The Philadelphia Eagles added to their quarterback room over the weekend by luring Josh McCown out of retirement to potentially serve as Carson Wentz’s primary backup.
In an attempt to better get to know McCown, I thought it’d benefit BGN readers to get a Jets perspective on him since he spent his last two seasons in New Jersey. In order to do that, I reached out to Michael Nania of Gang Green Nation. Here’s what he had to say.
1) Can you summarize his stint with the Jets?
McCown was brought in prior to 2017 mainly with the expectation to compete with/mentor Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. The team was surely hoping that one of their two recent draft picks (especially Hackenberg) could take a leap and earn the starting job, with McCown there to hold the clipboard, but it didn’t happen.
McCown was easily the best quarterback throughout camp, and nothing happened in preseason to change his status as the clear-cut starter. If McCown ever hit rock bottom in the regular season, the team would probably consider switching, but Hackenberg and Petty struggled so much that it seemed McCown was almost as locked into the starting role as any other veteran in the league.
The Jets got off to an ugly start over the first two games in 2017, but then McCown started finding his stride. Out of nowhere, he became one of the best deep passers in the NFL. His touch and arm strength on go routes suddenly became insanely good. He was connecting with Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse for deep strikes down the sideline weekly.
On the whole, McCown began to play efficient football, keeping the turnovers down and the chains moving, and the Jets became surprisingly competitive. They even won three games in a row to reach 3-2, but they faltered afterward.
Overall, McCown threw for 225 yards per game in 2017 with 18 touchdowns (career best) and 9 interceptions. He averaged 7.4 yards per attempt and posted a 94.5 passer rating, ranking 13th and 11th in those two categories. The Jets went 5-7 in games he played fully, averaging 22.2 points per game, and 0-4 in the games he did not play fully, averaging 8.0 points per game.
He still had his McCown moments, with some boneheaded decisions late in games, but overall, he was a very average NFL quarterback in 2017, leading a team with zero expectations to a competitive season.
Going into 2018, the Jets brought back McCown to compete with Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater. McCown was going to be just as involved in the competition as he was the prior season, with every chance to earn the job if he deserved it. If not, he was more than willing to be there as a mentor for Sam. Based on his 2017 performance, it also seemed he would be a high-level backup.
This time, the Jets saw what they wanted to see as their young quarterback won the three-way battle. Bridgewater was traded and McCown became the backup.
McCown replaced an injured Darnold over a three-game midseason stretch and struggled, as the Jets went 0-3. However, his presence was constantly praised by Darnold and the staff. Darnold came back from his three-game absence and played tremendously to finish the year. He gave McCown a ton of credit, saying he learned a lot from getting the chance to sit back and watch the veteran for a few weeks (even though he played terribly).
2) Do you think the 40-year-old still has any gas left in the tank? I noticed his 2018 stats weren’t great (1 TD, 4 INT, 55.8 passer rating).
McCown was pretty awful last year. The numbers you brought up very fairly summarize his performance, as he simply could not get anything done. His accuracy was off, and his poise/decision-making was rookie-esque. The team went 0-3 in his starts while the offense averaged 13.3 points per game. Basically, his impact was the opposite of what it was in 2017.
If McCown continues to play the way he did in 2018, the answer would be no, he doesn’t have anything left. However, based on his career trajectory, we shouldn’t write off McCown just yet. That regression probably should have been expected, and history tells us we could see McCown play solidly in 2019 if he does hit the field.
McCown has been alternating between good and bad seasons each year since 2013. That year, he had an absurdly good half-season for the Bears, posting a 109.0 passer rating over eight games and going 3-2 in five starts. After that, he signed with the Buccaneers and had a brutal 2014 in which he went 1-11 as a starter.
Then, McCown went to the Browns, where he had a good 2015 season in which he threw 12 TDs and 4 INTs with a passer rating of 93.3. In 2016, his second season with the Browns, McCown’s passer rating dipped to 72.0.
After that, McCown came to the Jets and had a career season in 2017. The next year, he bombed.
If the odd trend continues, the Eagles could have themselves yet another quality backup quarterback in 2019.
3) What are his strengths?
The top positive that comes with McCown is his leadership presence. Coaches and players could not stop talking about how much they loved “Uncle Josh” while he was with the team. In particular, Sam Darnold’s glowing reviews spoke volumes.
On the field, the greatest weapon McCown showcased as a Jet was his deep ball in 2017. As mentioned earlier, McCown randomly became a monster deep passer that season, making vertical routes look easy on a weekly basis. That ability disappeared in 2018, but when McCown had it going in 2017, it was a beautiful thing to watch.
He’s not a major rushing threat (8.0 YPG over last three seasons), but he showed a nose for the end zone in 2017, scoring five rushing touchdowns that year.
4) What are his weaknesses?
As is the case with most journeymen, turnovers are a big issue with McCown.
In his good seasons, McCown has kept the turnovers down, and in turn, played good football. In 2013, 2015, and 2017, McCown threw 14 interceptions on 913 passes, a very good rate of 1.5%. But in his bad seasons, McCown has been a turnover machine. Over his career outside of those three seasons, McCown has thrown 65 interceptions on 1,715 passes, a brutal rate of 3.8%.
Fumbles are also a major issue. While he did not lose any in 2018, McCown really struggled to hold on to the ball over his previous few seasons. From 2014-17, McCown lost 18 fumbles in 37 games. That puts him on pace for nearly 8 lost fumbles per 16 games, which would lead the league almost any year.
5) Anything to know about him off the field?
As I’ve mentioned a few times already, McCown is a beloved teammate off the field. He was consistently praised by teammates and coaches for the positive effect he has on the rest of his offense, especially the younger quarterbacks. He is a very professional player who handles interviews extremely well and doles out lots of credit to his teammates. On gameday, he is one of the more visibly passionate quarterbacks in the league. As a commander of the huddle/team, his leadership style seems to be very much on the “vocal” side of the spectrum.
Based on everything we hear about him, few players are better than McCown on the sidelines and in the locker room.
Here are some additional notes on McCown:
Josh McCown is only the second ever Eagles QB to wear No. 18.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) August 17, 2019
Roman Gabriel was the first.https://t.co/fQ7eTeVi8p
Josh McCown was asked on ESPN if he could have one receiver to throw to with the game on the line, who would it be?— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) June 20, 2019
He said Alshon Jeffery. #Eagles
Josh McCown had 224 pass attempts in the 8 Bears games he played in back in 2013.— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) August 18, 2019
Alshon Jeffery’s combined stats with McCown throwing to him:
59 targets, 39 recs, 648 yards, 16.6 average, 4 TD#Eagles
Alshon Jeffery having fun with his new Eagles teammate, former Bears teammate Josh McCown— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) August 18, 2019
“They’re getting a great player, but a great human being, a great leader, an all-around great guy”#Eagles
Fun fact: Josh McCown is only two years younger than Donovan McNabb.— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) August 17, 2019