A.J. McCarron

This Sunday, A.J. McCarron will take the field in relief of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, hoping to perform at least well enough to preserve Cincinnati's potential first-round bye in the playoffs. McCarron filled in for Dalton after the starter broke his thumb in a loss to the Steelers, but other than that, the former Alabama QB is stepping into a situation he's never even sniffed before last week.

Are you worried, Bengals fans? Don't be. McCarron has seen this movie before, and he knows how it ends.

"You've got to love pressured moments. That's what makes you great," McCarron said after the game Sunday. "That's when the great ones really shine.

I guess Tom Brady was in this same situation when he had the opportunity, so I've got to make the most of it."

That's right. Where Cincinnati's fans are hoping their season doesn't fall apart on the throwing arm of a second-year backup, McCarron sees his chance to become one of the all-time greats. McCarron is so dedicated to the Tom Brady rags-to-riches narrative that you can't help but wonder if he didn't do a Tonya Harding to Dalton's throwing thumb, whacking it with a tiny little mallet as he came off the field.

"I wasn't comparing myself to one of the greats of all-time. Whoever took that out is ridiculous," McCarron said Monday on the Bengals' team website. "What I'm saying is Tom Brady was in the same team situation when (Drew) Bledsoe went out. We have a great team, he had a great team. That's what I put forth on that talking about what he made of his opportunity."

Fair enough, A.J. But if the only criteria here is singling out backups who filled in for starters on good teams, you have a lot of other options to choose from, all of them more suited to your situation than Brady. You might compare yourself to Landry Jones. Or Brock Osweiler. The point is, backups fill in for starters all the time. That's their job. Only one of them became Tom Brady.

Forget the comparisons. For now, McCarron should simply focus on trying to win an NFL game. That's something no Alabama quarterback has done since 1987, when Jeff Rutledge quarterbacked the Giants to a 20-17 win over the Eagles.

Greg McElroy did win a game for the Jets in 2012, but he did so in relief of the injured Mark Sanchez. Once McCarron proves he can buck history, we'll revisit this notion that he's on the cusp of making history.

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