Why Joel Klatt thinks J.J. McCarthy fits as Seattle Seahawks QB

Feb 11, 2024, 10:20 AM

J.J. McCarthy Seattle Seahawks QB draft...

QB J.J. McCarthy of the Michigan Wolverines reacts after a touchdown against the UW Huskies. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy threw for more than 300 yards just once last season. And he rarely had to take over a game thanks to a run-heavy Michigan offense that featured running back Blake Corum.

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Yet McCarthy has emerged as a possible first-round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft, with analysts like ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. praising his arm talent, decision-making and competitive drive.

FOX college football analyst Joel Klatt joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Thursday and reiterated that McCarthy might be a QB fit for the Seattle Seahawks when they select No. 16 overall in the first round.

His reasoning? McCarthy’s running ability, something new Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald may be used to after spending the past two season as defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, who are quarterbacked by Lamar Jackson.

“I’m not saying in any way shape or form that J.J. is comparable to Lamar,” Klatt said. “But I will say that that (Macdonald) understands the importance of the quarterback’s ability to create between two and five first downs with his legs a game.

“Those are monumental because the defense can do everything right, which he’s uniquely aware, and then all of a sudden the quarterback makes you wrong,” Klatt added. “J.J. has that ability.”

McCarthy ran 64 times for 202 yards and three touchdowns this past season, and he came up with huge scrambles in critical situations on multiple occasions. That included a third-down conversion to keep a drive alive in the second half of the national championship game against the UW Huskies (at 13:19 in the video below or at this link).

If the Seahawks take McCarthy, his learning curve might not be as steep because of his familiarity with Macdonald’s philosophy, according to Klatt. McCarthy was a freshman in Ann Arbor when Macdonald worked as Michigan’s defensive coordinator under coach Jim Harbaugh.

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“He would be in an offense that is familiar to him,” Klatt said. “In a system and a language that would be familiar to him, not necessarily schematically, but from a philosophical standpoint.”

Does McCarthy have the arm for the NFL?

Salk pressed Klatt about McCarthy’s arm strength, with the host adding that he didn’t think McCarthy showed the same passing ability as other NFL prospects. The obvious QB to compare McCarthy against is Michael Penix Jr. of Washington, especially now that former Huskies offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb will reportedly be the new Seahawks OC.

Klatt acted shocked by Salk’s assessment of McCarthy’s passing ability, saying he has worked as a broadcaster for 16 Michigan games over the past three years and never questioned McCarthy’s arm talent.

“Meanwhile, Salk didn’t even watch the Ohio State game, and he’s blabbering on about J.J. doesn’t make throws,” Klatt joked. “It was a leading question. Listen, listen, I’m having a little fun at your expense, obviously, but yes, he makes he makes those throws and he makes them often.”

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So does Salk’s point have any credence? Klatt at least admitted that McCarthy and the Michigan offense leaned heavily on play-action and a quick passing attack, which focuses more on leveraging open parts of the field to attack defenses.

“If I was just going to give you any sort oft legitimacy to your point, which there is very little, I would say that he isn’t asked to do what, let’s say, a Michael Penix is asked to do,” Klatt said.

In continuing his defense of McCarthy, Klatt pointed to Michigan’s 30-24 win over Ohio State in 2023. McCarthy threw 16 of 20 for 148 yards, including a controversial touchdown pass that he spun between two Buckeyes defenders.

“What got lost was this throw that he made,” Klatt said. “That was absolutely insane, and he did that several times. I appreciate your honesty but you know, as in ‘My Cousin Vinny,’ overruled.”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with FOX college football analyst Joel Klatt in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Seahawks’ QB situation

Kurt Warner details Seattle Seahawks’ dilemma with QB Geno Smith
NFL Network analyst: Draft prospect Michael Penix Jr. ‘best QB’ at Senior Bowl
Salk: What are Seattle Seahawks’ options with crucial QB decision looming?
Jim Nagy: How Penix did at Senior Bowl, what makes him so unique
Wyman: How Macdonald can help Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith

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