For a few years now, I've listened to people that have called my radio show to swear to me that the Bengals were making a critical mistake by not allowing AJ McCarron to be their starting quarterback. Some of these people feel this way because they are Alabama fans, and there's a part of me that understands not being able to let go of the belief that one of your program's legends has the ability to star at the next level.
Some of these people simply hate Andy Dalton so much so that if his backup was a guy with no arms, they'd still rather see Andy get replaced with the understudy.
And a few are neither Andy Dalton haters or Crimson Tide backers. Instead, they've just formed a belief that all that's kept AJ McCarron from being a star was an opportunity that the Bengals have simply refused to give him.
I've listened to people tell me that "AJ is a guy you win a Super Bowl with," that "McCarron will show the Bengals one day how wrong they've been," and even that "the Bengals are letting a hall of famer rot like roadkill while he holds a clipboard."
(Yes, these are actual quotes from actual callers.)
I've taken their calls. I've scrolled through their tweets. I've read their emails.
My response has always been that as soon as AJ McCarron becomes a free agent, we'll all get a chance to see if the rest of the NFL values him as much as some of these people do.
AJ McCarron is a free agent.
And in the last couple of days Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, what's left of Sam Bradford's body, and Josh f-ing McCown have signed contracts for a combined total value of $152 million. Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater and Mike Glennon have agreed to deals which haven't had their financial terms reported.
And the Browns - you know, the team that we all thought was gonna give McCarron the opportunity the Bengals have long denied him - decided to trade for Tyrod Taylor.
The seven quarterbacks I just mentioned have combined for one playoff victory. Bradford's injury history would take an hour to read. Bridgewater has essentially missed two whole seasons. Glennon is a weird-looking as he is bad. Taylor was benched this past season for Nathan Peterman.
And AJ McCarron is unsigned.
Guess the rest of the league is willing to let a Canton-bound QB rot just a little while longer.
I'm rooting for AJ, because I have no reason not to. He did exactly what the Bengals drafted him to do, which was serve capably and reliably as Andy Dalton's backup. He nearly helped deliver the team's first playoff win in a quarter-century (Many would have you think that he lit the Steelers up that night. He did not. But still.). I thought he handled the speculation that he might replace Andy early last season like a total pro. He seems like a good guy, and his wife wasn't creeped out when I asked her to pose for this picture. If he gets his chance, I hope he makes the most of it.
But is he ever gonna get that chance?
Not in Minnesota or Denver. Not with the Jets, who are signing two quarterbacks from this year's free agent class. Not in Arizona, where the Cardinals have doubled down on signing Bradford by adding Glennon in what be the worst duo since Michael Jackson and Eddie Murphy tried to make a song together. (Yes, this actually happened). Probably not in Cleveland, where the ongoing idea that Hue Jackson was gonna get his former backup was undercut by his new GM.
Soooo....where then? Buffalo? Maybe, but with six picks in the first three rounds, the Bills look poised to move up in order to draft one of the many intriguing quarterback prospects in this spring's draft, meaning that any time McCarron spends as a starter will be on borrowed time.
If not the Bills, I don't know where AJ McCarron gets a chance to start.
The unfortunate thing for AJ, of course, is that he's hit free agency at the worst possible time. The free agency market has never been flooded with this many quarterbacks, there's never been a reigning Super Bowl MVP QB who could be traded for, and the upcoming draft will be filled with highly thought-of young QBs, all of which leaves McCarron stuck somewhere between a bunch of QBs that are viewed upon as being better and a bunch of soon-to-be rookie quarterbacks that most agree have more upside.
He's stuck, you know, being a backup.
AJ McCarron will undoubtedly be collecting a paycheck from an NFL team this fall. He might even appear in a game. Or even start. There's a possibility, I guess, that he could return to the Bengals for a year and try the whole free agency thing all over again. Or, he could take a gig as a backup where the starter isn't nearly as entrenched as Andy Dalton is with Marvin Lewis. (Dalton, by the way, has to be salivating when he thinks about the guaranteed money Kirk Cousins is signing for.) Maybe the Bills give AJ a contract and he makes enough of that opportunity to earn a permanent starting gig either in Buffalo or somewhere else.
But so far at least, it feels like the only people who believe that once AJ McCarron is unleashed, the NFL better look out, are the ones that call talk shows and spend too much time on Twitter.
Here's Some Stuff for today....
Two down, 65 to go. I attended the two NCAA Tournament games in Dayton last night. I watched Radford beat LIU-Brooklyn, then St. Bonaventure knock off UCLA. Both were pretty entertaining games, and the latter was played in front of a really good, partial, UD Arena crowd. I've watched UCLA a lot this season, including in person twice. I don't know that I've seen a coach get less out of his team than Steve Alford. I know I haven't seen a group of players look less interested in what their coach has to say.
A valiant effort by the Norse. Give it up to this coach, this team, and the NKU program....
Tyler Eifert. Before we totally give up on the idea of bringing him back on a deal that makes complete financial sense, are we really prepared to watch him do what he can do when he's healthy for another team?
Billy Hamilton. Remember when we laughed at the idea that Margus Hunt working out with Kevin Greene in Greene's front yard was supposed to help Margus become an effective pass rusher? That's how I feel about Joe Morgan, Barry Larkin, and Lou Piniella working with Billy to teach him how to hit.
Some Stuff I Like....
Here's a nice story on Ron Hunter, and the Georgia State team the Bearcats will face on Friday.
I'm a day late on this, but the highly-respected Bill Barnwell gives the Bengals a decent grade on the Cordy Glenn trade.
Here's a preview of the upcoming Reds season. There's nothing earth-shattering here, but it's a preview of the Reds season.
I've made the case for the Reds to sign Alex Cobb. The case is made in a more articulate, thorough fashion, here.
Good discussion here: How far does UC have to go in the tournament to be considered a success? I say if they win two, they can't be considered failures.
World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking passed away at the age of 76. Upon his death, I finally found something I had in common with him....
Some Stuff About Me...
Byron Larkin and Terry Nelson join me in the 3:00 hour. Georgia State's Ron Hunter is with us at 5:20. We get gambling advice from Brandon Lang, America's best handicapper. And my guy Reags from Barstool sports helps us with our bracket in the 5:00 hour. We have a strong show today, starting at 3:05 on ESPN1530.
We are doing a show from the Holy Grail tomorrow before the NCAA Tournament, from 10:00 until 12:00. The first 64 in the door will get a team drawn at random. If your team wins the national title, you win a weekend golf getaway from French Lick Resort. I hope to see you there.