Sugar Bowl 2014: Despite the Loss, Alabama QB AJ McCarron Is a Legend

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 3, 2014

Legacy.

It's a tricky word that has a moving target in college football.

For Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, it includes video-game statistics and a Heisman Trophy. For Georgia's Aaron Murray, it features SEC records in career passing touchdowns and passing yards.

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's legacy is a little more concise, and can be wrapped up in one word.

"Winner."

Just don't judge him based on Thursday night's Sugar Bowl, because it wasn't his finest moment.

The fifth-year senior quarterback of the Crimson Tide ended his career on a low note in a 45-31 Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma. The Mobile, Ala., native completed 19-of-30 passes for 387 yards and two touchdowns.

This game won't be remembered for McCarron's impressive numbers through the air, however. It will be remembered for his mistakes.

McCarron was picked off twice, one of which was returned 43 yards by Zack Sanchez all the way to the Alabama 13-yard line, setting up a Sooner touchdown. He was rattled early thanks to an offensive line that gave up seven sacks on the night.

As B/R's Matt Miller pointed out, it wasn't all McCarron's fault.

You can justify McCarron's bad play because his OL, but he's also not handled the pressure well. That's the major concern for me tonight.

— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 3, 2014

His last offensive snap—when he was sacked by Eric Striker and fumbled away Alabama's last chance—was fitting for the night, but not of his career.

In true McCarron fashion, he took responsibility for the loss, according to Fox Sports Live.

"I'll take the loss, and I'll definitely take the blame." - AJ McCarron #Alabama

— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) January 3, 2014

His 36 wins as a starting quarterback is one more than Jay Barker, who held the school record coming into the season. Counting McCarron's redshirt season in 2009, he has one more loss as a starter—four—than he has BCS National Championship rings.

The final image of McCarron will be him laying on the turf as Geneo Grissom returned his fumble eight yards for the final score of the Sugar Bowl, but the lasting image of his career should be how he helped build and subsequently maintain a dynasty in the golden age of SEC football.

Was he a "game manger?" Sure. 

Good quarterbacks are supposed to manage the game. 

He did that at an elite level, while also taking control of several big games, including the 21-0 victory over LSU in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game following the 2011 season in which he was awarded offensive MVP.

If that isn't enough, then so be it. 

Leaving a legacy of being an elite "game manager" with five total BCS and SEC Championship rings isn't a bad legacy to leave behind, especially at a tradition-rich program like Alabama.

McCarron's Alabama career ended on a sour note, but it doesn't take away from what he left behind—a legacy loaded with wins.

 

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