FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
As Josh McCown walked onto the practice field late Monday morning, he took a moment to savor the opportunity he could only dream of when he made it to the NFL in 2002.
“I always had a goal of playing 15 years,” McCown said at his locker after practice. “I didn’t write down a whole lot of things, but that was one of the things, for whatever reason.”
On Sunday at Buffalo, McCown will be a starting NFL quarterback heading into his 15th season. It has been a meandering and at times quixotic journey for the 38-year-old, and even getting this far with the Jets has been marked with uncertainty.
But here he is, one of the NFL’s 32 Week 1 starting quarterbacks.
His eyes reddened and glistened when discussing his good fortune.
“To be sitting here at this time, with the opportunity to start, especially looking back through the twists and turns of my career and spending a year out [2010, United Football League], it’s a little surprising,” McCown said. “But there’s some things in life, you live long enough — older people say this all the time — you live long enough, nothing surprises you. You play long enough, nothing surprises you. I’m glad to be here.”
Anything’s possible, yes. But for McCown to be the only surviving quarterback from the entire 2002 draft? And to have earned another chance to start at an age when all but a few quarterbacks — and mostly only the great ones — could even dream of being a first-stringer? Well, that’s pretty special, even if he’s running an offense that on paper is arguably the NFL’s worst after the Jets decided to get younger at almost every position. Every position except McCown’s.
He has been the most reliable of the Jets’ three quarterbacks, holding off Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty in an open competition. And while he’s considered a hold-the-fort type who ultimately will give way to a younger quarterback — whether he’s currently on the roster or among a handful of blue-chip college prospects — McCown still is grateful.
“I was watching the ‘E:60’ thing with the Carr brothers and David was in my draft class, and I was just thinking that, ‘Man, there’s not anybody left of our class,’ ” said McCown, a third-round pick of the Cardinals out of Sam Houston State. “I try to tell the young guys all the time you just don’t know. You never know how your story can unfold. It’s really about finding what it takes for you to be successful. It’s crazy to sit here and think that out of all those talented guys I had coming out with me that I’m the last one standing.”
Carr was the first overall pick for expansion Houston in 2002. Among the other quarterbacks taken that year: Joey Harrington (Lions), Patrick Ramsey (Redskins), David Garrard (Jaguars) and Rohan Davey (Patriots). Only one other player besides McCown is left from that draft class: Julius Peppers, the Panthers’ No. 2 overall pick, back in Carolina after spending time in Chicago and Green Bay.
McCown, a backup most of his career, is with his eighth NFL team. While nowhere near the best quarterback to ever make it to the pros, he’s certainly among the most resourceful. You’ll also find few better locker-room leaders than McCown, who hopes to be an NFL or college coach in the not too distant future.
For now, though, it’s all about appreciating the moment. And he does.
“It’s such a privilege to play in this league, period,” he said. “But just to be at this point in a career and be one of 32 guys that gets to be an opening day starter is really special. And so, you go through this week, every minute counts and you make the most of it. And so I am very, very thankful to be part of this and to be on this team and have an opportunity to be going out there Sunday for another opening day and look forward to taking it all in. But at the same time, just making the most of it, having fun and winning that ballgame.”
Fifteen quarterbacks were selected in the 2002 NFL Draft. Josh McCown is the only one still playing in the NFL.
Name School Round Overall Team
David Carr Fresno State 1 1Houston
Joey Harrington Oregon13Detroit
Patrick Ramsey Tulane132Washington
Josh McCown Sam Houston State381Arizona
David Garrard East Carolina4 108Jacksonville
Rohan Davey LSU4 117New England
Randy Fasani Stanford5 137Carolina
Kurt Kittner Illinois5 158Atlanta
Brandon Doman BYU5 163San Francisco
Craig Nall Northwestern State5 164Green Bay
J.T. O’Sullivan UC Davis6 186New Orleans
Seth Burford Cal Poly7 216Los Angeles
Jeff Kelly Southern Miss7 232Seattle
Ronald Curry North Carolina7 235Oakland
Wes Pate Stephen F. Austin7 236Baltimore