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Does Johnny Manziel have an interception problem?

Texas A&M v Mississippi Getty Images

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.


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.

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25 Responses to “Does Johnny Manziel have an interception problem?”
  1. goodfieldnohit says: Nov 18, 2013 9:59 PM

    A&M’s defense is so bad that the offense (Manziel) has to score on every possession.

    A&M put 41 on Alabama and lost. Let that sink in for a minute.

  2. js20011041 says: Nov 18, 2013 10:08 PM

    Manziel is a good, but not a great quarterback. He’s an outstanding scrambler, probably the best we’ve seen in quite a while. But as far as dropping back, reading the defense and delivering a well timed, accurate pass, he’s got a long, long way to go. He scrambles virtually all the time, even when not pressured. This leads to balls that are thrown late and into coverage. Give me Winston any day.

  3. shaynesm says: Nov 18, 2013 10:15 PM

    Marcus Mariota = 0 interceptions

  4. drubyy1993 says: Nov 18, 2013 10:33 PM

    Yea and mariotA has way better players around him

  5. randywith8as says: Nov 19, 2013 1:05 AM

    More turnovers than the other 3 candidates combined.

    More losses than the other 3 candidates combined.

    Best win (Mississippi) is less impressive than the best win of the other 3 candidates (Oklahoma, Clemson, UCLA).

    Why is he even considered a legitimate contender?

  6. imacdane says: Nov 19, 2013 1:44 AM

    He’s definitely made some questionable decisions this season, but it should be noted that about half of those picks were passes that bounced right off the hands of his receiver. Outside of Evans, A&M’s receivers are very inexperienced.

  7. halbert53 says: Nov 19, 2013 2:18 AM

    The reason Manziel won’t repeat is his immaturity evidenced by off-field issues and demeanor on the field with money signs. Otherwise this wouldn’t even be close as his overall stats are the same or better than last year. I wouldn’t call 3 more interceptions significant, especially with several of them caused by his receivers rather than by poor throws or decisions. Rather than simply raw interception numbers and raw TD numbers, INT % and TD % are more telling. Great players step up in big games even if their team loses and the Oregon QB failed big time against Stanford. I would probably, based on games so far , vote Petty, Winston and Manziel in that order but the first two are a tossup.

  8. randywith8as says: Nov 19, 2013 3:33 AM

    @imacdane – That’s a pretty bogus excuse as all QB’s have that happen. If you put the ball where only your WR can get it then it happens rarely.

  9. corvusrex96 says: Nov 19, 2013 6:56 AM

    It is a an award tbat is campaigned for rather tban won on the field why highlight excuses when he wasnt going to win it again anyway

  10. jimmy53 says: Nov 19, 2013 9:15 AM

    I love that when people bring up Mariota’s 0 int’s, which would be more impressive if he threw less screen passes and dump offs, they always leave out his high number of fumbles.

    That said, zero int’s is still pretty impressive, I’m just saying that Mariota has his turnover issues as well.

  11. amosalanzostagg says: Nov 19, 2013 10:27 AM

    So if Johnnie Football and Texas A&M were to beat two ranked teams on the road and end the season 10-2, you’re saving that Winston wins with victories over Idaho and Florida?

    A&M with Manziel is under rated. Two losses by 11 points to two top ten teams?

    Baylor plays in a weak, weak conference and their Sagarin rating of 85 reflects that. I want to see how Baylor does up against OSU and Texas, who have comparable athletes and a two dimension attack, before even touting Baylor. Tech victory? Tech is in free fall and has been since they upgraded the competition, they simply don’t have the athletes. OU victory? OU is a mere shell
    of their former glory. A&M exposed them in the Cotton Bowl.

    True, you play who you schedule, but Manziel is the best QB I have seen play since Archie Manning at Ole Miss. That includes Bradshaw, Fouts, Aikman, Montana. Does that mean a successful NFL, Time will tell.

    Iron Bowl is going to be fierce.


  12. imacdane says: Nov 19, 2013 10:28 AM

    @randywith8as – Actually Randy, it’s pretty bogus that you would comment on something that you clearly don’t know anything about. Since you obviously haven’t watched and are simply looking at the numbers, I challenge you to go watch the replay of all 11 of his interceptions. No less than 5 were picked after hitting BOTH hands of his receiver.

  13. oldforester says: Nov 19, 2013 12:21 PM

    What is the actual criteria for winning the Heisman? This is it from the Heisman web site:

    “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. The Heisman Trophy Trust ensures the continuation and integrity of this award.”

    Excellence with integrity!!! Think that eliminates two of the top four immediately. Lets keep focused on what the Heisman is supposed to be about!!!!

  14. amosalanzostagg says: Nov 19, 2013 2:44 PM

    Rumor and innuendo doesn’t make facts.

    In Manziel’s case. Where are the sports memorabilia brokers with the proof they paid Manziel? Answer, no where to be found. Cell phones cut off. Websites gone. Relatives have no idea where they are nor have a new cell phone number.

    Funny thing, the State of Connecticut has a letter of inquiry to the broker who said he paid Johnny Football $70,000. They can’t find him. Seems he needed to file a special events tax form for obtaining autographs while in state. The State of Connecticut says they never had a request for the form nor have they received the special events tax the broker was suppose to pay up front.

