Column: Desmond Howard's cringeworthy roast of Ohio State at the Heisman ceremony didn't land

Saturday night’s Heisman ceremony was pretty chalky. As we all expected, the award went to Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, whose record-breaking 421-yard passing performance in the SEC Championship against Georgia all but sealed his victory. But what we did not expect was for one of ESPN’s hosts, Desmond Howard, to try out a stand-up comedy bit on national television.

And oh, buddy, the joke did not land.

It all went wrong when the hosts were introducing Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. The senior had a breakout season, totaling 14 sacks after managing just 3.5 total in his previous three years in Ann Arbor. However, the performance that likely earned him a spot on this stage came against Ohio State, when he sacked fellow finalist C.J. Stroud three times.

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Desmond Howard of ESPN College GameDay before the Michigan and Michigan State game at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.
Desmond Howard of ESPN College GameDay before the Michigan and Michigan State game at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.

Where Desmond Howard tried to get a laugh

There was likely already a bit of awkwardness between the two, but Howard, who won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan in 1991, decided that this was the best time to throw a little shade at the Wolverines’ biggest rival in the Buckeyes — whose loss to Michigan ended an eight-game winning streak in the series.

Hutchinson said that one of his goals in returning for his senior year was to beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten Championship, which garnered some laughter and audible “ooooohs” from the crowd. Howard’s co-host and fellow Heisman winner Tim Tebow interjected with a joke.

“Kenny, I’m glad you’re in between them,” Tebow told finalist Kenny Pickett, who was standing between Hutchinson and Stroud. “Please stay there.”

Playful enough, right? Too playful, if you ask Howard.

“Better than his offensive linemen,” Howard jumped in to say.

Here’s the full exchange.

Broadcasters, crowd uneasy after Desmond Howard's joke

As you can see, it wasn’t just those of us watching at home who were made uncomfortable by this line. Howard’s co-hosts were visibly uneasy after his comment. Former Heisman-winning Baylor quarterback and current ESPN broadcaster Robert Griffin III shook his head and said “just throw them under the bus” as some members of the audience booed.

Look, I’m not here to clutch pearls about rivalry banter. It’s what gives this sport life. But it clearly made everyone involved uncomfortable, including Hutchinson. Putting Stroud and his teammates on blast like that was unnecessary, especially on a night that was supposed to be about celebrating the accomplishments of the four finalists.

If your heart is set on hijacking the moment and making it about yourself, Desmond, please at least make the jokes funnier in the future. Because we’re all just cringing on your behalf right now.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Breaking down Desmond Howard's cringeworthy roast of Ohio State