Michigan football: Why Cade McNamara is the right QB for the Wolverines
When it comes to choosing a QB, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh goes with his man, sticks with his man and stands by his man.
Once that player is selected, he’s in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the season — barring injury or poor performance. Other than Wilton Speight going down with a neck injury in 2017, or the benching of Joe Milton in favor of Cade McNamara in 2020, the QB situation has been settled at the beginning of each season.
After losing his first college start against Penn State in what turned out to be Michigan’s season finale in 2020, McNamara has guided the Wolverines to three straight wins this year. He’s primed to earn another victory this weekend as the No. 19 Wolverines host 3-0 Rutgers in Ann Arbor. A leader in the locker room and on the field, McNamara has earned the confidence of his teammates and coaching staff.
“Me and Coach Harbaugh are always having dialogue,” McNamara said during Wednesday’s media availability. “That part of our relationship … I love that. I love, coming off (the field) … you know, the communication on what I’m seeing. Even if I did everything right, I [want to explain], ‘this is what I saw.’ Especially with the amount of experience that he had playing the quarterback position at such a high level.”
McNamara went on to say that he appreciated Harbaugh’s guidance. There is a strong bond between the two, forged since McNamara’s arrival with the 2019 class.
Prepared to run and throw the ball, McNamara is a stick-to-the-game plan type of quarterback. He doesn’t come off as wanting to be the star of the show or the focal point of the offense. As long as things are working, he’s all for spreading the wealth and allowing the running backs to lead the way.
Whatever it takes to win — that has to be the mentality of any QB, but it specifically applies to McNamara’s situation.
In four appearances in 2020, McNamara completed 43 of 71 attempts for 425 yards and 5 touchdowns — and not one interception. That pick-less streak has carried over into the first 3 games of 2021, with McNamara completing 24 of 37 attempts for 371 yards and 3 touchdowns.
He’s led a comeback vs. Rutgers (2020) and engineered an efficient offense that ranks No. 11 among FBS programs. He’s led the Wolverines vs. Western Michigan, Washington and Northern Illinois, maturing each week and appearing more confident with each throw. This past Saturday, he led UM to touchdowns on all 5 of its first-half drives during the 63-10 thumping of NIU in Ann Arbor.
“[McNamara has improved] in all areas, but he’s been consistently good since he’s played in games,” Harbaugh said. “His ability to drive the team for points; that’s getting really impressive. I don’t know exactly what that percentage is, but it’s gotta be pretty high. His overall confidence, ability, time-on-task, reps.
“He has capitalized on his opportunity, and took the bit and ran with it. Got to give great credit to Cade for doing that, for having the fortitude to step in there like that and take the bull by the horns. He hasn’t given it up, so that’s all to his credit.”
Against NIU, McNamara answered doubters with a deep-ball down the right side to WR Cornelius Johnson, who housed it for an 87-yard touchdown.
Cade McNamara with an 87 yard SEND to Cornelius Johnson for a 5th Michigan TD 😱 pic.twitter.com/ysC07nddFH
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 18, 2021
He can’t make the deep throw? Well, if you said that prior to the throttling of NIU, you’re probably eating your words right about now. McNamara has enough arm strength to make all the necessary passes.
Now, nobody in their right mind would sit around and say that McNamara has a better arm than true freshman JJ McCarthy, who has flashed his big arm a few times through 3 games. McCarthy made a throw in Week 1, a 69-yard TD toss to Daylen Baldwin, that sparked massive conversations about the current status of the QB position.
The future undoubtedly rests upon the shoulders of McCarthy, but the present is in good hands with McNamara.
There is no reason to rock the boat or change up the agenda. Michigan is rolling along pretty well with McNamara and looks to be in position to keep the momentum flowing this weekend vs. Rutgers, which has only beaten UM once — a 26-24 victory in 2014, the final year of the Brady Hoke Experiment in Ann Arbor.