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Josh McCown retires after 17 seasons as an NFL journeyman quarterback

Jets quarterback Josh McCown drops back during pregame

Jets quarterback Josh McCown drops back during pregame warmups at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 23, 2018. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Josh McCown, whose long, winding road through the NFL ended with two seasons as a Jet – including a surprise, late-career breakout of sorts in 2017 – announced his retirement on Monday.

The quarterback, who turns 40 on July 4, was among the most well-connected, widely-respected players in the league, one reason that last year the Jets signed him to serve in effect as an unofficial assistant coach and mentor for rookie Sam Darnold.

The decision did not come as a surprise, but it came in the form of a heartfelt essay for “The Players' Tribune,” in which McCown recalled his small-town East Texas roots and a career that began with visions of being an Arizona Cardinal for life and evolved far differently.

“So if you would have told me back then that I would go on to play for 10 different NFL teams over the next 17 years, I would have said, ‘Shoot, 17 years? I’ll take it,’ ” he wrote. “But 10 different teams? No way . . ."

He added, “I guess it just goes to show that you don’t always get to choose your own path. But looking back, I’m proud of how my career has gone. I don’t shy away from the journeyman label. I embrace it, full force. Because it’s been one heck of a journey.”

McCown also played for the Hartford Colonials of the UFL in 2010.

In the essay he thanked his wife, Natalie, calling her “Superwoman,” his four children and other relatives and friends, then he singled out his high school quarterbacks coach, Matt Turner, for pushing him hard to improve.

McCown said he plans to help coach his two sons, who are high school quarterbacks in Texas. His younger brother Luke was an NFL quarterback as well.

ESPN later tweeted that McCown will join the network as an NFL studio analyst, making his debut Wednesday on "NFL Live."

After playing at both SMU and Sam Houston State, McCown was drafted in the third round by the Cardinals in 2002, and he spent four seasons there. In 2004, he beat the Giants and Kurt Warner in the final game before Eli Manning took over as the Giants’ starting quarterback.

The Jets signed him to a one-year deal in 2017. He started the season ahead of Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, then performed so well he lasted 13 games before suffering a season-ending broken hand.

He finished with career highs in passing yards (2,296), touchdown passes (18) and rushing touchdowns (five).

There was little chance McCown would start in 2018 after Darnold was drafted third overall, but the Jets signed him to a one-year, $10 million deal to help the quarterback of the present and future learn the NFL ropes. McCown ended up starting three games in place of the injured rookie.

McCown finished his career with 17,707 passing yards, 98 touchdowns and 82 interceptions.

“At the end of the day, no matter what team I was on, I tried to serve it to the best of my ability, and I tried to influence my team in a positive manner,” he wrote. “I hope I did that. And I made sure that when my number was called, I was prepared, and I gave it everything I had, every time. I may not have turned out to be the franchise quarterback I set out to be back at Cardinals rookie camp, but I’m extremely proud of the career I had.”

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