The comeback wasn’t nearly as dramatic as that of former teammate Alex Smith, who nearly lost his leg and faced life-threatening complications from a horrifying injury in 2018. But the journey for Colt McCoy, who replaced Smith in the lineup and suffered a fractured fibula just two games after Smith was hurt, has been harrowing in its own right.
"It was obviously a really tough thing to go through," McCoy said Sunday, a few minutes after replacing an injured Daniel Jones to lead the Giants to a 19-17 win over the Bengals. "It was a lot worse than what everyone outside of me and my family knew."
Like Smith, who returned this year after missing the 2019 season and now is Washington’s starter, McCoy had severe complications after doctors initially repaired his leg. He suffered through three infections and wondered if his career might be over.
You can imagine how he must have felt Sunday after Jones went out with a hamstring injury early in the third quarter and couldn’t continue after briefly returning. Yes, McCoy already had gotten back on a football field last year, starting one game for Washington in what turned out to be a lost season. But here he was, the quarterback for a team suddenly in the thick of a playoff race and in a close game against the Bengals in a game the Giants had to win.
Mess up here, especially after a two-game winning streak had the Giants positioned to take over first place in the NFC East, and the impact might have been ruinous to their season. Particularly with the Giants having to face playoff-contending Seattle, Arizona, Cleveland and Baltimore in the coming weeks.
"I didn’t want to let our team down," said McCoy, 34, a third-round pick of the Browns in 2010 who has spent most of his career as a backup. "I’ve always got to be prepared. You never know when these situations pop up. I just wanted to go out there and secure the win for us."
He did enough to do just that.
McCoy was 6-for-10 for 31 yards and gained 7 yards on five rushes to keep the Giants’ streak alive and tie them with Washington for first place, at least until the Eagles-Seahawks game on Monday night. McCoy didn’t turn the ball over and helped lead three field-goal drives, the last of which provided the winning margin.
He also earned the praise of his coach. "I think he came in and managed the game well," Joe Judge said. "I think he made some big-time throws in some tough situations. He ran the ball tough. He’s a veteran. He has a lot of experience to draw from, but at the same time, he keeps himself as prepared as can be. He’s mentally always into it. Physically, he’s ready. I thought he got in the game today and he helped us win."
McCoy was delighted to contribute to a season that has gotten decidedly better since an 0-5 start.
"The locker room was extremely excited afterward," said McCoy, who signed with the Giants in the offseason and overtook Alex Tanney to win the backup job behind Jones. "To be here, standing here and playing a half of football, I’m excited for it."
He knows the team’s fate rests with Jones, who will return as soon as his hamstring heals. But if it’s a significant enough injury, McCoy could figure heavily into what happens.
"Hopefully, D.J. can get back healthy, but I’m going to do what I need to do to help our team, and that’s where I’ll keep my focus right now," McCoy said.
McCoy regrets overthrowing Dion Lewis on a short third-down pass that, if converted, might have led to a touchdown. And he mistakenly ran out of bounds to stop the clock to give the Bengals more time.
"You make a play like that [to Lewis] and it’s a different ballgame," he said.
On the other play, McCoy said he "tried to stay in bounds and fall. Somebody gave me a good shot and I landed out of bounds. Obviously not what you want to do there, but if I could do that again, I’d definitely stay inbounds."
Overall, no complaints. Especially after practicing all season as the scout team quarterback and never getting any first-team reps. "We’re running the other team’s plays," McCoy said. "But going against our defense every week, I think that helps me prepare."
Stay loose, Colt. The Giants might need you some more.
And maybe this comeback will become even more meaningful.