McCown, who turns 40 on July 4, spent the last two seasons with the New York Jets. He made the decision after consulting with his family for the last few months. His body feels fresh – he appeared in only four games last season – but he decided to move on to the next chapter, which could include coaching or television.
“I guess it just goes to show that you don’t always get to choose your own path,” wrote McCown. “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.”
Jets coach Adam Gase, speaking at the start of the offseason, left open the possibility of McCown’s return, but the team opted to sign Trevor Siemian as Sam Darnold’s backup.
McCown never was a star player in the league, but his career is extraordinary in its own right. He played for seven teams over 15 seasons, beginning with the Arizona Cardinals in 2002. In fact, he was the last player from the 2002 draft to be active. He also spent time with the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, but never played in games for them.
After two years out of football, McCown re-started his career with the Chicago Bears (2011-2013), enjoying a terrific 2013 season in which he threw 13 touchdown passes and only one interception.
He spent most of his career as the proverbial “bridge” quarterback, bouncing from one rebuilding situation to another. That was his role with the Jets; he also was heavily involved in the mentoring Darnold.
After enjoying a career year in 2017, McCown lost his job in the preseason to Darnold, a first-round pick. It wasn’t much of a competition. McCown spent nearly the entire preseason watching from the sideline as Darnold was given a clear path to the starting job.
McCown embraced his role as Darnold’s mentor. When he re-signed last March (one year, $10 million), he knew there was a good chance the team would draft a quarterback in the first round. The Jets wanted him back because of his unselfish attitude and willingness to help young quarterbacks. It was costly from a financial standpoint, but it was “money well spent,” Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said.
“I think it was just awesome to be able to learn and watch him,” Darnold said of McCown, who lived in the same building as the young quarterback and spent countless hours with him outside the team’s facility.
The well-traveled McCown was pressed into starting duty for three straight games when Darnold was out with a foot injury, Weeks 10 to 12, but he wasn’t able to recapture his 2017 form. He struggled mightily, completing only 54.5 percent of his passes for 539 yards, with one touchdown and four interceptions. The Jets lost all three games.
McCown signed with the Jets in 2017 and landed the starting job by default, as young quarterbacks Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty both struggled in the preseason. McCown wound up setting career highs for completions (267), yards (2,926) and touchdown passes (18). The players voted him team MVP even though he missed the last three games with a broken hand.
“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,” added McCown. “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.”
For his career, McCown has 17,707 yards, 98 touchdown passes, 82 interceptions and a 79.7 passer rating.