Cade McNamara went 11-1 and beat Ohio State during the regular season, all but securing at least another year at the helm of Michigan football — right?

Conventional wisdom would suggest that to be the case.

Well, his abysmal showing against Georgia in the Orange Bowl — a 34-11 loss — and some late fireworks from true freshman JJ McCarthy could be enough for the Wolverines to take a harder look at their quarterback situation.

Of course, it’ll get ironed out during spring ball. But it’s never too early to start the conversation.

Friday night, McNamara had one of his worst games for the No. 2 Wolverines, completing 11 of 19 passes for 109 yards with zero touchdowns and 2 picks. He entered the game with just 4 INTs, but he never looked comfortable against the Bulldogs defense, which has been touted as one of the best college football has seen in a decade.

He had spectacular showings vs. Michigan State and Ohio State, and even against Iowa. He won on the road at Penn State. He served as the leader and backbone of the offense. But for some reason, he just couldn’t carry the load in a win-or-go-home CFP semifinal in Miami.

“I think, obviously, it’s very disappointing right now. I mean, we gave everything we got, and we got beat tonight,” McNamara said during the postgame press conference. “But I think once we give it a little time, we’ll be able to appreciate a lot of the great things we were able to accomplish this season. But after a loss, you’re obviously going to take it hard, and we’re a competitive group, but that’s not going to take away from the great things that we had this season, as well.”

McNamara didn’t have the game he wanted.

Conversely, McCarthy came in as a reserve and had a late burst vs. the Bulldogs.

People started talking.

It’s not like he came out firing, immediately putting the Wolverines into contention. He was a Band-Aid, and the Wolverines were probably hoping for some type of positive to come from the embarrassing and impending loss to Georgia. Incredibly athletic and agile, McCarthy had a few impressive runs — well, escapes from the pocket, really — while being chased down by a ferocious defense that entered the night allowing 87.1 rushing yards per game.

McCarthy has mobility on his side, evidenced by 23 rushing yards. Along with being gutsy, he’s also relatively cerebral, considering his age. One year ago, he was leaving high school and preparing for college. There is no doubting that he’ll have his time — the only question is when.

“Sooner, rather than later” is a thought that’s growing in popularity. Maybe it’s based on emotion following a sloppy loss; or maybe it’s just the cold, hard truth.

Helping the Wolverines save some face, McCarthy completed 7 of 17 attempts for 131 yards, including a 35-yard TD connection with freshman WR Andrel Anthony.

At the same time he was doing his best to advance the offense, McCarthy also looked erratic and impulsive. His athleticism allowed him to evade at least 2 sacks against Georgia. So, yes, he’s talented. But he still has more work to do before emerging as the clear No. 1 choice for QB at Michigan.

During the season, McCarthy showed off his arm with 69- and 56-yard touchdown tosses to WR Daylen Baldwin, causing discussion about who should lead the offense. The answer was clear: McNamara. Despite lacking in the flashiness department, McNamara possessed enough steadiness to assume control.

If Friday night was McNamara’s last dance, he should be remembered as another ultimate-bridge type for Harbaugh — just like Iowa transfer QB Jake Rudock was in 2015. Game manager. Rarely rattled. Typically playing within himself and controlling tempo. Not a superstar, though. And that’s fine. McNamara never had to be a superstar; he simply had to steer the ship, which he did better than any Harbaugh-era QB at Michigan.

Tossing aside a QB who went 11-1 during the regular season and threw for a career-high 383 yards vs. Michigan State, served as a linchpin vs. Iowa in the B1G Championship Game and led the way to a win over Ohio State would be irrational and irresponsible. Basing McNamara’s future on one game just doesn’t make sense.

But there is room for debate.

Depending on spring ball, Michigan may have a new QB in 2022. But don’t automatically assume that McCarthy will step into that role; it’s still McNamara’s job to lose.