Josh McCown was sometimes the starting quarterback, often the backup – and always among the most-respected and well-liked players in whatever locker room he was in.
And there were many.
McCown, who turns 40 on July 4, wrote in a piece for The Players’ Tribune posted Monday that he is retiring from playing football after an NFL career that spanned 16 seasons and 10 teams, including two years with the Carolina Panthers.
He will be helping coach his two sons – also quarterbacks – at Myers Park High School this year. Owen McCown is a sophomore quarterback with the Mustangs, while younger brother Aiden will be a freshman this fall.
Josh McCown will be one of the Mustangs’ quarterback coaches. This will be his second year with Myers Park. McCown helped Mustangs coach Scott Chadwick at Marvin Ridge during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
ESPN said Monday it had hired him as an NFL analyst.
McCown was often considered a “bridge” quarterback, and his career record as a starter was only 23-53. He played three games for the Panthers, completing just one of his six pass attempts. But McCown’s career was about more than numbers.
“I guess it just goes to show that you don’t always get to choose your own path,” McCown wrote. “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.”
He played the past two seasons with the New York Jets, serving as the starter in 2017 and as a veteran backup to rookie Sam Darnold last year. Darnold often raved about how McCown prepared every week, particularly during a four-game stretch when the rookie was sidelined by a foot injury.
“Just watching Josh, just the way he went about studying the plays that are in the game plan, it’s literally everything, walkthrough, practice, how he treated everything,” Darnold said late last season. “I think it was just awesome to be able to learn and watch him.”
McCown was a third-round draft pick of Arizona in 2002 out of Sam Houston State. McCown and Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers were the only remaining active players from their draft class. Now, there are none; Peppers announced his retirement in February.
After four seasons with the Cardinals, when he started 22 games, McCown signed with Detroit as a free agent in 2006. Next came stints with Oakland (2007), Miami (2008) and Carolina (2008-09), and then a stop in 2010 in the United Football League.McCown also coached at Marvin Ridge
during that time, and it appeared his NFL career might be over.
Chicago signed him during the 2011 season. He had what was then his best season in 2013, when he threw for 1,829 yards with 13 touchdowns and just one interception while filling in for an injured Jay Cutler.
McCown signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent in 2014, spent two years with Cleveland and then joined the Jets, for whom he had a career year in 2017. He had personal highs of 2,926 yards passing and 18 touchdowns with just nine interceptions in 13 starts before missing the last three games with a broken hand.
McCown finished with 17,707 career yards passing, 98 touchdowns and 82 interceptions, with a 60.2 completion percentage and 79.7 quarterback rating.
“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,” McCown 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.”
Observer writer Langston Wertz Jr. contributed to this report.