For the first time, at least publicly, Michigan football’s Cade McNamara expressed he was displeased with the way the quarterback position is being handled.
McNamara started Saturday's 51-7 win over Colorado State with sophomore J.J. McCarthy scheduled to start Week 2 against Hawaii. Harbaugh announced that plan one week before the opener, but in the days prior to that decision, McNamara felt he was going to retain his title as the starter.
“I definitely would say it’s pretty unusual,” McNamara said after the game. “It was kind of a thing that I wasn’t expecting by the end of camp. I thought I had my best camp, I thought I put myself in a good position, it was just the decision that coach went with.”
McNamara led the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title since 2004 a season ago and was named captain by his teammates this offseason. He was one of Michigan’s four representatives at Big Ten media day in Indianapolis over the summer, yet still was unable to win the job outright.
“I was confident in the way I performed over camp, definitely felt that way,” he said. “You know, however, it’s just not my decision. So however it is, whatever my role is — you know I’m honored my teammates recognized me for the role that I have currently.
“That’s about it.”
The other reason for his terse demeanor, likely, was he wasn’t exactly polished on Saturday. McNamara completed just 9-of-18 passes for 136 yards and one touchdown and threw what was nearly an interception in the red zone that was instead dropped.
McNamara led the offense into the red zone on four occasions, yet the team came away with just one touchdown and three field goals. For what it's worth, Harbaugh cited the drops as a major reason for the field goal to touchdown ratio and added "you never go off any one criteria" when making this decision.
“There was some stuff that didn’t go our way but I thought we handled it pretty well,” McNamara said. “Kind of first game stuff, I missed a couple targets, we had a couple drops, it looked like the first game on the offensive side of the ball so we’ve got to clean that up and I’m a part of that.”
That was contrasted by McCarthy, who came in and operated the offense nearly flawlessly after the Wolverines had already mounted a 30-0 lead, flashing the tantalizing speed on the ground and arm strength that made him a five-star prospect.
On his third play of the game, the first time he didn’t hand it off, McCarthy kept a read option and scampered 20 yards up the left sideline nearly untouched for a touchdown.
“That was a design,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got that kind of electric type of ability when he’s running with the football. I thought he acquitted himself really well.”
McCarthy finished 4-for-4 passing for 30 yards, seemingly intentionally showing he could make the check-down pass; doing what he can to prove he’s willing to hit a single and not only swing for the metaphorical fences.
He also added 50 rushing yards on three attempts, as Michigan scored touchdowns on both of his drives.
Harbaugh has stood by his decision of handling the quarterback competition in a prove it on the field capacity. Harbaugh was told McNamara didn’t seem overly pleased when speaking about the situation with the media and asked what he needs to do in order to handle that and keep both quarterback’s spirits up.
"I think we can all agree the way we're doing this we've got a lot more information after two weeks than we would've had two weeks ago," he said. “I don’t feel like I have to manage it, they’re both tremendous competitors and both are warriors.
"I don’t feel like I have to manage anything, just have to go out there and let them compete and do what they do.”
McNamara repeated himself, this is not his decision. He said he knows that Harbaugh indicated he doesn’t want to do this all season, and wants to rely on just one guy so, “however it shakes out, that’s just how it’s going to be.”
No career has a perfect trajectory, but the one-time four-star from Nevada was the quarterback of the Big Ten championship team. In July he said he felt confident about his position and that he'd worked hard to earn the respect and trust of his teammates and coaches.
Saturday, he conceded the push-and-pull nature of his role on the team is something he’s had to get used to.
“This is sort of something I’ve been dealing with whatever part of my career it’s been,” he said. “Whether it was before I played with Joe (Milton), whether it was finally going in, whether it was last season and now this season.
“I think you know at this point I have a callus made on how to deal with these things.”
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan's Cade McNamara blindsided by 'unusual' QB rotation.