AJ McCarron talked with the press today about his draft prospects, and he went on a bit about the criticism he's received over the years. He really doesn't seem to understand it after all this time:
McCarron said his best attributes are "being a winner." Everyone says I played behind NFL talent, but in the NFL, NFL talent is there.— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) February 21, 2014
McCarron "I feel like I've been disrespected my whole college career because I've won."— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) February 21, 2014
First of all, "being a winner" is not an innate talent or attribute. And, if it was, its effect would be blunted by his choice of playing football, which is the least individualistic major sport. The NFL careers of guys like Jay Barker, Ken Dorsey, and Tim Tebow show that winning lots of college games as a starting quarterback does not necessarily mean anything as far as pro prospects go.
Second, NFL talent going up against other NFL talent is different than NFL talent going up against college talent. The most NFL-like defenses McCarron faced were probably those of LSU in 2011-12, and he was pretty uneven there. Nothing about those performances screams "no doubt, can't miss prospect". Besides, "NFL talent" has a pretty wide range when you take a look at the best teams compared to the worst. Houston is a team that is by definition full of NFL talent, but McCarron wouldn't have won many games as the Texans' starting quarterback last year.
Finally, his second comment there is farcical at best. Had McCarron put up the same stats on Alabama teams that went 8-4 or 7-5, would he have gotten universal acclaim? Of course not. He'd be judged about the same or even slightly worse, thanks to lacking that "winner" sheen. McCarron's teams won 90% of their games over his career as a starter; South Carolina won 85% of them in the same span. Is Connor Shaw just slightly behind McCarron in the draft order? Nope. Did he get just slightly less attention than McCarron did? Nope.
It's important not to blow one interview out of proportion, but McCarron is showing at best a lack of self awareness and at worst a complete misunderstanding of how people look at his game. Look at the phrasing in that second quote:
"I feel like I've been disrespected my whole college career because I've won" (emphasis mine).
No, AJ. You didn't win. Your team won. That distinction goes to the heart about what people have been saying about McCarron for three years.
Ultimately, it doesn't really matter that he doesn't understand this stuff. All he can do is have an NFL-caliber work ethic, which by all accounts he does, and hope a bad franchise doesn't pick him. After all, his career isn't likely to last long if he goes to, say, the Browns no matter what he does. There are bad coaches in the NFL just like in every level, and they can torpedo players' careers just like any other factor can.
But it doesn't seem that McCarron understands what everyone has been saying about him over these years. That's too bad.