Why Michigan is starting different quarterbacks in its first two games of 2022 season

Michigan’s quarterback fight was one of the most intriguing of the offseason, but it’s still undecided with a week one game against Colorado State on the horizon. Instead, the No. 8 Wolverines are giving Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy a chance to start a game each before making a decision, meaning the competition will continue into the 2022 season.

Coach Jim Harbaugh announced Saturday that McNamara, the acting starter, will start in the season opener against the Rams, while McCarthy, last year’s backup, will take the first-team snaps in Week 2 against Hawaii. A full-time starter and backup will then be created in Week 3 based on each quarterback’s starting performance.

We have made a decision‘ Harbaugh said in a statement. “Both quarterbacks played great – did everything they could have done … to win the starting job. Coming out of camp I just feel like we have two quarterbacks, Cade McNamara and JJ McCarthy, and we have a lot of confidence that we can win a championship with either of them behind center.

McNamara threw for 2,576 yards, 15 touchdowns, and six interceptions last year, while McCarthy threw for 516 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions that served as backup and substitution options.

“It’s a great thing for our team, but there’s only one ball and there can only be one quarterback out at a time,” Harbaugh said.

Let’s break down what this means for Michigan’s future…

The schedule allows for indecision

The old adage goes that if you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none. But that is not necessarily the case here.

In the first two weeks, would Harbaugh make the decision to go with another starter if Michigan played a tough, non-conference schedule? Probably not, but he doesn’t have to worry about that since the Rams and Rainbow Warriors are coming to Ann Arbor earlier in the year.

Harbaugh uses the first two games of the season as auditions, and then he gets the luxury of playing UConn in Week 3. The eventual winner of the quarterback fight can then go four full quarters before the Wolverines receive Maryland in their Big Ten opener on Sept. 24.

It’s not ideal that the competition has bled into the season – every coach wants an undisputed No. 1 signal caller going into week one – but it’s not necessarily a cause for concern. Harbaugh was afforded the luxury of not being pushed into a hasty decision, and he took advantage of it.

Is there an advantage?

It’s one thing to choose between two top-notch studs who proved crucial in college. But this is not the case here. McNamara was more of a game manager during last season’s run to the Big Ten championship and participation in the College Football Playoffs, and it showed in the Orange Bowl when the Wolverines could not muster an offensive streak against eventual national champions Georgia.

Is that all McNamara can offer, or is there more in the tank that he didn’t show last season? That’s the conundrum, and that’s why there’s some doubt as to whether this is a championship-caliber team going into the season.

Has McCarthy created a competitive culture that has raised the bar for both players, or has the former five-star nominee in the class of 2021 failed to live up to the hype? Maybe he couldn’t get past McNamara despite all the fanfare. Those appear to be the only two options and as such there are lingering doubts about the future of Harbaugh’s Wolverines.