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.

QBs Picked Before Tom Brady In 2000 NFL Draft


No. 18, New York Jets: Chad Pennington, Marshall

Injuries crippled Pennington's potential. He took the starting job from Vinny Testaverde five games into the 2002 season and helped the Jets win the AFC East at 9-7. He dealt with injuries for the next three seasons before starting 16 games and winning Comeback Player of the Year in 2006. Another injury-laden season in 2007 meant his departure from the Jets. In 2008, Pennington led the Dolphins to the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and finished second to Peyton Manning in MVP voting. Shoulder injuries ended his career in 2011.


No. 65, San Francisco 49ers: Giovanni Carmazzi, Hofstra

Carmazzi never played in an NFL regular-season game. Instead, it was seventh-round pick, Tim Rattay, who stayed with the 49ers long term. Carmazzi stuck around with 49ers for two years until Rattay took the back-up job from him. Carmazzi tried NFL Europe, playing with the Rhein Fire in 2001. He also spent time with the BC Lions and Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League before calling it quits.


No. 75, Baltimore Ravens: Chris Redman, Louisville

Redman, who broke a few NCAA records for completions, went to the Ravens in the third round. He backed up Trent Dilfer and Tony Banks on the 2001 Ravens Super Bowl team. He started just six games in four years with Baltimore.


No. 75, Baltimore Ravens: Chris Redman, Louisville

After a year each with the Patriots and Titans, Redman fell out of the league temporarily. He signed with the Allen Wranglers of the Arena Football League in 2007 before heading to the Atlanta Falcons that year. He started six games in five seasons with the Falcons before retiring in 2012.


No. 163, Pittsburgh Steelers: Tee Martin, Tennessee

After winning a national title at Tennessee, Martin played one game for the Steelers in 2001, and eventually left for the Rhein Fire in 2002. He led the Fire to 7-3 record in 2002 and fell in the World Bowl. He spent the next few years trying to find a roster spot with the Philadelphia Eagles (2002) and Oakland Raiders (2003). Martin ended his career with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL.


No. 168, New Orleans Saints: Marc Bulger, West Virginia

Bulger was waived after training camp and spent no time with the Saints in 2000. He tried to make the Falcons roster that year, but ended up on the practice squad. He spent time on the Rams practice squad late in 2000 and was re-signed in 2001.


No. 168, New Orleans Saints: Marc Bulger, West Virginia

He spent 2001 backing up Kurt Warner, but led the Rams to a 6-0 record filling in for Warner in 2002. He took the starting job in 2003 and led the Rams to the playoffs. He became the quickest NFL quarterback to 1,000 completions in 2006. He earned two Pro Bowl appearances in 10 seasons with the Rams. He retired after one season, 2011, with the Ravens, serving as Joe Flacco's backup and never played a regular-season down.


No. 183, Cleveland Browns: Spurgen Wynn, Southwest Texas State

Wynn made the Browns roster in 2000 and played in seven games. His lone start came in a 48-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. After the season, the Browns sent him to Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe.


No. 183, Cleveland Browns: Spurgen Wynn, Southwest Texas State

He was traded to the Minnesota Vikings in 2001 and started two games that season before heading to the CFL in 2002. He spent time with the BC Lions, Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts, where he ended his career in 2006.


No. 199, New England Patriots: Tom Brady, Michigan

In a book about Brady, author Matt Doeden writes: "Mel Kiper Jr. ... dismissed Tom's potential, saying he didn't have the total package of skills.'"


No. 199, New England Patriots: Tom Brady, Michigan

According to New York Daily News NFL columnist Gary Myers, the Jets had a scout who wanted to draft Brady in the sixth round at No. 179. But since the team had already invested a first-round pick in Pennington, Bill Parcells opted for North Carolina State defensive back Tony Scott.

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"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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