During the Jim Harbaugh era at Michigan, the term ‘meritocracy’ has been used often. In short, may the best man win in vying for a starting position.
Meritocracy has been used across the board to describe position battles, but none more than the quarterback position, where Michigan is known to not name a starting quarterback before the season kicks off.
Things feel different in Ann Arbor this year, across the board. Major shakeups were made to the Michigan staff after a disappointing 2020 season. Another change may be the fact that Michigan already has their guy, their starter at quarterback here in April.
New quarterbacks coach and former Baltimore Ravens assistant coach Matt Weiss spoke this week about the quarterback room, and had glowing things to say about McNamara. Weiss defended McNamara and called out his critics, saying that he believes the QB will have a fruitful NFL career.
“Cade is a guy who — I think for everything that people are going to say to criticize him — is going to end up playing 10 years in the NFL,” Weiss said on Jon Jansen’s “In The Trenches” podcast. “You can say he’s not enough of this or enough of that, but at the end of the day, he’s very smart, he makes great decisions, he processes things very fast and his accuracy and arm strength are more than enough to win with.”
Those comments from Weiss show what he feels McNamara can bring to the offense, but Weiss wasn’t done just there. He went on to call McNamara Michigan’s starting quarterback.
“He’s a guy that’s been awesome to work with. He’s extremely valuable to our team. He’s our starter. Love the fact that we have him,” Weiss said.
Michigan’s starter. Cade McNamara.
Behind McNamara is five-star true freshman J.J. McCarthy, who has a lot of potential, but realistically needs time to strengthen his frame and get acclimated to the speed of college football along with Michigan’s playbook. “He’s impressive in a lot of ways. I think for him, it’s really just a question of when, not if,” Weiss said.
As it stands, McNamara has blossomed into more of a leader in the locker room, he has a solid understanding of what’s required from him within the offense, and he has in-game experience. Those things all matter and add up. “Cade, specifically, with his experience coming back and having game reps,” offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said about McNamara in March. “I think that’s provided some confidence in his play and confidence in his demeanor as a leader on the team. We’re very, very pleased.”
For those who don’t buy into coach-speak, McNamara’s teammates have echoed the same type of comments. “Cade’s finally starting to take a more commanding role,” offensive lineman Andrew Stueber said in March. “It’s different, because last season he obviously played for us a little bit, but it’s obviously different when you think you have the starting job and now you have command of the offense. You take much more pride in it, much more intent in it.”
It’s important to note that Jim Harbaugh hasn’t came out and officially called McNamara the starter, but the writing is on the wall that he’ll be under center this fall barring any unforeseen circumstances. McCarthy is expected to have a great Michigan career, Dan Villari, and incoming Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman could even see the field at some point, but it sure seems like McNamara is the guy, and that’s a good change of pace for Michigan. The quarterback position is arguably the most important and crucial one in all of sports, and to have a legitimate No. 1 option months before the season begins could lead to more offensive cohesion in the fall.
It’s important that the locker room remains unified, and it’s also important that Michigan doesn’t create a situation where between the media and the fans a narrative of McNamara vs. McCarthy is created where headlines and general thoughts become divisive. Of course the two QBs are competing, of course they both want to be the starting quarterback, but they’re both good teammates and will be supportive of one another.
McNamara appeared in 4 games last season, going 43-of-71 for 425 yards and 5 TDs.