Josh McCown has been here before. He’s the starting quarterback for an NFL team, playing a position that eventually will belong to somebody else.
McCown, 38, knows that Sam Darnold is the Jets’ quarterback of the future and his job is to make it hard for the first-round draft pick to wrest that job in the present.
“I think you just want to go out there and continue to do that,” McCown said Thursday. “So you absolutely view yourself as the starter. I understand the dynamics of why Sam was drafted and I respect that and at some point there’s going to be time for him to step in there, whenever the case may be.”
McCown provided the stability the Jets needed last season while they searched for a new quarterback. McCown had one of his best seasons in 2017, setting career highs in completions (267), completion percentage (67.3), touchdowns (18) and passing yards (2,926). It resulted in only five wins and McCown’s season ended after 13 games when he suffered a broken hand in Denver.
After the season, McCown met with his family and thought about retiring but his kids pushed him to play another season, which will be his 16th. McCown wanted to remain with the Jets because of the strong relationship he had in the locker room, with coach Todd Bowles and new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.
“That’s it, it’s a year-to-year thing at my age and at my kids’ ages,” he said. “My boys being in high school soon it’s about keeping those things in perspective and the dynamic of our family. How all that is working is the most important thing.”
In the offseason, the Jets tried to sign Kirk Cousins in free agency, even offering a larger financial package than what their nearest competitors, the Vikings, did. But Cousins signed a three-year, $84-million deal with the Vikings and the Jets quickly moved on to sign McCown for one-year totalling $10 million. The Jets also signed Teddy Bridgewater, a 25-year old former Pro Bowler coming off a severe knee injury.
McCown’s career is filled with people trying to replace him since he entered the league in 2002 as a third-round pick by Arizona.
After being the primary starter in 2004, he was replaced by Kurt Warner the following season. In 2008 he signed with Miami to become the starter, only to get traded before the start of the season because the Dolphins signed Chad Pennington. In 2013 he replaced an injured Jay Cutler in Chicago as the Bears went on a playoff run. But ultimately the Bears, as expected, went with Cutler long-term,.
After earning the starting job in Tampa Bay in 2014, McCown struggled and was replaced by Shaun King. McCown’s career even got him to Cleveland but a shoulder injury cost him the starting job in 2016 and he was replaced by rookie Cody Kessler.
McCown was out of the NFL for a year in 2010, playing in the United Football League.
“I think for me, ever since I was out of the league and I got back in, once you go through that feeling of being out of the league, you really kinda had a different mindset,” McCown said. “Coming back in, its always taking it year-to-year and even breaking it down day-to-day and you appreciate every moment. You never know when it’s going to be done.”
As he enters the final stages of his career, McCown isn’t fearful of losing a starting job that one day will belong to Darnold. And with the addition of Bridgewater, McCown isn’t guaranteed the starting job this season.
McCown never has played scared or discounted his abilities. He knows this could be his last chance as a starting quarterback, no matter how fleeting it may seem. McCown said he has enjoyed teaming with Bridgewater and Darnold during the offseason workouts. He said the two younger players have pushed him to become better. It’s something that he’s embraced.
“Heck yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to be,” McCown said of the competition. “I think that’s healthy, that’s the idea, that’s what I mean. This group can make it competitive and if we can bring Sam along quickly and get him going and Teddy gets back to where he needs to be and hopefully I can build on what I did last year, for us, if we compete, that’s helpful for everybody.”
A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
Josh McCown’s career setbacks:
2005 Cardinals signed Kurt Warner to replace 2004 starter McCown, who remained with the team as Warner’s backup.
2008 Dolphins signed McCown to be their starter, then signed Chad Pennington and traded McCown to Browns.
2013 Bears: Athough he performed well during the absence of injured Jay Cutler, the starting job reverted to Cutler upon his return.
2014 Buccaneers made him their starting QB, only to bench him for Shaun King. McCown did regain the starting job, though.
2016 Browns: McCown, who won the starting job, suffered a shoulder injury and was replaced by rookie Cody Kessler.
2017 Jets: Though he performed well until injured, the team signed Teddy Bridgewater as a free agent and then took USC’s Sam Darnold with the third pick in the NFL draft.