    The Jameis Winston is pure unadulterated bovine feces. TMZ was completely irresponsible for reporting conjecture as actual fact without a modicum of actual news investigation. They
    wanted to go with the story with the idea of being first. Pathetic.

    All the candidates are in their 20’s, they are going to make mistakes.

    Manziel is the best player in college football this year. As much as this hurts to say, his victory
    over Alabama is of football folklore as Billy Cannon’s Halloween run, USC’s comeback against Notre Dame, FSU’s “wide right”, Doug Flutie’s “Hail Mary”,Nebraska’s failed two point conversion in the national championship game, and the catch in the Miracle on the plains with Auburn.

    Name the signature win that people will remember decades from with any other of the listed
    Hesiman frontrunners. Petty? Mariota? Winston? Answer, none

    Manziel deserves the Heisman.


  15. mogogo1 says: Nov 19, 2013 3:19 PM

    He makes lots of great plays, but he’s going to have to learn to throw it away sometimes, particularly if he wants to succeed at the next level. The Miss State statline was pretty telling: 30 of 39 with 5 TDs…but 3 INTs. The ball hardly touched the ground, and that’s not a good thing when passes are getting picked off.

  16. jpiro says: Nov 19, 2013 3:57 PM

    They’re not interceptions. He’s just creatively distributing merchandise he’s signed.

  17. jdillydawg says: Nov 19, 2013 4:31 PM

    “Name the signature win that people will remember decades from with any other of the listed Hesiman frontrunners. Petty? Mariota? Winston? Answer, none”

    Well, wasn’t that LAST year Manziel defeated Alabama? How is that helping him this year?

    And if FSU (or heck, even Baylor) plays ‘Bama in the NC and Winston (or Petty) has a great game, won’t that be just as memorable, if not more.?Certainly, the NC is far more meaningful than a regular season game, isn’t it?

    I think you’ve counted your chickens before they hatched here.

  18. 8to80texansblog says: Nov 19, 2013 5:03 PM

    Let me preface my comments by this… it doesn’t matter how well he performs in the last two game or what happens around him, Manziel will not win the Heisman this year.

    I do believe that wins are too highly rated a category for a QB or any player. Someone mentioned that his best win was against Ole Miss, but his best games were in the two losses.

    In A&M’s two combined losses he had almost 1100 yds total offense and 10 TDs.

  19. 8to80texansblog says: Nov 19, 2013 5:05 PM

    jdillydawg says: Nov 19, 2013 4:31 PM

    And if FSU (or heck, even Baylor) plays ‘Bama in the NC and Winston (or Petty) has a great game, won’t that be just as memorable, if not more.?Certainly, the NC is far more meaningful than a regular season game, isn’t it?

    I think you’ve counted your chickens before they hatched here.

    Aren’t you doing the same thing when you assume that Winston or Petty will be able to be near as successful as Manziel against Bama?

  20. jdillydawg says: Nov 19, 2013 6:04 PM

    Did I assume they would have great games? Huh. Didn’t realize that. The only thing I’m assuming is that if either one got into the NC game against Bama that they could have an exceptional outing just as Manziel did last year. How is that counting chickens? I’m merely pointing out a scenario.

    Perhaps you confused it with my assumption that IF they were to have a great game against Bama, then the game would be just as memorable. I suppose it’s just as likely the game would be absolutely forgettable no matter how well either one played.

  21. goodfieldnohit says: Nov 20, 2013 12:18 AM

    Let’s look at it this way.

    What game do you set your DVR on just so you can watch one guy play?

    Bryce Petty?

    Jameis Winston?

    Johnny Manziel?

    Yeah, I thought so.

  22. gborange says: Nov 20, 2013 5:53 AM

    When you think Oregon, you think high powered offense. When you think A&M, you think Manziel. Any QB would have enormous inflated stats on that Oregon team, but without Manziel, A&M would be a .500 team.

  23. 8to80texansblog says: Nov 20, 2013 10:43 AM


    I agree that Manziel is by far the most watchable QB in CFB. He’s not quite as jaw dropping as last year but still a wildly entertaining QB to watch play.

    Again, what his problem this year has been is the pressure that is placed on him by his terrible defense. None of these other QBs have to carry their teams all by themselves like Manziel does every week. How many games would Petty or Winston have lost if they were under center for the Aggies this year???

  24. jdillydawg says: Nov 20, 2013 10:45 AM

    I set my DVR to watch Bryce Petty.

    You read my mind! :)

  25. jdillydawg says: Nov 20, 2013 11:00 AM

    “How many games would Petty or Winston have lost if they were under center for the Aggies this year???”

    I think people tend to rise to the occasion, especially when confronted with adversity. To say Winston or Petty wouldn’t perform nearly as well is an assumption that really can’t be made until they are tested. You can hardly blame them that they excel on teams that are more well-rounded, can you?

    There are really two sides to this coin that have to looked at. The first side is the one you suggest, that a better all-around team makes them good quarterbacks.

    The flip side is that because they are good quarterbacks – and they possess strong leadership skills – the team as a whole is better. In which case, the argument could be made that Manziel lacks the leadership skills to make his whole team better, but makes up for a large part of it by his skills.

    I would argue that skills and leadership make a great quarterback, and one without the other only goes so far.

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