AJ McCarron proudly announced on Twitter that he will prove everyone wrong about his pro potential the other day. Here’s why we think he’s right, and why he will be the first Crimson Tide QB since Richard Todd (Richard Todd?! Seriously? It’s been since Richard Todd?) to be a successful starter in the NFL:
- He’s a game manager. The proverbial knock against him has been that all he does is manage games. He’s just a cog in the machine. Well, in the NFL, that matters. Tom Brady went 13-25 for 198 yards in the Pats win against the Colts. Six rushing TDs cemented the win. Brady managed the heck out of that game. Sure, we’ve had plenty of game managers before him – McElroy, Wilson, Croyle, Barker. And while they all sniffed the NFL, none of them amounted to a hill of NFL beans. McCarron’s difference: A favorable draft. More on that later.
- The long ball is overrated. One of the knocks on McCarron is his long ball. We all saw Amari Cooper waiting for the heave-ho downfield too many times for comfort. Now ask yourself this: How many times did you see the NFL heaving the ball that far downfield? Surprisingly, not that often. The Miracle at Mile Hall, when Jacoby Jones hauled in a 70-yard TD pass from Flacco last year in the playoffs? He hit him 50 yards downfield – which is impressive – but did it through busted coverage. Not to diminish what Flacco did, but the record books show “70 yard TD pass,” not “50 yard pass where the safety fell down.” Also – Jacoby Jones? He was waiting on the catch.
- He’s good for the NFL. Love the other QBs before him, but McCarron has a personality that the NFL wants to exploit. He’s marketing gold.
- He doesn’t throw interceptions. Well, except against Oklahoma. But you know what I mean. He threw 15 over three years, and had a streak of almost 300 passes without a pick. And one reason – he’s smart. He threw the ball when it was time to throw the ball away. He didn’t take stupid sacks or throw into triple coverage. Peyton Manning threw more than twice as many interceptions as McCarron did in college. But I guess the verdict is still out on how Manning will be in the pros…
- The lousy teams will take other QBs. This draft is thick with first round QBs, ones who rate far higher on the draft board than McCarron. Think that’s a knock? Exactly the opposite. But more on that later.
- He’s not playing in the Senior Bowl. Reading between the lines – he’s got advisors who are plotting his best track to the NFL. This is clearly a path to the NFL that doesn’t involve things out of your control, such as the other 21 guys on the field during the Senior Bowl. Plan the work, work the plan, and keep things in your control.
- So back to the draft. The “stud” QBs projected for the first round – Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Derek Carr – are forecast to go to train wreck teams such as Cleveland, Houston and Minnesota. So how does that benefit McCarron? Let’s fast forward to the second round, when Denver, New England, Green Bay, San Diego and the New York Giants are making their second picks. Those teams have few immediate pressing needs, and they’ll address those in the first round. They all have veteran QBs (some lock Hall of Famers) on the back end of their careers, and several with injury questions plaguing them. Remember Aaron Rogers warming the bench for a few seasons behind Favre? AJ is a solid selection for one of those teams investing in the future. And with Nick Saban being a Bill Bellichick disciple, and with Tom Brady having the “game manager” chip on his shoulder his entire career, it almost seems preordained.
So we’ll see how it plays out. And 20 years from now, as AJ slips on the yellow jacket at Canton, enshrined as a Patriots legend, just remember I told you so.