McCarron believes Bills are the fit he's been waiting for

Posted Mar 15, 2018

He's had to bide his time the last four years as Andy Dalton's backup, and to endure the mess of a failed trade between Cincinnati and Cleveland. But AJ McCarron believes it all had to take place to lead him to his new opportunity with Buffalo.

AJ McCarron waited patiently on his agent Wednesday, as he watched many of the other free agent NFL quarterbacks find new homes. It wasn’t all that different from the four years of waiting he had to endure as Andy Dalton’s backup in Cincinnati.

He has thirsted for an opportunity to start, and this year of free agency would offer the best chance to find it. McCarron and his wife Katherine put their faith in a higher power and Buffalo revealed itself as the best fit for the 27-year old quarterback.

“It’s always tough (wait your turn) just because you’re a competitor, but at the same time you’ve just got to trust God’s plan. You really do,” McCarron said. “I know it’s easier said than done, but we prayed and put faith in Him and everything works out for a reason. We’re just super excited to be here, to be a part of this organization and help this team win.”

McCarron saw the Bills as his best chance to compete for a starting job.

“That’s all you can ask for in this league. That was the main thing I was saying while I was in Cincinnati was it wasn’t about money or anything,” he said. “My background, I come from absolutely nothing, so I’ve always just known ball. And I just wanted a chance to compete and play and I felt like I would have that opportunity here.”

McCarron joins a roster that currently has second-year QB Nathan Peterman as his only competition, but he has been in the league long enough to know that there’s likely to be another addition in the form of a first-round draft choice.

“I try not to ever waste any mental thought on it because it’s something I can’t control,” he said. “There’s no reason for me to put any thought into it. It creates mental clutter for my process for what I need to do day in and day out to be the best player I need to be. Whatever they feel is best for the organization (is fine), but I’m just going to come out and work my tail off for them and for this city and be the best player I can.”

In four seasons in the NFL, McCarron has just four career starts, counting an AFC Wild Card game in 2016. But the signal caller believes those experiences combined with learning at the elbow of Dalton has him ready to take the next step up to full-time starter.

“I think even though I played four games they were critical games,” he said. “We were trying to clinch a playoff berth in our division at the time. So to be brought into the first game against San Fran… San Fran that year wasn’t playing the best, but at home they hadn’t allowed a team to score more than 21 points all season long. We had 21 points in the first half and played well as a team.

“Then the next game we go to Denver and they’ve got the number one ranked defense in every category there. It was six degrees at kickoff and I felt like I was on a different planet. And anytime you can start a playoff game, that’s big in the league. We had a chance to win it, but came up short. Those experiences go a long way. I think it’s just critical games that I’ve been a part of that’s helped me grow a lot.”

A first-hand witness of McCarron’s growth is current Bills free agent WR Brandon Tate, who played with the young quarterback in Cincinnati.

“A.J. McCarron is a great guy man. He’s a competitor. He’s going to give you his best every day of practice and every Sunday. So Buffalo has a great leader and a competitor,” Tate said in an appearance on the John Murphy Show. “He can be outspoken, but he basically leads by example. He loves to win and he’s definitely a winner, so he does everything he can to get guys on the same page and I’m pretty sure A.J. will do just fine in Buffalo.”

McCarron threw for 212 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Bengals 2016 AFC Wild Card loss to the Steelers by just two points (18-16) in what proved to be a defensive battle.  

What clearly appeals to head coach Sean McDermott about McCarron is he’s performed admirably in pressure situations. He’s a gamer, and through most of his playing career he’s also been a winner earning back-to-back national championships as the starting quarterback for Alabama.

But that’s all in the past as McCarron sees it. He’s more eager to grab hold of what lies in front of him now with the Bills.

He believes he’s ready to lead an NFL club as the starting quarterback, and if he had any doubts about Buffalo being the right fit, they disappeared by the time he was walking through the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport terminal with his wife on Thursday.

“As soon as we landed we had Bills fans come up and talk to us and already started telling us stories (about the team). We’re super excited. It’s an awesome situation to be in because my wife and I were talking about how it kind of feels like ‘Bama again. It’s that type of atmosphere and we had spent so much time there,” said McCarron, a Mobile native. “I’m telling you it’s just exciting to be here and be a part of this.”