AJ McCarron was part of three National Championships in his time at Alabama. He was the starter for two of those, and was penciled in as the unproven redshirt freshman backup in 2009’s BCS game against Texas.
Had McElroy gone the way of Colt McCoy’s early exit in Pasadena, you would’ve seen McCarron at the helm, not “back-ups” Star Jackson or Thomas Darrah, who took snaps all season. An untested true frosh in a game with all the marbles on the line.
In 2011’s BCS National Championship win (they all run together in my head, there are so many), McCarron’s pinpoint accuracy was one of the major factors in the Tide bringing home their 14th National Championship. Often throwing over “the Honey Badger,” the nation’s media darling that year.
In 2012, McCarron did it all again, leading the Tide to yet another crystal football playing for the unmatched greatest coach of the present era.
Yet tonight, in the 2014 NFL Draft, McCarron’s name most likely won’t be called until other QB’s have been tapped for service at the next level.
Names like Teddy Bridgewater, who didn’t compete against a single ranked opponent in his final year at Louisville. Not one.
Or Fresno’s Derek Carr, who while competing in the pressure-packed Mountain West Conference also didn’t face a ranked team until the “Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl,” a 25-point drubbing at the hands of the then impotent #25 USC Trojans.
Of course there’s Johnny Manziel, or as I like to call him, this year’s Tim Tebow. Manziel will sell tickets for the first year or so, but interest will soon wane as coaches and owners slowly acknowledge what they already know…that Manziel is not a starter, and the backyard antics that worked against collegiate competition won’t fly against grown men. Ask Cam Newton how dominate his game has been at the next level using his feet. (The difference is, Cam is 6’6″ with a frame for the contact. Manziel isn’t as tall as I am, wearing booster shoes.)
And don’t forget about Jimmy Garoppolo…and if you can tell me with a straight face that you knew where this guy played in college without googling it I’ll buy you lunch. I’m sure the pressure to perform in front of the home Eastern Illinois crowd was off the chain.
Fact is, John Gruden and other experts are saying McCarron will likely go no sooner than the 3rd round in this weekend’s draft. Gruden knows his stuff, though some draft surprises always happen. But to me…and you have to believe me, I’m taking the Crimson glasses off here…that scenario is just incredible.
All the guy has done in his three years as a starter at Bama is win, and do it A LOT. 36-4 and three Natty’s ain’t too shabby, especially this past year with an offensive line that was probably the worst in his tenure in Tuscaloosa.
Experts say the Oklahoma game “exposed him,” though I find it hard to believe that the 39 previous games he competed in (and won 92% of) didn’t provide evidence of a competitor able to perform when the pressure was the greatest. I’m not talking about a bad game here and there. I’m talking about the landscape of a career at a place where winning is everything, and all he did was do it time and time again…and again, and again…
Whatever happens this weekend, I can’t feel too sorry for the guy. He’ll be fine. His job description will include the word “play.” Even at the league minimum he’d be rolling in it — at least in the world of the common man, like myself. And I’ll go to my grave believing the best job in the world is 3rd string NFL QB. Sign me up for that RIGHT NOW.
But all this said, Bama fans are excited about the arrival of Jacob Coker, who experts are saying will have the best arm the Tide has seen in decades. Able to make all the throws. Can throw it off his back foot 80 yards. Has mobility to get out of trouble and beat you with his feet as well as his arm. Is a fierce competitor. And has the frame to stand in the pocket and make you pay.
Maybe with this kind of quarterback we’ll finally have some success in Tuscaloosa under Nick Saban.
Yes, it’s going to be fun watching this kind of athlete under center bring us another Championship. At least until all the draft experts tell us he isn’t worth anything.