AJ McCarron guided the University of Alabama to three BCS National Championships and a pair of SEC Championships during his career with the Tide. But once he was drafted in the fifth round (pick No. 164) of the 2014 NFL Draft, McCarron’s days as a starting quarterback were basically over.
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted McCarron to be the capable backup to starter Andy Dalton, and for his four years with the Bengals, McCarron attempted only 133 passes while appearing in seven games.
After signing a two-year, $10 million contract with the possibility of $6.5 million more if his playing time exceeds certain conditions, McCarron knows he now has his best chance at being a starting quarterback in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills.
“I thought it was just a great opportunity for myself to come up here and be able to compete for a starting job and that’s all you can ask for in this league,” McCarron told a group of reporters during his introductory press conference. “I just wanted a chance to compete and play and it felt like I had that opportunity here. It’s always tough as a competitor, but I also knew the situation I was going in to. AD [Andy Dalton] had been an established starter and had done a great job for them in the Cincy organization. So I knew the situation I was coming in to. My thought process was push AD to be the best player he can be, push us both and then learn to really almost be a servant again rather than a leader and then figure out the best way to help the team by another role and that’s what I tried to do.”
The backup compiled a 2-1 record in his three NFL starts in place of Dalton, and is 86-of-133 (64.7%) for 920 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions in his NFL career. He’s also taken 13 sacks for a sack on every 8.9% of his dropbacks.
McCarron started the Bengals’ last playoff game, an 18-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round of the 2015 season, completing 23 of 41 passes for 212 yards with one TD and one INT.
With the trade of three-year starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns — the team that completed a trade for McCarron at the 2017 trade deadline but lost out due to a paperwork snafu—McCarron has been given the label of a bridge quarterback, a placeholder who will play quarterback now while the Bills groom their franchise quarterback from the draft.
The chance to take the first-team snaps with the quarterback-hungry Bills excited McCarron, even if the team is widely rumored to be selecting a quarterback in the upcoming draft.
“I think just being in a situation and seeing the situation, whether they’re going to draft somebody or not, like I said it’s just a great opportunity to be able to compete and really showcase day in and day out what you’re able to do and have a chance to achieve the ultimate goal and that’s to start,” McCarron said. “That’s always been my mindset, to change everybody that has any doubt or anything and just come in and work my tail off. Really just show this organization, from everybody from the top to the bottom, that I’m here to work and be a team guy and try to help this team win in any way possible.”