Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates their win against Washington in...

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates their win against Washington in the national championship game last January. Credit: David J. Phillip

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jim Harbaugh is here at the NFL’s annual meeting as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, but for just a little while longer the rest of the league will still see him – in part at least – as the head coach of Michigan.

That’s especially true when it comes to J.J. McCarthy, the player who helped him win this past season’s national championship and is squarely in the sights of some quarterback-hungry teams in next month’s draft including, perhaps, the Giants.

“You hear coaches and GMs come up to me and say ‘Hey, great job with J.J.,’” Harbaugh said on Monday morning at the AFC coaches’ breakfast. “Like I predicted, once they were around him, I was hearing the stories about how he is on the board, how he is on the field, the little things, the intangibles. It was absolutely no surprise whatsoever, but there was raving. It was great to hear, incredible to hear, and I know it was sincere. It was unsolicited. But there were numerous, numerous GMs, numerous head coaches, who couldn’t say enough good things.”

And, presumably, trying to pick Harbaugh’s brain for every grain of data they can mine on McCarthy.

Harbaugh did offer this personality profile on his protégé to reporters when asked how he thought McCarthy might handle all the pressures and pitfalls that can come from playing a major media market such as, say, New York:

“He is like the perfect blend of Jim McCarthy and Megan McCarthy,” Harbaugh said of the quarterback’s parents. “Jim McCarthy, great gift of personality and empathy and competitiveness and just bigger than life. And then there is Megan. She is quiet but a stone-cold killer. If somebody were to do something to the family you would see a tiger. And that’s J.J.

“It doesn’t matter,” he continued. “They could be adulating him – ‘J.J! We love J.J!’ – or if he’s being booed or being hit, and this killer comes out. Whether it’s good, whether it’s bad, he has an extra gear, especially when he is challenged. And you also see the big personality and the do-anything-for-another-guy-on-the-team or a small kid who walks up to him. My son Jack feels like J.J. is one of his really good friends. He’s incredible. Big market, small market. Cold weather, hot weather. It won’t matter.”

Harbaugh does have some incentive to pump up McCarthy to other teams. His Chargers have the fifth overall pick. If the first four picks in the draft are all quarterbacks – a position the Chargers don’t need to address with Justin Herbert on their roster – then, as even he noted, the Chargers would essentially have the first choice of all other position players.

“I think he’s the best quarterback in the draft,” Harbaugh said. “That’s just what I think, just my opinion. He’s the one who plays quarterback of all the quarterbacks in the draft. There are great quarterbacks in the draft, but I think he plays quarterback the best of any quarterback in the draft.”

McCarthy’s stats and accolades aren’t as flashy as some of the others, including the past two Heisman Trophy winners in LSU's Jayden Daniels and USC's Caleb Williams. But Harbaugh noted that McCarthy does have another edge on them in one very significant area.

“It’s still important, right, the winning?” he asked. “The most important thing. It speaks for itself. J.J. is a winner.”

Very little of Harbaugh’s hype seems fabricated toward increasing the value of a Chargers pick, though. McCarthy’s pro day in Ann Arbor last week certainly seemed to back up Harbaugh’s boasts. Interestingly, Giants general manager Joe Schoen was not at the workout and assistant general manager Brandon Brown led the team’s contingent there, but McCarthy had already visited the Giants’ facility a few days earlier for a Top-30 individual visit and workout.

“The workout J.J. had? I’ve been to a lot of pro day workouts and watched quarterbacks throw,” Harbaugh said. “That was the best I have ever seen a quarterback do at a pro day. Not only were his feet great in the individual drills, but then he started throwing and it was like every throw was right there… That was the best throwing day I have ever seen.”

And if you believe Harbaugh, there are others around the league with fewer personal ties to McCarthy who thought so, too. It also could mean that if McCarthy is the target of the Giants, they may have to move up slightly from their sixth overall pick to get him.

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