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Why Jim Harbaugh’s Cade McNamara/J.J. McCarthy QB decision seems wise

Time is on Michigan’s side.

Washington v Michigan Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Jim Harbaugh is unorthodox in nature. He can’t be put into one specific box and labeled in one specific fashion. Not many coaches go into a season without a starting quarterback being named, nor do many coaches announce that there will be different quarterbacks starting in Week 1 and Week 2.

Harbaugh said on Saturday that he feels very confident that Michigan can win a championship with either Cade McNamara or J.J. McCarthy, and because of that they’re not ready to name a starting quarterback just yet.

Harbaugh’s decision seems wise, and here’s why

There isn’t an immediate rush to make a final decision. Michigan’s non-conference schedule sets up nicely for this.

  • McNamara will start the season opener against Colorado State, who were 3-9 last season.
  • McCarthy will start the second game against Hawaii, who were 6-7 last year.
  • The starter for the rest of the season will be named after those first two games, and the third game of the season is against Connecticut, who went 1-11 last season.

Respectfully, the non-conference schedule isn’t exactly a murderers' row of opponents, and this allows a couple more weeks to make a decision. Both players get a start under their belt, and neither will be cheated of the opportunity. They both have a chance to state their case.

Both players have been neck and neck in practice, therefore a smart way of adding another measuring stick to the equation is allowing both players a start. Live game reps matter, especially when the competition has been so tight in camp.

“You need to see it in the game, because that’s when it really separates,” Harbaugh said on the In the Trenches Podcast with Jon Jansen. “Points per drive is the thing that you look the closest at, but the situations — red zone efficiency, two-minute efficiency, third-down efficiency. And that really needs, in my opinion, to be played out in the ball games for who is the quarterback that’s gonna give us the best opportunity by the time you get that third game, fourth game. Both are considered starters here.”

Harbaugh said the only motive is what’s best for the 2022 Michigan football team. Players respect McNamara and McCarthy, there are two leaders at quarterback. The team believes in Cade, and the team believes in J.J. Naturally, there are folks who believe there’s a parallel between this quarterback competition and the one that transpired between Tom Brady and Drew Henson back in 1999, but that’s just grasping at straws. Different players, different teams, a different coach.

“Some people like to say, ‘if you don’t have a starting quarterback then you don’t have a quarterback’. I put that into the category of people that they’re born originals and they die copies,” Harbaugh said earlier this month. “They just hear something, and they parrot it.”

Michigan is a team that’s unified and waiting a little longer to pick a quarterback isn’t going to change that. Whether it’s McNamara or McCarthy, all will be well if the Wolverines keep winning. Harbaugh will choose the guy who gives Michigan the best chance of doing that.

The competition will unfold before our very eyes in Week 1 and Week 2, and the obvious choice will become apparent. A starter will be named well ahead of Big Ten play and big games against rivals such as Michigan State and Ohio State.

Time is on Michigan’s side and Harbaugh is using it to their advantage.