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How Have Heisman Trophy-Winning Quarterbacks Since 2000 Fared in the NFL?

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel

Winning the Heisman Trophy is the highlight of any college football career. It puts you in elite company, a fraternity if you will, of the greatest players in the history of the game. It does not, however, guarantee success at the next level. This has especially been the case at the quarterback position since the turn of the century.

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Thirteen quarterbacks have taken home the stiff-armed trophy since Y2K, and the majority of them have struggled to translate their collegiate success to the professional level.

For your reading pleasure, we've divided the Heisman-winning quarterbacks since 2000 quarterbacks into five categories: Booms, Busts, "Jury Still Out," "Too Soon to Tell" and "It Was Never Going to Work."

(Listed in order of Heisman Trophy-winning season, starting with the most recent in each category)


Cam Newton (2010)

Despite the controversies surrounding his departure from Florida and his subsequent signing with Auburn, Newton has gone on to have one of the better careers any Heisman-winning quarterback has ever had. He was the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and it's safe to say it worked out. He played in a pretty big game this past weekend. You might have watched it.

Carson Palmer (2002)

Palmer hasn't exactly taken the easy route. He's been injured, kicked to the curb by the Bengals and forced into exile in Oakland. Through it all, he has managed to work his way back to the upper-echelon of NFL quarterbacks. In 2015, he was the NFC co-leader in touchdown passes, landing himself a spot on the All-Pro team. He's also the only quarterback in NFL history to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark with three different franchises.


Johnny Manziel (2012)

Drafted in the first round of 2014 to be the quarterback who would pull the Cleveland Browns out of the seemingly permanent spot they occupy in the NFL's basement, Manziel has spent the first two seasons of his career in the tabloids. It's as though the only skill Manziel possessed during his college career that carried over into his professional life was his ability to party. The Browns appear ready to cut their losses and move on.

Tim Tebow (2007)

Tebow finished his career as arguably the greatest player in the history of college football. Former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels took a chance on Tebow, selecting him in the first round of the 2010 draft. Tebow worked his way into the starting role in Denver during the 2011 season — even winning a playoff game. He was then traded to the Jets shortly after the Broncos acquired Peyton Manning in 2012. The Jets released Tebow after the 2013 season and he has since been cut after tryouts with New England and Philadelphia.

Troy Smith (2006)

Smith beat out Darren McFadden in to win his Heisman. Granted, few expected him to be an elite NFL quarterback, as evidenced by his 5th-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft. Nonetheless, he played five total seasons in the NFL for three different teams, interrupted by a short stint with the Omaha Nighthawks of the now defunct UFL. He wrapped up his football career as a member of the CFL's Montreal Alouettes.

Matt Leinart (2004)

Leinart won his Heisman while quarterbacking one of the most dominant and controversial college football dynasties in recent memory. Many had him pegged as a sure-fire starter in the NFL who would have a long career. He was taken 10th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He beat out Kurt Warner for the Arizona starting gig, only to lose the job later on. He eventually became a journeyman backup with Houston and Oakland before finishing his playing career as a member of Buffalo's practice squad in 2013.

Chris Weinke (2000)

Weinke won the Heisman at age 25. The start of his college football career was delayed due to a short stint playing minor league baseball. He led Florida State to two consecutive BCS Championship Game appearances -- winning the first against Michael Vick's Virginia Tech Hokies. He was drafted by Carolina and started as a rookie, only to lose the starting job to Jake Delhomme the following season. He remained with the Panthers through 2006 before finishing up his career after one season with the 49ers in '07. He is now the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams.

Jury Still Out

Robert Griffin III (2011)

RG3 seemed to have the whole world in his hands after being named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. Then, almost overnight, recurring injuries led to what appeared to be a regression in talent and subsequent on-field decision-making. It culminated in September 2015, when Griffin fell to the No. 3 spot on Washington's depth chart and stayed there for the remainder of the season. Perhaps a change in scenery could save his career.

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Sam Bradford (2008)

The Rams drafted Bradford No. 1 overall in 2010 to be the face of the franchise. It was always a risk, as Bradford had missed most of 2009 with a shoulder injury. After a couple of pedestrian NFL seasons, Bradford suffered back-to-back season-ending ACL injuries in 2013 and '14. He was traded to Philadelphia in 2015, where he turned in yet another average campaign. A pending free agent, some still believe Bradford could emerge as a viable franchise quarterback in the right situation.

Too Soon to Tell

Marcus Mariota (2014)

He showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie, but Mariota will be going through a coaching change after only one season as an NFL starter. From what we can tell -- and despite the Titans only winning three games -- he looks to be on track to be the long-term starter and an eventual star in the league.

Jameis Winston (2013)

It felt like many were expecting him to fail based on things that happened while he was in college that really had little to do with what was happening on the field. As a professional in his rookie season, however, he was able to remain focused and turn in a respectable rookie campaign, finishing it with an appearance in the Pro Bowl. He'll also be going through a coaching change, but his situation should be easier to deal with than Mariota's.

It Was Never Going to Work

Jason White (2003)

White is pretty much the new Gino Torretta. You'll be having a conversation about college football and his name will pop up. Everyone will be all "Oh yeah, what ever happened to that guy?" Well, what happened was, he had terrible knees and quit football shortly after college. His only involvement with the game since leaving Oklahoma came via a brief stint as co-owner of an Indoor Football League team.

Eric Crouch (2001)

Crouch was arguably the best running back in college football during his time at Nebraska. The problem was that he played quarterback. The Rams drafted him as a receiver, but he walked away from the game in the middle of preseason due to an injury. He made a couple of attempts to get back into football over the years, but eventually hung up his cleats in 2011. Nowadays, you can catch him calling random college football games for FOX in the fall and selling swing sets at his Omaha-based playground and recreation equipment business.

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.