McCown eyes Jets’ starting gig, relishes role of mentor
NEW YORK (AP) Josh McCown has every intention of being the New York Jets’ starting quarterback this season.
Whether that means 16 games, eight or just one, the 37-year-old veteran believes he can still be plenty productive. But if McCown ends up being the backup – and an invaluable mentor – to either Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty, he’s OK with that, too.
”It’s a full competition between the three of us,” McCown said Wednesday during a conference call, his first chat with reporters since signing a one-year, $6 million deal with the Jets in March.
”I think for us, all three of us will approach it as kind of being the guy,” he added. ”I think that’s good for our team.”
McCown knows the reality of the situation: He’s not the future of the franchise. Not a guy who turns 38 on July 4. And, not with two youngsters on the roster in Hackenberg and Petty.
General manager Mike Maccagnan used a second-round pick on Hackenberg last year, and the former Penn State starter spent his rookie season under wraps while never seeing the field in a regular-season game. If he can take the next step in his development, he could end up under center in Week 1 – and perhaps beyond.
If not, it could be Petty, a 2015 fourth-rounder from Baylor who started four games last season before hurting his left (non-throwing) shoulder in Week 16.
And, then, there’s McCown, who is considered, right now, the likely opening-day starter.
The Jets opted to not re-sign Ryan Fitzpatrick or Geno Smith, and signed McCown to be what amounts to a place-holder or bridge – a quarterback with tons of experience who could be an influence on the developing players.
”If that is the case and I’m the guy, then (I’ll) play the position as well as I can until that changes,” McCown said. ”Obviously, as a competitor you don’t expect that to change. You don’t want that to change, because I plan to go out there and play well.”
McCown comes across as a genuine team-first guy with a low-key and level-headed demeanor that makes it easy to see why so many teammates, former teammates and coaches have raved about him over the years. It’s also one of the reasons he has been with 10 NFL teams in his career, despite statistics on the field that aren’t exactly eye-popping.
He has thrown 79 TD passes and 69 interceptions in parts of 14 seasons mostly as a backup with Arizona – which drafted him in the third round out of Sam Houston State in 2002 – Detroit, Oakland, Carolina, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Cleveland. He has also spent time with Miami and San Francisco.
McCown started 11 games over the last two seasons with quarterback-starved Cleveland, going 1-10 in that span, after starting 11 games with Tampa Bay in 2014. He threw 29 touchdowns and 24 interceptions during those three seasons.
”Yeah, I don’t like those numbers, either,” he acknowledged. ”You never want to go through those times, obviously, but they were good experiences because you learned.”
The humble perspective comes from a wealth of experience: He has started, been a backup and been out of the league, played in the United Football League, and even coached a high school team while waiting for his next NFL opportunity.
”He’s a great dude, great leader,” guard Brian Winters said. ”He came in and took leadership right away. Every team he’s been on has nothing but great things to say about him. I’m excited to work with him.”
In the offseason, McCown garnered interest from several teams, and he visited with the Dallas Cowboys. During that time, newly hired Jets quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, whom McCown knew from their days together with the Bears, reached out to him.
McCown came to New Jersey, sat down with the Jets – and decided they were the right fit. With the Cowboys, he’d be a certain backup. With the Jets, he’d have a great opportunity to start again.
”For us, it checked a lot of boxes,” McCown said, ”and made sense for the situation that we were looking for.”
The offense that new coordinator John Morton will use with the Jets is similar, McCown said, to the one the quarterback worked with in Chicago. He had perhaps his best season in 2013, when he threw for 1,829 yards with 13 touchdowns and just one interception, and had a 109.0 quarterback while filling in for the injured Jay Cutler.
”It’s familiar concepts and things that I’ve done before,” McCown said. ”As football hits my brain and how I see the game, sometimes you just line up with people who see it similar. I think, for me, that’s what I’m excited about, the concepts and things we’re going to do are things that I’ve had success with in the past and things I get excited about moving forward.”
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