A.K.A. ‘The Heisman Pundit‘, is a Heisman voter and the creator and publisher of Heismanpundit.com, a site dedicated to analysis of the Heisman Trophy and college football. Dubbed “the foremost authority on the Heisman” by Sports Illustrated, HP is regularly quoted or cited during football season in newspapers across the country. He is also a regular contributor on sports talk radio and television.
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