Michigan Football: Harbaugh needs to make definitive decision at QB

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Michigan football, Jim Harbaugh
Nov 26, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh during the third quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh must make a definitive decision before Week One of the college football season as to who the program’s no. 1 quarterback is.

Earlier this summer, Harbaugh, in the most Harbaugh way possible, deflected the question posed by the media regarding who Michigan’s starting quarterback would be in 2022. When prompted, Harbaugh said Cade McNamara will be tough to beat out. Harbaugh followed that by stating that J.J. McCarthy is really talented and will also be getting a ton of reps with the first-team offense over the summer. Harbaugh later mentioned that McCarthy would be tough to beat out.

More recently, Harbaugh mentioned ($) that he has yet to choose who the starter will be when the Wolverines square off against Colorado State in the season opener.

The two “continue to elevate their game” on the practice field. “Really, on a daily basis, in every little way,” Harbaugh told reporters. “It’s pretty tight, both playing a high, starter caliber.” “This is a very good, unique situation where we have two quarterbacks that are playing at a high, starter level,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to keep competing. It’s possible there’s a starter by the first game; and it’s possible that it plays into the season — then we pick the one that’s going to help the team win.”

All signs point to McNamara, who helped guide the Wolverines to a 2021 Big Ten Championship. McNamara is a bit limited athletically but proved to be a reliable game-manager. McNamara tossed for 2,576 yards last season with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.

McNamara is steady but sometimes frustrates you with his lack of arm strength and inability to stretch the field or drive the football in a tight window on the sideline. That deep-out route to the wide side of the field can be a difficult pass for a college quarterback, and McNamara sometimes struggles to get that football to the would-be pass-catcher in time.

As a freshman, McCarthy completed 57.6% of his passes, totaling 516 yards. McCarthy threw for five touchdowns and two interceptions but also rushed for 124 yards and two additional scores.

If last season proved anything to us, it was that Michigan football could win with Cade McNamara.

I hope Harbaugh does not overthink this decision heading into 2022. Although not perfect and limited, McNamara has proven to be a good leader, someone the team rallies around, and someone with a winning track record.

McNamara is the first quarterback to beat Ohio State in what feels like forever. He’s also the first to win the Big Ten Title in Harbaugh’s tenure. Michigan football should have three cupcakes to begin the regular season against Colorado State, Hawaii, and Connecticut. I expect we will see a heavy dose of both signal-callers in these contests. Things get a bit more complex in Week Four against Maryland, which sets up their real first test the following week as they travel to Iowa.

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I believe whoever starts that game in Iowa will have won the starting job moving forward.

The sky is the limit for McCarthy. McCarthy is an ultra-talented athlete. He can run, has a strong arm, and has the potential to grow into an elite college quarterback. It’s hard to bet against McCarthy being ‘the guy’ over the long haul, but if Michigan has National Championship aspirations in 2022, they’ve got to ride the safe hand in McNamara.

Doesn’t this have a Drew Henson, Tom Brady feel to it? One seemed to be very limited but a tremendous game manager. The other joined the Wolverines as a two-sport athletic freak. We all know how that ended. Now, I am not saying McNamara is Brady, nor am I suggesting McCarthy is Henson. I am suggesting that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Brady was limited athletically; Henson had it all. Michigan can win with ‘Steady Eddie’ under center, and they don’t need to buy the nice new shiny sports car.

If Jim Harbaugh elects to start McCarthy, I will completely support that decision as long as he stays with him for the duration of the season. The two-quarterback method doesn’t work. It’s difficult for the offense. The spin on the football is different; the velocity is different, and it takes time for the receivers to adjust.

This battle will be one we will continue to monitor likely into the season. Who would you prefer as the starting quarterback at the University of Michigan this season?

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Posted by Bob Heyrman
Bob currently serves as the Editorial Director at Detroit Sports Nation. Bob's writing is comparable to the third starter in a rotation. Sometimes he throws junk that finds the barrel of the bat and gets smacked over the fence, but the odd time he can toss a complete game shutout. Bob is a passionate lifelong Detroit sports fan. Bob loves the city and can often be found downtown taking in a sporting event or a cold beverage at a local watering hole.