Nov 30, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron (10) consoles Alabama Crimson Tide kicker Cade Foster (43) after a missed field goal during the fourth quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports
It would be easy to dismiss A.J. McCarron as a first round quarterback next year after his hopes for a third-straight BCS championship with Alabama came crashing down in their epic visit to Auburn. That doesn’t mean one should.
Auburn loss overshadows how well McCarron played in tough environment
Almost every time the Crimson Tide has lost a game since McCarron took over in 2011, all both of them, it was because he played poorly. For once the mighty powerhouse actually blew a game when they got a terrific performance from their quarterback. McCarron finished the Iron Bowl with 277 passing yards and three touchdowns. That includes two drives in which he had to start at the one-yard line, one of which he lofted a beautiful, gutsy pass out of the end zone for a 99-yard touchdown that in most games would’ve been a backbreaker. At no time did he seem flustered or too small for the moment. He made good decisions even when drives stalled, throwing the ball out of bounds under pressure. In the end he was undone by a multitude of mental mistakes by his teammates. Alabama had six penalties in the game, several of them badly timed false starts or holding calls. They also had several key dropped passes, including one in the end zone. On top of that McCarron set up five field goal opportunities. Two of them went wide, another was blocked and the fourth was bypassed by head coach Nick Saban due to the prior gaffes. Everybody knows what happened on the fifth.
McCarron can still fortify 2014 NFL draft stock with strong bowl showing
The quarterback obviously draws the most fire for whether his team wins or loses. That is simply the reality of playing the most important position in the sport of football. It is something A.J. McCarron accepts, which is why teams cannot overlook his grace in the wake of the Auburn defeat. Instead of hanging his head, crying or shouting at referees, the senior showed his maturity by calmly trotting off the field and greeting his family for post-game hugs and kisses. As the saying goes, a player has nothing to feel ashamed of when he leaves everything on the field. McCarron did that, and does that every game he plays in. It’s why he’s a winner. Scouts will debate talent, which is their job. Yet playing quarterback in the pros is about understanding the game and being able to play it at high speeds with efficiency. That takes intelligence. McCarron has that in spades, not to mention a nice set of skills to go with it. Like or not, his season is not over. There is still time to offer a little more proof of why he should be a Heisman candidate and why he deserves consideration for the first round in the 2014 NFL Draft. Going out a winner in another major bowl game would certainly help.