At 38, McCown still Jets’ starter, not thinking retirement
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Josh McCown realizes that he’s not a long-term answer at quarterback for the New York Jets.
But at 38, he’s also not thinking too far ahead. His focus is squarely on playing the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and not whether he’ll remain under center the rest of the season — or even continue to play beyond this year.
“I feel good,” McCown said after practice Wednesday. “Obviously, there are five games left and things can change, but right now, I feel really good.”
That’s despite being the third-most sacked quarterback in the NFL this season, going down 35 times so far. McCown has been banged up through the first 11 games, with his left hand and forearm sporting scabs from the 35-27 loss to Carolina on Sunday.
He’s in terrific shape, though, hardly appearing to be a guy in the twilight of his career.
“It’s a credit to those guys,” he said of the Jets’ training staff. “The great thing about me is that my boys are in seventh and eighth grade, so when I get off in the offseason, I’m at home playing hoops with them. I never stop because of my kids’ age. They don’t let me.
“We’ll see. I feel really good and hopefully can maintain this moving forward.”
The Jets are 4-7 and in danger of missing the playoffs for the seventh straight season. That has fans focusing on the future, eager to see if Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg might show some glimmer of hope in the last five games.
The cross-town Giants are taking that approach, sitting Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith and eventually Davis Webb. Todd Bowles and the Jets are sticking with McCown, though, and he hasn’t even considered benching the veteran.
“No thought to it,” Bowles said. “Josh is playing very well.”
McCown is having the best overall season of his 15-year NFL career, setting career highs with 17 touchdowns and 2,549 yards passing. He has eight interceptions, but his 67.3 percent completion rate is among the NFL’s leaders. McCown also leads the Jets with three touchdown runs, proving he’s still got plenty of spring in his step.
The major knock on McCown is the mistakes he has made — along with the rest of the Jets — in the fourth quarter and late in games. Half of his interceptions have come in the final quarter, where the Jets have blown leads in three of their past four losses.
“Yeah, without getting into detail, we did address it to a degree today,” McCown said. “So, hopefully that will change.”
He is signed only for this season, a one-year deal worth $6 million. So, his future with the team beyond Week 17 is uncertain.
While many fans and media assume the Jets will target a potential franchise quarterback with their first-round draft pick, it’s not a given that McCown won’t be back to serve as a mentor to whomever that might be.
Retirement isn’t on his mind right now, and he doesn’t have a timetable for when he’d have to make that decision.
“Well, I’ll say that it is certainly when you feel like you’ve been chasing this level that you believe you can play at for a long time and you start to feel like you’re scratching the surface in doing some of those things and settling into a system that you like, it’s hard to end it and be done,” he said.
“At the same time, too, if you are going to be done, it’s nice of you to say that you played your best ball at the end, so we’ll see how it goes.
“I love being in the system and it would be fun to play in the system for two years in a row. I would love to see where I can take that, so we’ll see. Right now, the focus is on Kansas City.”
Jets fans are understandably hesitant about bringing back a veteran coming off a career year — since they lived through that very thing a year ago.
Ryan Fitzpatrick returned on the eve of training camp after the sides finally agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal. But a year after he set a franchise record with 31 touchdown passes, Fitzpatrick fizzled. He became a turnover machine with 17 interceptions, was benched a few times and was a major reason for New York’s 5-11 mark with a team that had serious playoff aspirations.
The difference now, though, is the progress McCown has appeared to make in John Morton’s system, even at this advanced stage of his career.
“Yeah, I think there is always growth that can happen,” said McCown, who estimated that he’s played for 13 or 14 offensive coordinators.
“I just assume that when you watch offenses who have been together for a while, the nuance that they play with, I think it’s obvious and reflective of the time spent together. So, I would assume you have the opportunity to grow in that aspect.
“But again, those situations take care of themselves and I’m just focused on Kansas City right now.”