Spend any amount of time with Josh McCown and it’s obvious. He breathes and eats football, from the camaraderie of the locker room to the challenge of the playbook. One other thing is pretty evident, too. This guy was born to coach the game he loves.
McCown was firing on all cylinders during the Eagles-Ravens joint scrimmage Tuesday, including a dizzying stretch of four straight completions in 11-on-11 drills. All bullets. All textbook. Unlike fellow backup Cody Kessler, he knew where the receivers were going to be before the receivers did. McCown admitted he was still learning the playbook, but he’ll be ready for Thursday’s game. This is why he came out of retirement.
“I’m loving it, quite frankly,” McCown said. “I’m loving, like, learning it.”
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After practice, McCown talked about life after football and how the passion to pursue a head coaching career in the NFL has been burning inside him. He’s not there yet, plenty of diesel left in the old tank. But, yes, down the line. One day. Maybe.
“Yeah, I mean, anything is possible. I say that all the time. Anything is possible,” McCown said. “In the early part of my career it was kind of not something I thought about doing but then I coached high school football when I was out of the league and I realized I liked it and it got me back in.
“Ever since then I’ve had the good fortune of crossing paths in Chicago with men like Rod Marinelli and Lovie Smith and men that have just encouraged me toward that goal and just did my best to try to watch guys, guys like Doug [Pederson] who have played a long time, similar type of career [to me] and now he’s coaching.
“So we’ll see … we’ll see what the future holds but certainly I love the game enough to do it. Maybe one day, we’ll see.”
McCown, who has mentored many young quarterbacks in his 18-year career, was signed by the Eagles as much for his ability to throw the football as for the knowledge he brings to the meeting rooms. The 40-year-old quarterback has seen it all — well, everything except for Doug Pederson’s West Coast offense on steroids, a conceptually different version of the popular passing attack that relies on a heavy dose of RPO — and processes things fast.
“It [Eagles offense] has the philosophical mindset of a West Coast but, I would say I’ve played in three or four versions of the West Coast, and this is definitely different,” McCown said. “It’s new and I’ve seen it all but this is a little different to me, this playbook has been challenging to learn, but in a fun way because I think that’s what makes it effective.”
McCown Was Coaching High School Football in North Carolina
McCown already looks the part of an NFL head coach, partly because he’s been patrolling the sideline for a few years now. He had been serving as an assistant coach at Myers Park High School in Charlotte where his son, Owen, is the starting quarterback.
It was actually his second foray into coaching after doing a stint a few years ago at Marvin Ridge High School in Waxhaw, North Carolina. McCown was known for showing up to the high school at 6:30 a.m. and filling coolers up with ice. That’s not a joke.
“He’s one of the finest people I’ve ever been around,” Myers Park head coach Scott Chadwick told the Charlotte Observer. “He’s a guy of immense integrity but a guy that’s very, very passionate about whatever he gets involved in. When he coached with me at Marvin (Ridge), he was at every coaches’ meeting, every practice, every team event.”
His son has had the best front-row seat in football for years — often showing up at games and tossing the pigskin around with dad. And so have some of the most promising NFL rookie signal-callers, including the Jets’ Sam Darnold. No one cheered louder after Darnold’s first NFL completion.
“I really had a lot of fun being around Sam and enjoyed his friendship and enjoyed working with him as he learned the pro game,” McCown said.
McCown took him under his wing last season in New York knowing full well Darnold was the future of the franchise. That teacher-to-student relationship should serve him well at the next level — if he does end up wearing the big headset someday in the NFL.
Doug Pederson took a similar path to head-coaching glory, considered a career backup for most of his 14 seasons. It’s a fact not lost on the Eagles coach.
“He’s 40. 18 years. He’s close to my age,” Pederson joked about McCown. “No, I mean, this guy, listen, he’s a veteran quarterback. He’s been around. He’s seen a lot. He’s a guy that just can add a lot of I think knowledge and depth right now in that room and we have some young guys.”
McCown Impressed with Carson Wentz
McCown has only been in Eagles camp for three days, yet he’s already taking roll call. He can name the first person in the door and the last person out. One guy not cutting any corners has been Carson Wentz. The fourth-year quarterback and face of the Eagles franchise has looked as good as advertised. Scratch that, better.
“He’s a sharp, sharp kid, man. He’s intelligent,” McCown said of Wentz. “He cares about it, studies it hard, works hard at it. Does all the things that it takes. You get concerned if a guy leaves early or shows up late, not paying attention in meetings, all those things and he’s the exact opposite.”
Perhaps it’s a bit of corny coach speak, but if the cleat fits … wear it.
“He does everything you ask and I think those are the things that afford you the opportunity to play good football on Sundays. So I don’t see that changing,” said McCown. “He’s working very hard to continue to improve not only his own game but the level of our whole offense.”