JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A.J. McCarron's decision to skip playing in the Jan. 25 Reese's Senior Bowl is puzzling, and it certainly has people -- possibly even Jaguars GM David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley -- wondering about his competitiveness.
There is no better chance for a college player to measure himself against some of the best players in the country than at the Senior Bowl. It's a chance to improve draft status by playing well in practices throughout the week, shining in meetings with an NFL coaching staff, and performing well on game day. It's a week that can turn a mid-round draft pick into potentially a late first-rounder.
Which is why McCarron's decision is perplexing. McCarron is viewed as a late first- or early second-round draft pick by some analysts. Some have him even lower. He could change that with a good week in Mobile, Ala. Though his reason for skipping the Senior Bowl sounds valid -- he told AL.com's Rany Kennedy he wants to prepare for the NFL combine, Alabama's pro day, and the rest of the evaluation process -- it's potentially doing him more damage than good.
The Jaguars are coaching the South team, on which McCarron would have presumably been placed. It's no secret the Jaguars need a quarterback, but the decision Caldwell has to make is whether to draft a quarterback with the No. 3 overall selection or take a pass-rusher with that pick and wait until the second round or even later to draft a quarterback. If Caldwell went with the second option, McCarron was one of the quarterbacks that most likely would be available in the second round.
Being able to work with McCarron for a week would have been invaluable for Jaguars quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. McCarron's decision to skip brings into question one of the key traits that the Jaguars want in all their players: a competitive fire. It's an even more important trait in a quarterback, and McCarron's decision brings that into question.
"We want to build a competitive mindset," Bradley said in his season wrap-up news conference. "... Compete, compete, compete. I don't care about the scoreboard. We have to drive that mindset into our players. We have a standard and we're competing with that standard, and we're continuing to raise that bar."
There also are questions about whether McCarron was the beneficiary of a supremely talented supporting cast, or if he is talented enough on his own to carry a team. That could have been answered next week as well. It's not something that can be determined at the combine or during Alabama's pro day.
If the Jaguars are indeed interested in McCarron, they will investigate him completely, but there are some things you can only find out in game situations against elite competition. It's a curious decision that could end up hurting McCarron in May -- and possibly knocking him out of the Jaguars' plans.