Alabama 2012: Tide Receivers Need a "Game Manager" Like McCarron
Just what qualifies a quarterback as a "game manager" anyway?
Somewhere along the line, labeling a quarterback as a game manager became somewhat of a derogatory comment. Where it once was a compliment of sorts, giving this title to a quarterback now seems to be the equivalent of saying he has little or no talent. It appears that any time a team rises to national prominence without an elite level quarterback, he immediately morphs into a game manager in the eyes of public perception.
As luck would have it, Alabama's A.J. McCarron has been given this moniker by more than a few members of the national media. Google search "A. J." along with "game manager" and you will find an endless list of articles slapping McCarron with the unflattering title.
What we must realize is that being a game-managing quarterback is not such a bad thing. Alabama has had quite a bit of success with them in recent history. And with Alabama ushering in a new and overly inexperienced group of receivers in 2012, a game manager is exactly what this team needs.
Jay Barker: 1992
Again, Alabama has had some fairly impressive success with game managers running its offense.
In the national championship season of 1992, Jay Barker managed the Tide to an undefeated season while only completing 54 percent of his passes. On the season, Barker only threw for 1,614 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. Even with a quarterback rating of 112.2, Barker led the Tide to its 12th national title.
In 1992, Alabama was quite pleased to have a game manager at the helm. In his Alabama career, Barker managed the Tide to a 35-2-1 record.
Greg McElroy: 2009
Just three years ago, when Alabama got its first taste of BCS success under head coach Nick Saban, another little game manager by the name of Greg McElroy was running the offense.
McElroy was the smart one, with more in between his ears than he had in his arm. He threw for 2,508 yards in the 2009 season, with 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions while completing just over 60 percent of his passes.
He was in his first year as a starting collegiate quarterback that year and rarely put up impressive enough numbers to see his face on SportsCenter. Still, he was the textbook game manager. And as the Tide won yet another national title, he was exactly the leader Alabama needed.
A.J. McCarron: 2011
After the graduation of McElroy, Alabama entered the 2011 season unsure of who was going to be the starting quarterback. In just his second game, A. J. McCarron emerged as the starter by leading the Tide to a less-than-impressive victory at Penn State.
McCarron had both good and bad games in his first year as the Alabama quarterback even though the Tide won game after game, which immediately put him in the game manager category. McCarron fought through it, though, and led Alabama to the BCS title game despite a November loss to rematch opponent LSU.
In the rematch, McCarron carved up the vaunted LSU defense to the tone of 234 yards on 23-of-34 attempts. When it was all over, and Alabama had its 14th national championship, McCarron had completed just under 67 percent of his passes on the season, with 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions to go with his 2,634 yards.
Fast Forward to 2012
While depth may not be so much of an issue, Alabama enters the 2012 season with significant inexperience at wide receiver. McCarron returns for his junior season and second as the Tide's so-called game manager along with possibly the best offensive line in the nation. But with new and unproven receivers, McCarron will be called upon to, uh, manage the Tide offense this season.
It is no secret that Nick Saban likes to run the football. If he had his druthers, he would probably be just as happy if the forward pass were outlawed altogether. Still, his trust in his young quarterback is evident by the pass-heavy game plan he sat squarely on McCarron's shoulders in last season's title game.
Alabama comes into the season with a bevy of young, but qualified running backs and is likely to depend heavily on the ground game yet again. This is where McCarron's leadership will come into play.
If the Tide gets itself into a bind, it will be McCarron that will be called upon to carry the Alabama offense. The receiving corps are again talented, but young. They will need McCarron to provide them with confidence, setting them up with catchable passes and taking the pressure off of them as they get comfortable with their roles.
McCarron will not often be called upon to throw 60-yard bombs in effort to get quick-strike scores. He will, however, be asked to manage games. And that is exactly what he'll do.
Leaders Do What They Are Asked to Do
Again, how being a game managing quarterback became a bad thing is uncertain. One thing is for sure, though. When you play for Alabama, and you win at Alabama, no one really cares how you do it.
Saban and new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier are expected to open up the passing game just a little bit this season. But in doing so, it is safe to expect them to put McCarron and his receivers in positions where they can succeed. Saban has not made a career out of setting his players up for failure. If he doesn't think they can handle it, he doesn't ask them to do it.
McCarron will succeed, too. If he is asked to throw for 3,000 yards, he will. If he is asked to hand the ball off 50 times a game, he will. This is what leaders do. This is what game managers do.
Not too many people realize that the game-managing McCarron had a better passer rating in 2011 than Georgia's Aaron Murray, Nick Foles of Arizona, Landry Jones of Oklahoma, Clemson's Tajh Boyd and one Denard Robinson of a Michigan team that the Tide will face on Sept. 1.
If the fact that McCarron will follow the orders of a head coach who has won three national titles in the last decade makes him a game manager, McCarron will wear it as a badge of honor.
A. J. McCarron is a winner first—a game manager second.