Jim Harbaugh has coached a handful of talented quarterbacks during his time as a head coach for the University of San Diego, Stanford, the San Francisco 49ers, and the University of Michigan.
In that time, the best was Andrew Luck at Stanford. Luck finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting twice during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and was the No. 1 overall pick for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Taking that into consideration, Harbaugh admitted J.J. McCarthy reminded him of Luck during his first practice at Michigan.
“You hate to compare, right? But very much like Andrew Luck at quarterback,” Harbaugh said about McCarthy. “Once in a generation, I knew it first with Andrew Luck. Just the way he took the field for practice as a true freshman. Just the presence they have when they walk on the field and the first time you give them the quarterback position.
“There it is with J.J. First day he walked out on the practice field here at Michigan, that’s what came to mind. It was very Andrew Luck-like, the presence and the demeanor — the everything. Yeah, well-documented J.J. McCarthy’s as much of a generation quarterback here at Michigan or anywhere.”
McCarthy is having an extremely efficient season to this point, going 48-of-55, 558 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. While those stats jump off the paper to anyone, Harbaugh is more impressed with McCarthy’s leadership.
“He’s an igniter,” Harbaugh said. “He sets the tone, no matter what he’s doing with his energy, it’s always by example. It’s always infectious. It’s always encouraging, and the thing that stands out the most is he’s about the team. It never comes off about himself, and he’s willing to do anything for anybody on the entire team.”
Many other players and coaches have attested to this, too. Jesse Minter, Colston Loveland, Roman Wilson, Cornelius Johnson, Drake Nugent and Donovan Edwards have all spoke about McCarthy’s calm demeanor, encouraging the guys around him and being an example for everyone else on the team.
“There’s not an offense that I wouldn’t rather have than our offense and feelings I have for J.J. his ability to lead our offense,” defensive coordinator Jesse Minter said.
Tight end Colston Loveland added: “J.J. seemed like he was poised, very comfortable back there. He’s a great quarterback and the improvement from last year has already proven. It’s amazing to see and just gotta keep rolling.”
The main sign of leadership Harbaugh expects at Michigan is lifting your teammates up around you. McCarthy has not only embodied this, but goes above and beyond for his guys.
“J.J. will take others and raise them up and lower himself to raise a teammate up as opposed to the guy who pushes other people down and raises themselves up,” Harbaugh said. “I truly believe when it comes to leadership for a quarterback, that’s the secret.”
McCarthy has a while to go before he has a chance to reach Luck’s accolades, but knowing him, he just wants to win so everyone gets the feeling of winning as well.