In four short weeks, Josh McCown has gone from coaching high school football in Charlotte, N.C., to being named the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears.
And while it’s the type of story that seems ideally suited for a Disney movie, McCown is focusing more on Sunday night’s game in Green Bay than on his unique journey.
Josh McCown will make his first NFL start since 2007 Sunday night when the Bears visit the Packers.
“For me absolutely it’s a cool story and cool moment,” McCown said. “But at the same time, I’m a competitor. I want to win the game. I want to do right by the coaches and by the other 52 guys in the locker room. So it’ll be exciting for a little bit, but we’ve got to get down to business.”
McCown, 32, signed with the Bears Nov. 23, three days after Jay Cutler fractured his thumb in a win over the Chargers. McCown has started 31 of 48 games in eight NFL seasons, having completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 6,596 yards with 35 touchdowns, 41 interceptions and a 70.9 passer rating.
Replacing an ineffective Caleb Hanie late in last Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks, McCown completed his first pass to running back Kahlil Bell for 12 yards but had his second and final throw picked off by cornerback Richard Sherman.
McCown has previously played for the Cardinals (2002-05), Lions (2006), Raiders (2007) and Panthers (2009). Prior to last Sunday, his last regular-season passes came on Sept. 13, 2009 when he completed 1 of 6 attempts for two yards for Carolina in a 38-10 loss to the Eagles.
Sunday's start in Green Bay will be the first for McCown since he opened nine contests with the Raiders in 2007, when he threw for 1,151 yards with 10 TDs, 11 interceptions and a 69.4 passer rating.
“That first snap will be exciting,” McCown said. “But then after that you have a job to do and that’s to go play good football and help your team win. So I don’t want to get too excited and too amped up.”
Clinging to very slim playoff hopes, the Bears opted to bench Hanie, who threw nine interceptions and compiled a 41.8 passer rating in losing all four of his starts after replacing the injured Cutler.
Hanie's nine interceptions are a major reason the Bears have a minus-eight turnover ratio in his four games after being plus-11 in Cutler’s 10 starts. In the last three games with Hanie, the Bears offense has scored two touchdowns and given up two TDs to opposing defenses.
“Caleb has battled,” McCown said. “He’s had some tough breaks. You try to take some of the things that have happened and learn from those. You have to make the most of your opportunities, and I think Caleb would say the same thing. There are chances in the game, there are small opportunities that you have that you’ve got to make the throws because you don’t know when they’re going to come back around.”
McCown was signed by the Bears in part because he’s familiar with their offense, having played for coordinator Mike Martz with the Lions in 2006. Interestingly, McCown didn’t throw a regular-season pass for Detroit, but did line up briefly at receiver, catching two passes for 15 yards.
Although McCown knows the system, he concedes that it will be difficult to start a game only four weeks after joining a new team. But that doesn’t mean he’ll use that as an excuse.
“For anybody in any offense, it’s not ideal to come in this late,” he said. “But at the same time, as a competitor you understand you’ve got to get yourself up to speed and get ready to play. Everybody expects you to play well, and that’s the expectation I have for myself also, just go out and do things to help us win a football game.
“If I keep looking back and saying, ‘I only got here [four] weeks ago,’ then it becomes an excuse and you leave an area for you not to play well because you’re leaving something to fall back on. I’m trying to refuse to do that and just say, ‘You have to play well. The team’s depending on you.’”