MIAMI GARDENS, Fla .– It didn’t take very long for the attention to shift next year and the Michigan quarterback’s controversy pending.
Moments after the Wolverines’ 34-11 loss to Georgia in the Orange Bowl on Friday night, Jim Harbaugh and starting quarterback Cade McNamara answered questions about the plan for 2022. McNamara is eligible to return for his junior year in red shirt, and with a 12-2 as a starter, while JJ McCarthy – the much-vaunted former five-star rookie – is expected to return in second year.
McCarthy took over at quarterback late in Friday night’s game after McNamara (11-19, 106 yards, 2 INT) was sacked for the fourth time and missed the ball. The Wolverines would eventually recover, but Harbaugh had seen enough.
“We know we have two great quarterbacks; we don’t apologize, ”said Harbaugh. “I felt we just weren’t – the protection just wasn’t as good as it should have been. JJ gave us more of a chance to escape it, dodge it and run.
“This is the reason why we made the change.”
McCarthy finished just 7 of his 17 passing attempts, but he had 131 yards and Michigan’s only touchdown of the game and rushed for 23 yards. He’s generally believed to have the stronger arm of the two and more mobility, paving the way for another quarterback competition in the offseason.
McNamara, who has thrown for 2,576 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, won the post early last year – coming out in the spring as the clubhouse leader. But as Harbaugh likes to preach, competition is a fluid thing – especially in the quarterback, where “nobody owns the job – you hire the best,” he said in November.
Following: Harbaugh rout after the Orange Bowl: “It wasn’t our best, but it was definitely theirs”
“Like I said, we have two great quarterbacks,” Harbaugh reiterated after the Orange Bowl. “We do not apologize for this.”
Harbaugh’s comments came on Friday night with McNamara, who is occasionally replaced by McCarthy to give opposing defenses a different look, sitting to his right. The Michigan coach was keen to say he would answer the question, shielding McNamara from the embarrassing task of bringing up the subject.
Whatever happens next, Harbaugh and his team have the unenviable task of trying to figure it out. Players praise McNamara for his leadership skills and work ethic, while coaches see him as a game manager who takes part in the most important part – winning matches.
“(JJ) made some good plays,” said sixth-year senior center Andrew Vastardis. “Whoever is out there, we trust. As we have said all year, this foundation is built on trust. We know coaches trust each other as men, and we trust each other as football players.
“Guys can play, but the team needs it. No matter what, you just have to keep fighting for your man on your left and right. Excited for the parts he made; excited for growth.
And, added Vastardis, “excited for the future of Michigan football – because we have a bunch of great talent coming back. “
Learn more about Michigan football:
Heard outside the UM locker room: disappointing end of a great season
Action report: Bad marks on both sides after Georgia loss
Kirby Smart’s 9-year-old son is a huge Aidan Hutchinson fan
Jim Harbaugh reacts to death of NFL icon John Madden, “a great man”
Jim Harbaugh ignores Michigan pay cut – “I would do it for free”