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Michigan Football Is Facing A Dilemma At Quarterback

Michigan Football Quarterback
(Kirthmon Dozier, USA TODAY Sports)

Michigan Football Is Facing A Dilemma At Quarterback

Michigan Football has an issue at the quarterback position. It’s simple. They have two quarterbacks on the roster who are starting-caliber players. This is a good issue to have; however, Michigan is left to decide who will be the starter.

On one hand, you have last year’s starter, redshirt sophomore Cade McNamara, who helped lead the Wolverines to their most successful season during the Jim Harbaugh era. On the other hand, you have sophomore JJ McCarthy. McCarthy was a five-star out of high school who showed flashes of greatness during his freshman year. Michigan will have to decide whether the steady McNamara should be under center or if the keys to the offense should be passed to the young gun.

What happened last season?

A win over Ohio State, a Big Ten Championship, and College Football Playoff berth was a homerun of a season for Michigan. It was all done with Cade McNamara at quarterback. McNamara had a good season. He threw for 2,576 yards and 15 touchdowns while throwing 6 interceptions. This was done at a 64 completion percentage of 64%.

Without a doubt, McNamara was the best starting quarterback in decent memory at Michigan. Wilton Speight and Jake Rudock were good but never great. Shea Patterson did not live up to the hype. Joe Milton, Dylan McCaffery, and Brandon Peters all showed potential but never panned out. Do not even get me started with John O’Korn. Essentially, McNamara is standing out amongst average and below-average college quarterbacks.

Did Michigan win because of McNamara?

Looking back at the 2021 season, ask yourself. How did Michigan beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten Championship? Let me tell you. The offense got it done because of a dominant o-line and running game. This was backed by an elite defense with a handful of NFL prospects. The Ohio State game symbolizes Michigan’s season. In that game, Michigan ran for 297 yards and six touchdowns while McNamara threw for 159 yards on 13 for 19 passing. This included no touchdowns and one interception. This game demonstrated McNamara’s biggest strength. That is limiting making mistakes while being efficient offensively.

Despite McNamara’s success, he struggled mightily in the Orange Bowl against Georgia. This game was Michigan’s worst offensive performance as they were unable to win in the trenches. When Michigan turned to McNamara, he provided no help. Only playing the first half, McNamara went 11 for 19 with 109 yards. Nothing special. The problem was that he threw two picks. In the second half, McCarthy came in and went 7 for 17 with 131 yards and one touchdown. His upside as a runner also helped add a wrinkle to the run game. While the stats do not say that McCarthy was significantly better, it was clear Michigan’s offense was better with him on the field.

Why start McCarthy?

If Michigan wants to continue to compete against Ohio State and stand a chance against SEC powerhouses like Alabama and Georgia they have to start McCarthy. It is not every season you have a dominant o-line, running game, and defense. If you want success with McNamara, you have to have all of those things. Even then, Michigan was unable to compete with Georgia when McNamara was at the helm. McNamara has proven he does not do enough to elevate an offense like other elite quarterbacks. At least McCarthy has a chance to push Michigan over the hump.

The potential displayed by McCarthy during his freshman season was ridiculous. He has tools that McNamara will never possess. McCarthy’s arm strength is off the charts. If you do not believe me watch his first college touchdown pass. Should McCarthy have thrown that pass? No, but he threw it a mile and put it in the right spot. McCarthy is also far more athletic. He can add production in the run game and extend passing plays. Both are things McNamara does not do.

McCarthy still needs to be more efficient and focus more on protecting the ball. Heading into his sophomore season he should progress in those areas. Plus, more playing time would help speed up that progression. At the end of the day, if Michigan does not give him that opportunity he will transfer to a school that will.

Who will start?

It is tough to say who will be playing quarterback for Michigan football next season. Harbaugh has not given any answers yet.

“It’ll be competitive,” Harbaugh said in the interview. “The dynamic, I would say, would be competitive. … I’ll tell you the exact same thing I’d tell Cade or JJ or any other player on our team that’s competing for any position. Who’s going to play? The best player. How are we going to figure out who the best player is? They’re the ones that play the best.”

Full quote via Sports Illustrated

This does bode well for McCarthy. The fact that Harbaugh has acknowledged a quarterback battle opens the door for McCarthy to steal the job coming out of camp.

Who should start?

If you can not tell yet, McCarthy needs to be the starting quarter for Michigan Football in 2022. Michigan has a guy with ridiculous potential. They can not let it go to waste. They can not let past failures like Joe Milton affect their willingness to give McCarthy a chance. More importantly, they can’t let McNamara lead them to mediocrity. Do not compare McNamara to the quarterbacks of the past. Just because he is better than Shea Patterson and Jake Rudock does not mean he deserves to lead the 2022 team. It’s time to pass the keys to McCarthy.


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