Auburn led Florida , 7-6, at halftime of their October 2011, meeting, but Tigers' quarterback Barrett Trotter was just 2-for-8 for 33 yards. He was benched in favor of Clint Moseley to start the second half. In failing to adequately replace Heisman winner Cam Newton in the Tigers' quest to repeat as SEC and national champions, Trotter joined a long line of quarterbacks who struggled to replace Heisman winners.
Nineteen quarterbacks have won the Heisman Trophy since 1990, only eight of whom returned to college football the following season. The 2017 winner, Baker Mayfield, is not returning after exhausting his eligibility, leaving Kyler Murray to take over the Oklahoma offense. The redshirt junior will try to buck a trend of struggles by Heisman successors.
A departing Heisman winner is never the only subtraction from a team. Personnel changes, as does the coaching staff, system and countless other pieces. Still, the drop-off from Heisman winners to their successors has been staggering over the last three decades.
Eight of the 10 Heisman-winning quarterbacks won the conference title and three won the national title during their Heisman season. Only three successors won conference titles and just one won the national title (Matt Leinart, 2003). All 10 quarterbacks won at least 10 games but only five of their successors won 10 games. Only one equaled or exceeded the win total (Leinart), and the average win decline was 2.5.
Win totals include all games from the successor's season, not just games the successor started.
The Heisman winner's team finished in the top 10 of the final AP poll nine times but only four times did a successor's team finish in the top 10. Three successor's teams finished unranked and, again, Matt Leinart was the only successor to equal or exceed the Heisman winner's final AP rank.
Nick Florence is the only successor to pass for more yards than their Heisman successor. He topped Robert Griffin III by only 16 yards in 2012. Jammal Lord and Leinart are the only successors with more passing touchdowns, though Eric Crouch didn't set the bar high for Lord, as Crouch threw for just seven touchdowns in 2001. Leinart is also the only quarterback with a higher completion percentage and passer rating.
On average, successors threw for 8.5 fewer touchdowns and nearly 1,000 fewer yards.