It has been said that the backup quarterback is always the most popular guy in town. This saying holds true for Bengals backup AJ Mccarron who has become a fan favorite in the Queen City. While McCarron is currently in a state of limbo since he is not yet free to sign with another team, is he destined to be a starter in the NFL at some point in the future?
AJ McCarron burst onto the scene in his college years with the Alabama Crimson Tide. He quickly solidified his spot in the lore of College football winning back to back championships in 2011 and 2012. He was selected by the Bengals in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft. It wasn’t until late in 2015 when Bengals fans started taking note of the young quarterback.
In 2015, McCarron took over for Andy Dalton after he injured his thumb. From there, McCarron went 2-1 as a starter and took the Bengals to the presuppose of winning their first playoff game in over a decade. McCarron’s success led to many Bengals fans jumping on the bandwagon. Some even thought he should take over the starting quarterback responsibilities permanently.
What The Stats Say
While the sample size for McCarron’s work in the NFL is small, what he has done has been very positive. In 2015, McCarron threw for six touchdowns and two interceptions. He accumulated 854 yards and a passer rating of 97.1. To put these stats in perspective, McCarron’s 97.1 passer rating would be good enough for eighth in the NFL this year. His 66.4 completion percentage would be good enough for ninth in the league. That would be one spot ahead of Aaron Rodgers.
What The Future Holds
As mentioned, McCarron is in an interesting spot. He most likely won’t be getting starts with the Bengals, but can’t go to another team unless that team gives up picks to acquire him. Is it possible he would take over for Dalton? Probably not unless Dalton has a disastrous season. Dalton’s career stats are lower than McCarron’s with a completion percentage of 62.7 and a passer rating of 89.1. However, Dalton’s stats during 2015 (the same year McCarron had success) were
comparable. In 2015 Dalton played in 13 games and had a similar completion percentage of 66.1, and a higher passer rating of 106.2. This means that at least some of McCarron’s 2015 success can be attributed to the talent of the offense he was playing with.
Judging by what McCarron has shown so far, he at least deserves a chance to compete for a starting role in the NFL. There are two ways this can happen. The first scenario involves a team making a desperation move this year due to an injury (like the Minnesota Vikings did with Sam Bradford last year) and give up picks to acquire McCaron. The more likely scenario would involve McCarron signing with a team that needs a quarterback after his time with the Bengals is up.
What It Means
Can McCarron be a solid starter in the NFL? The answer is a tentative yes. Given his small body of work, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether it was an anomaly or a trend. Teams may be hesitant to break the bank on him given the way Brock Osweiler floundered in 2016 after looking solid as the Broncos starter in 2015. Will AJ get his chance to start in the NFL at some point? Most likely yes. given the number of teams in need of a franchise quarterback, McCarron will almost certainly get a look.
The Bengals are holding onto McCarron for a reason. They see potential in him as a starter and don’t want to give that up unless they get a huge return.