A.J. McCarron #10 of the St. Louis Battlehawks prepares to throw a pass against the San Antonio Brahamas at the Alamodome
Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

A.J. McCarron's XFL Tenure Could Relaunch His NFL Career

The new and improved XFL got off to a hot start on opening weekend. With new people in charge of the league — including Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and CEO Dany Garcia — the XFL had a complete makeover with a new logo, a uniform deal with Under Armor and media deals with Disney (ESPN). And those are just a few things in the list of investments and deals the league has signed and put into place to provide a quality spring football league. This league is never going to touch the NFL; but with its rule tweaks, in-game interviews and commentary about betting lines, the league has a lot of potential to cure football fans' post-Super Bowl hangover. It has also given football fans the glory of experiencing A.J. McCarron's XFL debut with the St. Louis Battlehawks.

And while this is viewed as a "Spring League," it is also being viewed as a "Developmental League" or "Second Chance League." What that means to the journeymen of the NFL — those who have been in the NFL for a while or players who are a year or two removed from college and have been on an NFL practice squad — is that they can use this league to not only develop their skills but to show them off. And with the XFL releasing every player at the end of each season to pursue the NFL, this is going to make things a lot more interesting come training camp time.

The Former Alabama Star and NFL Backup

AJ McCarron #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide passes against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In his college career, McCarron, who attended the University of Alabama, threw for over 9,000 yards while completing 67% of his passes and throwing 77 touchdowns to just 15 interceptions. McCarron would finish his historic career at Alabama with two straight BCS National Championships, winning the 2013 Maxwell Award and Johnny Unitas Award, and being named named First-team All-American.

Heading into the 2014 NFL Draft, there were question marks and a lot of speculation surrounding McCarron as NFL GMs and coaches pondered if he was the real deal or was more of the type to become a backup quarterback. These uncertainties would lead to McCarron falling in the draft and being taken in Round Five, as the Cincinnati Bengals selected him with the 164th pick.

McCarron would not see any real action until year two of his NFL career, where he made his first appearance in a relief effort of a 31-10 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week Nine. McCarron would play his first real NFL action following an injury to Andy Dalton in the first quarter against the Steelers, a game the Bengals would go on to lose but McCarron would finish with 280 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. McCarron would start the rest of the 2015 season, including their Wild Card loss to the Steelers, ending the year with 854 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions.

McCarron would appear in just four games in 2016 and 2017; and after filing and winning a labor grievance against the Bengals, he became a free agent. He then signed with the Buffalo Bills, who would then later trade him to the Oakland Raiders. McCarron would then spend the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Houston Texans before joining the Atlanta Falcons in 2021. Unfortunately, McCarron would suffer a torn ACL in Week Two of the preseason, putting him on the injured reserve list and, for now, putting his NFL career on hold.

McCarron's New Life in the XFL

Fast forward to the opening weekend of the 2023 XFL season, and McCarron is back under center as QB1 of the St. Louis Battlehawks. And McCarron wasted no time taking advantage of this new opportunity, going 18-of-26 and finishing with 190 yards and two touchdowns. But those two touchdowns came in clutch time as McCarron and the Battlehawks scored twice in less than two minutes to seal their comeback victory against the San Antonio Brahmas.

Injuries have put a damper on McCarron's NFL career, but in the few games he has appeared in, he has not been bad. At the age of 32, is McCarron someone whom teams will pick up to be QB1? Most likely not. But that does not mean he does not have what it takes to be an experienced backup in the NFL and provide his leadership in the locker room. McCarron has been a winner for most of his football-playing career — and so far, he is doing everything he can to land himself back into one of the NFL's 32 franchises.

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