Bengals get McCarron, QB speculation in fifth round
MAY 10, 2014 5:07p ET
CINCINNATI -- Hue Jackson wasn't going to wait to address the topic on everyone's mind. There was a gathered mass in the Bengals media room moments after the team had selected A.J. McCarron of Alabama in the fifth round of the NFL Draft.
That would be A.J. McCarron, quarterback from Alabama.
The Bengals offensive coordinator got right to the point.
"This is not about Andy Dalton. This is really about improving the room," said Jackson. "Andy Dalton is our quarterback and we stand behind him 100 percent. He's done a tremendous job during the offseason. I'm looking forward to working with all of these guys but obviously he's the leader of our football team. I think he's got a bright, bright future ahead of him."
Andy Dalton has done many things well in his first three seasons in the NFL but there is the glaring negative of how Dalton has performed in the national spotlight, specifically in three consecutive first-round playoff losses. The Bengals as a team have played poorly in those three games but the quarterback is the going to get the majority of the credit and the overwhelming blame for the losses.
It's all led to outside speculation that the Bengals should move on from Dalton, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. The Bengals haven't fueled that speculation. Jackson was just repeating what team president Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis have been saying all offseason.
Picking McCarron in the fifth round was another sign of the team's support of Dalton. A quarterback picked in the first or second rounds is expected to play sooner than later. Fifth-round picks get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the development process.
Lewis didn't attend the press conference. Jackson was joined by quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese.
Zampese said he met with McCarron in the run up to the draft but wasn't around to see his pro day. He was more interested in just meeting with McCarron.
"I went down and spent the day with him, just he and I on the board, on the field," said Zampese. "I love how he carries himself, his enthusiasm for the game, the work ethic. You know he's tough playing for coach (Nick) Saban down there and being in so many big games. He's played with pro players every year he's been down there so hopefully this next step for him, it'll be big but he's been playing with some guys that are pretty good, too."
McCarron (6-3, 214) led Alabama to national titles as a sophomore and junior, winning BCS national championship games against LSU and Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide went 36-4 with McCarron as its starting quarterback in three seasons, although Alabama lost its final two games of last season against Auburn and then Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
McCarron completed 66.8 percent of his passes at Alabama for more than 9,000 yards and 77 touchdowns against just 15 interceptions.
While McCarron was the ninth quarterback selected league-wide, going in the fifth round was later than he had been projected to be picked by most draft analysts. Only five quarterbacks were picked in the first two days of the draft.
"It doesn't matter if you get picked No. 1 overall or No. 199 like (Tom) Brady," said McCarron. "It's all about where you go and that you make the most of it when you get there. You've still got to perform no matter where you get picked. I'm just excited and blessed for this opportunity."
McCarron worked with former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson as he prepared for the draft. He understands the situation regarding Dalton and his impending role.
"It's going to be awesome to learn from Andy. He's one of the best in the league," said McCarron. "I just can't wait to get to work, to get up there and be a part of the team."
The Bengals waived Zac Robinson and Greg McElroy -- McCarron's predecessor at Alabama -- in the offseason. Veterans Jason Campbell and Josh Johnson are the other quarterbacks on the Cincinnati roster at this point along with Dalton and McCarron.
The ingredients for a quarterback controversy are in place but any such drama won't come from inside the organization.
"He's a "we" guy and we'll make sure he's a "we" guy. There's not going to be a "me" guy in our room, period," said Zampese. "I know I'm not going to stand for it and neither is coach Jackson. I didn't get that impression from him. He did have to wait his time (at Alabama) and when it was his time he did his business down there better than most other people in the country. I really enjoyed the time I spent with him. I think he's going to be terrific for our room and he's going to raise the competitive level of our group."