SEC Debate: Who's the better QB — AJ McCarron or Blake Sims?
Since the question was asked in our office during Alabama’s win over Mississippi State last weekend, I had to get everyone’s honest opinion on Crimson Tide quarterbacks. SDS staffers are one-sided when its comes to recent Alabama quarterback supremacy, surprising to say the least.
Who is the better Alabama quarterback, AJ McCarron or Blake Sims?
Jon Cooper (@JonSDS): AJ McCarron
It’s tough to decipher if Blake Sims is better than AJ McCarron in just one season. McCarron won two national championships as the Crimson Tide’s leader. Now that he’s out of sight and out of mind, everyone just seems to forget about him and what he accomplished as a player. I love Blake Sims’ dual-threat ability, and he’s great for this team and has much different strengths than his predecessor. McCarron also had one of the best offensive lines ever in college football, which certainly helped his numbers and impact, but he was very good in big games. McCarron was the first 3,000-yard passer in Alabama history and finished his career with 77 touchdowns and 15 INTs, and he finished a 36-4 career record. Let’s let this season play out further until we crown Sims better than McCarron.
Ethan Levine (@EthanLevineSDS): Blake Sims
I give Sims the nod in this debate, but this is not to say he is a better leader or a more clutch player; it’s just to say I think Sims plays the quarterback position better than McCarron, and the numbers back it up. I compared Sims’ numbers this year to McCarron’s numbers from 2011, his first year as Alabama’s starter, to try and decipher an edge. McCarron completed better than 66 percent of his passes in 2011 (Sims has completed just 61.6 percent of his passes this season), but Sims is going to throw for more yards and more touchdowns than McCarron, and it’s likely he’ll finish the year with fewer interceptions as well. Furthermore, Sims has not had the benefit of Alabama’s usually dominant rushing attack, which is averaging just 197 yards per game in 2014. In 2011, the Tide rushed for 214 yards per game, led by current NFL stars Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, and McCarron’s impressive completion percentage is the result of easy throws created by an imposing rushing attack. McCarron is a good player tasked with leading a great team. He was asked to be more of a leader than a quarterback. Sims is a star for Alabama, and he’s leading a less-talented offense to greater heights with his play under center. McCarron will always be the more accomplished and more successful player, but when it comes to playing the quarterback position I think Sims has the edge.
Christopher Smith (@csmithSDS): Blake Sims
AJ McCarron was slightly more accurate and may have taken a little better care of the ball. Amari Cooper is posting career-high numbers this year with Sims, but Cooper wasn’t healthy last season. And to be fair, it seems like the decision to open up the offense this season came from Nick Saban, not because Sims is more capable than McCarron. But McCarron benefitted from a much stronger offensive line and running game. Sims also adds a different dynamic to the offense. Alabama fans are glad it’s Sims, not McCarron, operating behind an offensive line more prone to mistakes and injuries than it has been in recent seasons. Sims has been just as good at getting the ball downfield. And just the threat of a quarterback running, and the ability for the QB to extend plays, is a huge advantage right now at the college level.
Brett Weisband (@WeisbandSDS): Blake Sims
AJ McCarron didn’t really do anything wrong as Alabama’s quarterback for three years, winning two national titles as the starter before moving on to a backup role in the NFL this year. The Crimson Tide offense in his years was predictable, though. McCarron would make the throws necessary and the running game did the bulk of the work. As a certain Brooklyn rapper would have said, things done changed in Tuscaloosa. Blake Sims is in charge of Lane Kiffin’s offense, incorporating some spread and hurry-up elements that were never present during McCarron’s years. Sims has run it incredibly well for a player with little game experience before this season, and his skillset has opened up the door for a lot more than was possible during the McCarron years. Does Alabama hold on against Mississippi State without Sims making things happen with his legs? Probably not. While Alabama’s offense is more boom or bust this year than it has been in year’s past, the potential is so much higher, and Sims is far more equipped for that than McCarron.
Jason Hall (@JasonHallSDS): Blake Sims
As far as pure ability goes, Sims is superior to McCarron. Sims is a better passer and playmaker than McCarron. McCarron was more of a game manager who benefited from a stronger supporting cast on defense. We saw AJ McCarron with this current Alabama team last season and the results were less stellar than his previous seasons.
Drew Laing (@DLaingSDS): AJ McCarron
Why would I take Sims over McCarron when I have three years of success/good stats from McCarron compared to just one season of Sims? AJ performed well in the big games, too. In three Iron Bowl starts, he was a combined 50-for-73, 10 TDs and 0 INTs. Not to mention he was possibly just a field goal return TD by Auburn away from playing in three straight National Championship games. Yes, there were times where he was more of a game manager. Some games he didn’t put up crazy numbers like against LSU in the BCS Championship (234 yards and 0 TD) but he was efficient and reliable when called upon to throw a lot. He threw 30-plus pass attempts in nine games throughout his career and only had a completion percentage lower than 60 percent just one time in those nine games. Sims has had more opportunities to throw thanks to Lane Kiffin and Amari Cooper and he’s done a great job this season, but I’ll take McCarron’s two national titles, a Heisman runner-up season in 2013 and a career completion percentage of 66.9 over what Sims has done in just 2014. Whatever Sims has accomplished this season, McCarron did the same over the course of three seasons.