It’s unfortunate that this question has to be asked, but it must be asked regardless – because that is the world we live in: If Christian McCaffrey were black, would he win the Heisman Trophy?
The Stanford tailback/wideout/returner is one of the most versatile college football players ever, but he’s also a Heisman underdog against Alabama’s Derrick Henry and, quite possibly, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.
So, does McCaffrey being white hurt his Heisman candidacy?
“I don’t believe it’s about his race; I believe it’s about his location,” Fox Sports college football analyst Joel Klatt said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “If Christian McCaffrey played for USC, he would win the Heisman. If Christian McCaffrey played in the Big Ten period, he’d win the Heisman. If he played in the SEC, he’d win the Heisman. You just look at the facts – and I’m a big fact guy. I love to check history. All you have to do is realize that Marcus Mariota was the first Heisman winner from the West Coast that didn’t play for USC since Jim Plunkett (1970). That’s a long time. And it took Mariota a few years to break down that door.
“This is going to be Stanford’s fourth runner-up finish that hey’ve had since Jim Harbaugh became the coach there,” Klatt continued. “They had Toby Gerhart that finished second, Andrew Luck finished second twice. Gerhart was much better than Mark Ingram, and for the second time in that program’s modern history, they’re going to have a running back that should win the Heisman finish second to an Alabama running back. That is what I think is going to happen on Saturday.
“But don’t believe it’s a race issue; it’s a narrative issue. The narrative of our sport is controlled by the South – in particular the SEC – and it’s controlled east of the Mississippi. McCaffrey is going to have a much easier time winning that trophy next year and the year after because, like Mariota, he’s going to need someone what of a stepping-stone style of career in order to get that done.”
Klatt isn’t allowed to say which candidate he voted for, but said you can probably figure it out by the argument he just made.
“I will say this,” Klatt said. “I got some flak on Twitter for this – shocking – but I think Christian McCaffrey is the best overall player that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’ve never seen a guy be that much of a threat in every area. He can line up as a wide receiver and play as well as any wide receiver in college football. He catches it well out of the backfield. He runs between the tackles as well as he runs outside of the tackles. He’s a threat in special teams. Brian Kelly said he was the biggest game-wrecker that he had coached against ever. That’s what Brian Kelly, who’s had quite a career, said about Christian McCaffrey. This guy is the best overall player I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’ve never seen someone be as dominant in every area.”
Doug Gottlieb had a hard time believing that. McCaffrey is darn good, but the best overall player ever?
“Absolutely,” Klatt said. “Here’s the thing. There’s been better players. I’m talking about a player with that scope of ability. Reggie (Bush) didn’t catch the ball like Christian McCaffrey could. Was he a better running back? Maybe, yes. Was he a more electric player? Yes, I think he was. He had better breakaway ability. But he didn’t have the width of talent and the width of threat that Christian McCaffrey does. He is great in every area. We’ve seen other backs and we’ve seen other players that are better than Christian in almost every category but not one of them in every category. His width and overall ability as a versatile threat is one of the best I’ve ever seen.”