Joe Namath Praises AJ McCarron’s Success, Defends Johnny Manziel
Most of America knows him as Broadway Joe, but before he became the face of New York sports, Joe Namath was a national championship quarterback under Bear Bryant at Alabama. During his three years at the helm of the Crimson Tide, Namath led his team to a 29-4 record.
When you think about the tradition at the Capstone, you can't help but be immediately drawn to the 15 national championships and the legacies left behind by some of the game's best coaches. But what's often overlooked is how many legendary quarterbacks have worn crimson and white. Namath, along with Bart Starr and Kenny Stabler, make up three of the most recognizable names at the highest level of football.
The man that Bear Bryant once called 'the greatest athlete I ever coached' joined Tide 99.1 in Tuscaloosa on the night before the first home game of 2013 to discuss a number of topics, from playing under Bear Bryant to how much Mal Moore meant to him. But during his conversation on 'The Game', he gave high praise to senior AJ McCarron.
"As a quarterback, he's been excellent, no doubt," Namath said. "He's better than anything I ever did here. He's played in more big games. I mean, my goodness. There aren't many quarterbacks or many ballplayers that have had the opportunity and excelled with the kind of challenges that he's had here at the University."
Coming from a man with his credentials, that statement speaks volumes. Namath continued on, shifting his praise to what McCarron's meant to the team inside the locker room.
"AJ carries himself beautifully around his teammates, on and off the field. He's a tremendous leader, and he respects the guidance that's he's getting from Coach Saban and his staff.
"Just like football, life's a team game. AJ will be the first one to tell you that this football team, the team's that he's been on, he does his part. He wouldn't do as well if it wasn't for the guys around him to. So I respect that a great deal. It makes good sense. He's a level-headed man and he's going to be successful in that big game of life - just as successful as he's been as a college quarterback."
Namath was never shy to admit that he enjoyed himself away from the game almost as much as he did while he was under center. In fact, Bear Bryant had to suspend his star quarterback for the final game of his junior season after he admitted having a few sips of alcohol one night.
The gallivanting Namath might have had a different career under the magnified spotlight of today's social media. Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's offseason immediately comes to mind when making a present-day comparison. Manziel's been judged and criticized as harshly as any quarterback in the modern era, but Namath came to his defense on Friday night.
"When you have a player like Johnny Manziel, you're lucky to have him on the team. Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, the ballplayers know them. They know what they're about. The other ballplayers aren't reading the newspapers, aren't listening to the TV commentators, or even us when we're talking on the radio."
Namath explained the situation from a perspective that few have. He was under one of the most intense spotlights during his time in New York City. The media attention on his personal life would rival some of the biggest stars of today, but he talked about how teammates wouldn't pay it any attention because they new the true person.
"(The players) know what's happening," Namath explained. "I'm a player, I know my team better than anyone else outside of this locker room, you see? So why should I listen to what's going on out there?"
Spoken like a man that did things his own way. And did them well.
Listen to the entire interview below: