Jim Naveau: Who will be winner in McCord entering portal?

The last time before this year Ohio State’s quarterback wasn’t the first-team All-Big Ten quarterback was 2015.

C.J. Stroud (2022, 2021), Justin Fields (2020, 2019) and Dwayne Haskins (2018) were Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. J.T. Barrett was first-team All-Big Ten twice (2017, 2016).

Kyle McCord, now the former Ohio State quarterback who had to follow that era of excellence, was like the kid whose four older brothers were all valedictorians, and people just assumed he was going to reach that same standard.

Ohio State fans kept expecting him to do more because the guys right before him had. But it doesn’t work that way.

Even though he wasn’t a fan favorite, McCord’s decision to enter the transfer portal on Monday was a shocker.

Based on his statistics, it was a shocker. Ohio State went 11-1 in the regular season with him as the starter. He passed for 3,170 yards and 24 touchdowns. He threw only six interceptions, and his interception rate of 1 every 58 passes wasn’t that far off Fields’ 1 every 64 passes or Stroud’s 1 every 69 passes.

Based on the fact the only thing that dislodged Stroud, Fields and Haskins from the starting quarterback’s role at Ohio State was the chance to be a first-round NFL draft choice, it was a shocker.

Viewed from the perspective of a day later, Ryan Day’s reluctance to say in a press conference on Sunday that McCord would be his starting quarterback next season and his refusal to rule out taking more of a look at OSU’s other quarterbacks, Devin Brown and Lincoln Kienholz, during practices for the Cotton Bowl, told you something probably was up.

Either Day walked into the press conference knowing McCord was going to enter the portal on Monday, or he’d told McCord he needed to improve and his backups would have more opportunities to practice with the first-team offense or something like that.

Another comparison that comes to mind is that McCord played at a Cade McNamara level, which is not a knock on McCord or McNamara, who passed for 2,576 yards, won a Big Ten championship and beat Ohio State in his one season as Michigan’s starter. But there was no J.J. McCarthy-level quarterback waiting in the wings on Ohio State’s roster this year to replace McCord as the starter or win the job from day one of preseason practice.

Brown, a freshman, played in five games this season, completed 12 of 22 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns and showed some running ability. Kienholz, also a freshman, played in two games and hit 4 of 5 passes for 25 yards.

Ohio State will undoubtedly look to add another quarterback from the transfer portal. And McCord will end up in a good program in a Power 5 conference.

OSU running back TreVeyon Henderson defended McCord on social media Monday morning and indicated an ankle injury McCord suffered against Notre Dame lingered the rest of the season. “No one could ever question your toughness and your willing to give it your all for this team,” Henderson said on X (formerly known as Twitter).

If the ankle injury limited McCord’s mobility or meant he didn’t have a solid base when he set up to throw, he could be better next season wherever he plays.

Whether Ohio State will be better with someone else playing quarterback is a question that won’t be answered until next season.

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.