Josh McCown wants to be the New York Jets‘ starting quarterback. He expects to win the job and keep it.
Yes, he’s still competitive after all these years and all those stops in his career. But the 37-year-old McCown also recognizes there’s more to this gig. He’s getting $6 million to be a bridge quarterback, which, in the language of the NFL, means he’ll play until someone younger is ready to take over.
Mark it down: Christian Hackenberg will start at some point in 2017. If not, it’s a wasted season for the Jets. In the meantime, McCown’s job is to raise the bar in the quarterback room. He intends to beat Hackenberg and Bryce Petty in the open competition, which is what the Jets are calling this three-man … uh, situation.
“That’s the goal,” McCown said Wednesday, commenting for the first time since signing in March. “You go in to compete and win the job. If it changes, it changes. My mindset is to come and learn the offense, do everything I can to master it this spring and training camp. Then, if I’m the guy, play the position as well as I can until it changes.
“Obviously, as a competitor, you don’t expect that to change. You don’t want that to change. I plan to go out and play well.”
McCown hasn’t played well in a few years. He has lost 20 of his past 22 starts, with 29 touchdowns and 24 interceptions over that three-year span. Not good. But he has brought a winning attitude to his new job — his ninth team — and that will be an important dynamic in the quarterback room.
The success of the upcoming season hinges, in large part, on improvement at quarterback. Just ask owner Woody Johnson. McCown will have a role, whether he’s playing or carrying a clipboard.
The offseason program began only two weeks ago, but McCown already has impressed folks inside the building at One Jets Drive with his professionalism and upbeat personality. On the field, he’s a vocal presence. Guard Brian Winters called him “a great leader,” adding that McCown “wasn’t quiet, wasn’t sitting in the back. [He was] trying to lead us from the beginning.”
Yes, McCown is looking out for No. 1, but he also embraces his role as a mentor to No. 2 and No. 3.
“I look forward to every day coming in and working with Hack and Bryce, and trying to give away the things that I learned in my career and, hopefully, make their journeys better as they go through their careers,” he said. “That is the goal. That is something I believe in as a person, not just inside football, but in every walk of life.”
Quarterback competitions can get messy. They can chafe feelings and divide a locker room. McCown recognizes the value of keeping the peace, but it can be a challenge to strike a balance between sage mentor and fierce competitor.
“It’s a full competition between the three of us,” he said. “I think all three of us will approach it as trying to be the guy. I think that’s good for our team. It’s healthy for our team for all of us to compete as hard as we can.”
Chances are, McCown will emerge as the opening-day starter. He knows the game, knows how to read a defense and knows the concepts of a West Coast-style offense. That gives him the edge over Hackenberg and Petty.
Naturally, the Jets would love for Hackenberg to light up the preseason and snatch the job, but that would take a small miracle. It’ll be McCown versus the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 10. Bet on it.