He doesn't have the rocket arm. Or the celebrity wife. Or even a Tumblr of him "smoking."
Josh McCown keeps his distance from all that noise. The 34-year-old Texas native's happy-to-be-here approach to his NFL career has helped Chicago embrace him as its "starting" quarterback. That, and his propensity to win games.
When Jay Cutler went down with an injury, all McCown did was perform spectacularly--a far cry from, well, any other backup in Bears history.
In an exclusive interview with RedEye, the Bears' backup-turned-starter-turned-backup-again dished about tuning out distractions, what he hated about his tattoo and whether he could take Cutler in the kitchen.
Are there any advantages to being a backup?
I don't know if there's any advantages. I mean, everybody wants to be a starter. I think you come to a point in your career where you know how the league views you and if you're not viewed as a starter, but [if] you can still make plays and help a team, you might have an opportunity as a backup. So once you settle in that, the advantages would be you don't have all the requirements and requests for media and off-field distractions as maybe a starter does. But playing-wise, there's no advantage to being a backup.
Are you aware of all the people saying you should be the Bears' starter?
No, not really. I don't read stuff. I don't have time to. It takes a lot for me to feel like I can go out and play well. It takes a lot of preparation. ... So I don't have time to read everything else. Every now and then ... if I run into a Starbucks or somewhere and people say "hey, good job" and all this stuff, that catches you off-guard, because it's established [that Cutler is the starter] and I understand my role on this team. I appreciate people saying things and I understand what they mean, but at the end of the day, for me the focus is on being the best backup I can be.
Was there a moment where you said, "All right, I'm a backup quarterback"?
Obviously you get to a point where--in 2010 I didn't sign with anybody--you go "OK, obviously people don't see me as a backup. They don't see me as someone that needs to be in the NFL." [Takes a deep breath.] That's a little frustrating and can test your faith a little bit, but I wouldn't trade any of that. It was good to go through. You go through that and you know "if I come back in, it's obviously just to try and make a roster." So I tried to do that the last few years and didn't get that done. Even the first time around [in Chicago] they didn't see me as a backup, whether it was the year they had Caleb [Hanie] up here, or the year after when they had Jason [Campbell]; they saw me as a No. 3. So it wasn't until this offseason that I got a chance to come back as a No. 2 and earn that spot. For a while now I've understood where I'm positioned.
What's the best part about being a quarterback in Chicago?
That's a good question. [Pauses.] I would say, just, they love you if you win and if you play well. They're great fans and they're very loyal.
Are there throws where as soon as they leave your hand you're thinking "uh oh"?
The one interception that I've thrown this year, against St. Louis. (Editor's note: This interview was conducted Dec. 5.) I didn't have a good feeling about it before the play and it ended up being an interception. So there's things that happen like that, where you drop back and you see one thing and you cut the ball loose and the picture gets bigger and you're like "oh, that's not what I was seeing," and there's nothing you can do about it.
What was your "welcome to the Bears" moment?
Golly, there were several. My first game [with Chicago] two years ago, in Lambeau. [Also] my first practice out here [at Halas Hall] because it was snowing sideways and it was 16 degrees. I remember throwing a ball and having it float from one side of the field to the other ... and I remember thinking "OK, I'm a Chicago Bear." That's what being in Chicago is about. Lining up in practice on the scout team and Brian [Urlacher] being across, staring at [No.] 54, some of those things.
What's your top moment as a Bear?
Either winning this year at Lambeau or winning the mud overtime game against Baltimore. Probably beating the Packers though because there's nothing like being a part of this rivalry and getting to go to Lambeau and beat those guys.
What will you miss most about Chicago when it's time to move on?
I've already been on the architecture tour, so ... . [Laughs.] I've been several times actually. It's kind of a peaceful little cruise actually.
But you know maybe just hitting some more of those things, like the Water Tower, all the things that are neat things to see. Hopefully I'll get them done before my time ends here.
Your teammate Kyle Long said the only difference between you and Cutler in the huddle is your Southern accent. Do guys give you a hard time about that?
Sometimes Jay will give me a little crap about it, but not really. I don't think about it. It's just how I talk. Kyle's always with joking with me about it or whatever. As long as they're hearing the play calls and they're able to execute 'em, that's the main thing.
There are several fashion-forward players on the team. Is there anything they wear that makes you think "there's no way I can pull that off"?
Oh yeah, all the time. Guys like Marty [Martellus Bennett] and Earl [Bennett] and Brandon [Marshall]. I dig their looks, I think they're really cool. But I just don't know if it's for me. Whether it's like--some of the shorter, tighter pants with no socks ... and loafers. This younger, hip look that some of the guys are going with. I like it, I think it's cool, it's just not me necessarily.
What's the story behind the tattoo on your arm?
I had my initials up here [points to the top of his right arm], and I thought that was stupid, so I wanted to cover it up. Sorry to anyone who has initials for tattoos. My faith is at the center of my life, it's what's most important to me, so I thought, why not do something that represents that? So it's a cross and a lion is looking through the cross.
Tell us something people don't know about Jay Cutler.
He can really, really cook.
What's his specialty? Italian? American? Mexican?
He's done a little bit of every one of those, and he's really good at it.
Can you cook?
My wife's an awesome cook, so I leave it to her. I'll wash the dishes.
Is Jay better than you?
He can probably outcook me. Maybe.
Do you have a specialty?
Does peanut butter and jelly count?
If you want it to. Maybe you have a gourmet recipe for that.
No, I'm just a grill guy. I like to cook a good steak, hamburgers, stuff like that. When we grill, my wife lets me do the grilling. I pride myself on getting the temperature right and all that stuff.
When your career is over, what will people say about Josh McCown the quarterback?
Hopefully that he gave his team a chance to win. I think that's what any team wants to be said about him, that when he's on the field he put his team in position to win games, and that's all you can ask for.
DON'T GO THERE
Josh McCown has been on countless road trips during his 11-year NFL career. Some cities, like Chicago, rank high in his book. Others leave plenty to be desired. We asked the Bears quarterback for his least favorite stops.
We played in Oakland and that was tough, although [my wife and I] loved living in northern California. It's a tougher commute, there's longer traffic [than most cities].
It's hard to go up to Lambeau, because you're [staying] in Appleton [Wis.] and there's just nothing to do.
There's just not a whole lot going on up there either. And depending on what time of year you play them, you're liable to have bad weather.
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