McCown a calming force in Jets’ season of change, rebuild
NEW YORK (AP) — Josh McCown saw his entire offensive line getting riled up over a penalty call that wiped out a big play for the New York Jets.
So, the veteran quarterback got his guys huddled up and told them to brush it off, that they’d make up for it on the next play.
Sure enough: Snap. Throw. Touchdown.
That 69-yard toss, a perfectly placed ball to Robby Anderson, was a key moment in the Jets’ 20-6 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. It was how McCown handled the holding call on center Wesley Johnson during the previous play that exemplified exactly why the Jets wanted the journeyman quarterback here.
“We were all mad, cussing — well, I wasn’t cussing — but we were just mad about the play,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said after the game. “We came back into the huddle and Josh just calmed us all down.”
On a roster marked by youth and inexperience, the 38-year-old McCown is the wise, old sage with an aw-shucks approach and friendly and professional demeanor.
It’s no wonder why teams love having him on their roster, with the Jets his 10th NFL franchise since being drafted by Arizona in the third round in 2002.
But McCown’s signing for one year and $6 million in March caused many Jets fans to ask one big question: Why?
New York, after all, was coming off a rough 5-11 season with another veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick. The focus this offseason was on whether youngsters Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty could establish themselves as the franchise quarterback.
“I would say having Josh be a veteran presence in there,” general manager Mike Maccagnan said before training camp, “I think he’s good for those two young players.”
McCown was never challenged for the job in training camp. And, so far, he’s been solid in New York’s 1-2 start. McCown is 60 of 86 — 69.8 percent — for 602 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, along with a solid 91.3 quarterback rating.
“Josh has been playing well for the last three weeks,” coach Todd Bowles said. “He’s controlled the offense. He sees things. He’s playing smart football.”
With so much upheaval on the roster and the Jets seeking to build for the future, McCown is the solidifying force for the present. He’s someone the young players can watch and follow — the way he looked up to veterans such as Emmitt Smith early in his career with the Cardinals.
McCown was reminded of that while watching a recent episode of “A Football Life” on NFL Network that chronicled Smith’s Hall of Fame career.
“Just looking back, I know how he impacted my career,” McCown said, “but also Adrian Wilson and Larry Fitzgerald and guys that stayed there and ended up helping build and take that team to the Super Bowl and their impression from Emmitt.”
McCown has no idea how long his stint with the Jets will last, or even if he’ll remain the starter all season. Many fans have their eyes on USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen as draft targets next spring with the potential No. 1 overall pick.
Until Sunday’s victory, some outside the organization wondered if the Jets would even win a game this season. Now, some wonder if that win — and any subsequent ones — will hinder New York’s chances at landing a possible franchise quarterback.
While talk of tanking the season marked the early narratives, Bowles has tried to instill a change in culture around the franchise, with his rallying cry being “One Team, One Goal.”
To a man, the players insist outside opinions mean nothing. They all want to win, of course, and refuse to be OK with losing now to achieve something for the future.
That approach is exactly why McCown is here.
“When you’re in a situation like this when you are building something and you’re a veteran player, you don’t know how long it’s going to take or whatnot,” he said.
“But what you can do is just share with the young guys your process, how you go about your journey and your day and try to communicate as best you can what you feel it takes to be a pro and hopefully showing those principles that they can carry with them.
“And hopefully you’re there to see the growth, to reap some of that fruit. But even if you’re not, then later on down the road you see some of those guys play at a high level, you can appreciate that when you went to a spot, you tried to make it better than it was before you left.”
NOTES: Bowles said X-rays came back negative for RB Matt Forte (toe), WR Charone Peake (ankle) and LB Josh Martin (ankle), but he was uncertain what their availability would be for this week. ... Brian Winters is “feeling better” after sitting out with an abdominal injury, Bowles said. Dakota Dozier filled in and Bowles said he was pleased by his performance. “I thought he did a good job,” he said. “There are some plays you would like to have back of course, but he was smart, he was tough, for the most part, he held his own.”