Michigan Football: Why J.J. McCarthy should at least have a role

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

There has been plenty of talk about Michigan football’s starting quarterback job and even if he doesn’t start, it makes sense to play J.J. McCarthy in some fashion.

As Michigan football heads into a huge matchup Saturday on the road against Wisconsin, the quarterback position continues to be a key topic of conversation.

Going back to last Saturday’s win over Rutgers, Cade McNamara opened the door for it to become a hot topic with a poor second half. He started 7-of-8 against the Scarlet Knights but completed one pass in the second half, while the offense notched more three-and-outs than points.

McNamara is completing 62 percent of his passes so far this season and he’s been able to hit deep passes — with multiple touchdown passes of more than 50 yards.

However, one thing McNamara doesn’t do is run the ball. He’s got a decent arm, but he’s not known for his athleticism at all, which can’t be said about J.J. McCarthy.

McCarthy is a much more dynamic athlete than McNamara and he’s flashed that this season, both maneuvering in the pocket and running the football.

Don’t get me wrong, McCarthy isn’t a running quarterback. He throws a great football but he can run the ball and McNamara can’t, which is one way the offense is limited.

When Michigan football is running the read-option as Nick Baumgardner of The Athletic pointed out in this analysis (subscription required) McNamara isn’t a threat to run, so it’s not an option.

What J.J. McCarthy could add to the offense

For years, I’ve been saying that the lack of a running quarterback has hindered the Michigan offense and that’s why Michigan should have packages for J.J.

Think about the Sunday night game between the 49ers and Packers. Trey Lance ran in a touchdown and having him run the ball gave San Francisco an extra blocker. Plus, he’s a talented passer so he can make teams pay if they sell out to stop the run.

McCarthy can do the same thing. He can actually keep the ball on read-option plays and make defenses pay for ignoring the quarterback, while also being able to complete passes down the field, just like his touchdown to Daylen Baldwin earlier this season.

McNamara’s best attribute is that he doesn’t turn the ball over. And as long as that continues, Michigan will win most of its games. But without a great effort from the defense or running game, just playing mistake-free football on offense might not be enough.

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It nearly wasn’t on Saturday. You need to score points and you need as many impact players as possible, which is why the staff should find some sort of role for McCarthy, immediately.