Jim Harbaugh won't talk about 'that' -- but he can't say enough about JJ McCarthy
INDIANAPOLIS — Behind the Northwestern hazing scandal, Jim Harbaugh’s pending suspension was the hot topic du jour at Big Ten Media Days.
The day before the event kicked off, Yahoo Sports reported, and various outlets confirmed, that Harbaugh is on the verge of being handed a 4-game suspension from the NCAA for lying about minor violations committed by the program.
But for those hoping to glean more details about the situation from Harbaugh — such as the team’s contingency plans for his September absence from the sidelines — it was tough luck.
“I’m not allowed to talk about any aspect of that ongoing situation,” Harbaugh said. “I’d love to lay it all out there. I’ve nothing to be ashamed of. But now is not that time. And that’s about all there is to say about that.”
When pressed about the issue later, Harbaugh didn’t waver from that stance.
“I know you’re going to get tired of hearing this,” Harbaugh said, “but I can’t comment on any aspect.”
And so, comments on the NCAA matter will wait. Even if it was all anyone actually wanted to hear from Harbaugh.
But comments on starting quarterback JJ McCarthy? Harbaugh is quite ready to make those. And he’s not afraid of setting a ridiculously high bar of comparison.
“He’s a once-in-a-generation type quarterback at Michigan,” Harbaugh said.
A generation is approximately 18 years if you’re going strictly by the book. So that math means Harbaugh believes McCarthy is Michigan’s best quarterback since at least Chad Henne.
But Harbaugh certainly didn’t stop at Henne when discussing McCarthy’s skills.
“He’s at the top of his game right now really in all aspects — everything he does athletically, everything he does throwing the football — are at the elite level,” Harbaugh said. “The thing that makes him the most special, that differentiating of good and great, is that he’s willing to do anything for his teammates; anything for the team.
“Pat Mahomes and Josh Allen are 2 that have that level of talent at the quarterback position and are willing to do anything for their team.”
Come again? The quarterback who finished fourth in the B1G in completion percentage and touchdown passes in 2022 is worthy of comparison to the NFL’s creme de la creme?
In Harbaugh’s eyes, yes.
“Watching the way Patrick Mahomes interacts with his teammates, what he says about his teammates and what they say about him. Watching what Josh Allen says about his teammates and what they say about him. Looking through the keyhole that way. But that’s what I see in JJ McCarthy every single day.”
Most coaches would likely avoid putting that kind of pressure on their quarterback. Fans don’t take statements like “Coach says our quarterback reminds him of Mahomes and Allen” with a grain of salt.
It’s more like JIM HARBAUGH SAYS JJ MCCARTHY IS THE NEXT PATRICK MAHOMES OR JOSH ALLEN when translated into message board language.
But Harbaugh doesn’t see it as creating pressure.
When pressed further about the comparison, Harbaugh expressed a belief that McCarthy will instead see it as a challenge to embrace.
“He has all the physical attributes — the arm talent, velocity, accuracy. Decision-making. And intangibles,” Harbaugh said. “He also has, like the great ones in my opinion, a willingness to do anything for their teammates.
“You just know when you see Patrick Mahomes and his teammates and Josh Allen and his teammates — it’s the same thing I see with JJ and his teammates. He’s willing to do anything for his teammates. And they know that. They know what’s in another man’s heart. And they would follow him.
“I suggested that — follow JJ anywhere. I think he’d embrace it.”
If Harbaugh hadn’t been a quarterback himself, it might be difficult to buy what he is selling. Mahomes and Allen are aliens even at the NFL level. McCarthy hasn’t demonstrated that level of play to the general public just yet, unless you’re counting the Indiana game.
But this is the position Harbaugh knows best. He made these statements just a few hundred feet from where his own name and number are immortalized in the Colts Ring of Honor.
The way Harbaugh tells it, McCarthy’s name and number could one day get similar treatment at some stadium yet unknown.
Maybe he’s blowing smoke, but what would be the point? McCarthy doesn’t need the confidence boost. Harbaugh truly believes what he’s saying.
And now JJ McCarthy has the opportunity to prove he’s right.