Tag Archives: Charles Woodson

My Heisman ballot, for all the good it will do

Can we just admit right now that the Heisman Trophy does not, in fact, reward the most outstanding player in college football, or do we have to wait until Saturday?

The Heisman Trophy rewards the most outstanding offensive player in college football, and frankly, even that is too broad because the next offensive lineman to win the award will be the first.

The Heisman Trophy rewards the most outstanding offensive skill position player in college football, and if you’re a wide receiver it’s going on twenty years since somebody with your job description won it, so good luck.

This is an award for the glory hogs, OK? Of the last thirteen winners, ten were quarterbacks and the other three were running backs. Two positions out of twenty-two, thirteen years in a row.

That’s fine. Fans love the glory hogs. Just call it what it is. Don’t pretend it’s going to the best player — most outstanding player is the language in the instructions — if it’s impossible for the vast majority of positions to win it.

Charles Woodson, you say. Right. Out of 76 winners of the annual award, one had a defensive position — cornerback — listed next to his name.

Of course, Woodson wasn’t solely a cornerback in college. He also played a little wide receiver for Michigan, and was a thrilling punt returner. Without those credits, he never would have won it. So the fact remains that no one playing exclusively on the defensive side of the ball has ever won the thing.

Not only that, Woodson beat out Peyton Manning in 1997 for the 63rd Heisman, so you can bet Heisman voters won’t make that mistake again.

Keep this in mind: Woodson won in ’97 with eight interceptions. As a defensive back.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o had seven interceptions this season. As a linebacker. Along with 103 tackles. For the No. 1 team in the country. The best player on the best team.

Hmm. I know I’ve heard that expression before.

But no, you say. This is not an award for the most valuable player. It’s an award for the most outstanding player.

What does that mean, exactly? It means quarterback or running back, that’s what.

Of the last eleven Heismans, ten went to quarterbacks. When Johnny Manziel becomes the first freshman winner Saturday, it will be eleven out of twelve. Manziel has to win because he has more total yards than the other quarterbacks who have won, so you can see how the diminishing eligibility criteria become self-fulfilling.

Te’o will join Hugh Green of Pittsburgh in 1980 as only the second defensive player to finish second. That will have to be enough.

Well, that and the Maxwell Award, which also purports to honor the most outstanding player in college football. The Maxwell broke with tradition to assert that a defensive player as good as Te’o deserved that honorific for the first time since 1980.

Good for the Maxwell. Even as the Heisman narrows its view of eligibility for outstandingness, maybe the Maxwell will continue to expand its view.

Oh, Te’o also won the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award. And the Bednarik Award for best defensive player.

So Manti is collecting plenty of hardware. He’ll be fine. Just don’t tell me the Heisman recognizes the most outstanding player in college football. Because that’s got to be a defender occasionally. Just by the law of averages.

Anyway, my Heisman ballot, filed on time and everything, for all the good it will do:

1. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame.

2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M.

3. Collin Klein (of Loveland, Colo.), Kansas State.

How about we just call it the Heisman Glory Hound Award? Would that work for everybody?


Should the Broncos consider moving Champ Bailey to safety?

With each passing year, the question comes up more often: At what point do the Broncos consider moving Champ Bailey, their incomparable defensive back, from corner to safety?

Rod Woodson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a defensive back in 2009. The 10th overall pick of the 1987 draft out of Purdue, Woodson played 15 seasons in the NFL, the first 10 as a cornerback. He was named to seven Pro Bowls in that role.

In 1999, the year he turned 34, Woodson transitioned to safety, extending his career another five years. He was named to four more Pro Bowls in that role. After intercepting 47 passes in 10 seasons at cornerback, Woodson picked off 24 more in five seasons at safety.

Charles Woodson (no relation) is another elite defensive back. He was the fourth overall selection of the 1998 draft out of Michigan. After 14 seasons at cornerback, including eight Pro Bowls, the Packers moved him to safety in training camp this summer. Woodson is 35.

“They said, ‘Hey, you’re playing safety. Get back there,'”Woodson¬†told the Chicago Tribune.¬†“That’s what I did.”

Part of the reason is that Woodson has lost a step, which is more evident when he’s matched up in man coverage on the outside with the game’s elite pass receivers, many of them much younger than he is.

But the Packers, who struggled on defense last season, also want to give one of their best defenders more freedom to roam. This is a player with 54 career interceptions, including seven last season at age 34.

“I think something that’s been very evident for Charles, number one throughout his career, he’s been a playmaker, whether he’s played the corner or the inside position,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy told the Tribune.

“In our particular defense, we feel that he is a lot more valuable to us the closer he is to the ball because of the different positions he can play, the number of different things that we’re able to do with him. So that’s really part of the thinking of trying to get him closer to the ball and more involved because of his instincts. He plays the game a lot like a quarterback does from the defensive side.”

At least in training camp’s early days, Woodson says he’s enjoying the switch.

“It’s different from corner, where you’re usually worried about a particular receiver and how he can threaten you as a corner,” Charles Woodson said. “As a safety, you get to move around a little bit more and show different looks and not have that responsibility of just having one guy. It will be fun to play more safety. I’m getting a lot more of the calls as a safety. I’m used to being out at corner and seeing plays from that angle. To be able to play at safety and really, really, really understand the play even more, I think will play to my advantage.”

Bailey entered the league one year after Charles Woodson and, coincidentally, the same year Rod Woodson moved from corner to safety. He was the seventh overall pick of the 1999 draft out of Georgia. He turned 34 in June.

Bailey has played 13 seasons at cornerback for the Redskins and Broncos and been named to a record 11 Pro Bowls. He is arguably as good a cover corner as the league has ever seen.

He is not only the best player on the Broncos defense, he is also the smartest. Unfortunately, that means he gets few opportunities to add to his career total of 50 interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks generally choose to throw to receivers not being covered by Champ Bailey.

That’s one argument for eventually moving him to safety: He might see more balls there. And, for the first time in his nine years in Denver, the Broncos might have enough cover guys to be able to spare him. With newly-acquired veterans Tracy Porter and Drayton Florence to go with youngsters Chris Harris, Omar Bolden and Syd’Quan Thompson, they have reasonable depth at cornerback.

Of course, with veteran Mike Adams joining Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter and David Bruton, they are reasonably deep at safety, too, at least before the games — and injuries — begin.

So I mentioned to Bailey that we get the corner/safety question quite a bit on the radio show and asked if he’s thought much about it.

“This is my take on it,” he said. “Don’t move me until I can’t do it anymore, or it makes sense for our defense.

“There’s no reason for me to move if I’m still locking up on the No. 1 guy every week or I’m still making sure nobody’s making big plays on me. I don’t see any sense in me moving. It doesn’t make sense to me. So I’m going to keep playing corner until I can’t anymore.”

Bailey may have lost a step over the years, but he’s made up for it with knowledge and experience, reading receivers and anticipating where they’re going. One day it might be time for him to make the switch the two Woodsons made before him. But watching him take on young receiver Demaryius Thomas in training camp with the enthusiasm of a kid, it looks as though that time has not yet arrived.