Josh McCown probably should have taken his gold watch last year. Nice career, meandering from Arizona to Detroit to Carolina to Hartford of the United Football League to coaching high school football to Chicago to Tampa Bay last year. At 35, coming off a very good five-start stretch for Chicago in 2013, McCown was going to be the Bucs’ bridge to the future. But offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford fell ill before the season, never was right during the year, and the offense was in shambles, and the offensive line was the worst in football, and McCown played poorly. There were his wife and kids in Charlotte, and no one would have thought it odd for McCown to leave the game and go back to coaching.
“But I just thought, ‘This isn’t the best I can be. I don’t want to go out like that. I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder from Chicago—I know I’m capable of doing that,’ ” he said Sunday night. “I just knew I could do it again, and my wife was super supportive.”
So the Browns needed a sort of player-coach to play and mentor Johnny Manziel—or whomever the next quarterback there would be. McCown signed, won the starting job in camp and led the Browns on a 17-play drive on the first possession of the season at the Jets. He was concussed on play 17, trying to dive for the end zone. Johnny Football time. Manziel had some moments, and beat the Titans in Week 2, and the locals were frenzied. Cleveland wanted Johnny. And this, old-fashioned McCown understood.
“I was heartbroken after that long drive against the Jets, because I thought we’d have a big day,” he said. “But people don’t understand—you sign with a team, and you’re there to serve your team. If you’re called on to play, you play. If you’re not playing, you help your team in other ways. So my job until I played again, if I played again, was to help Johnny be the best. The organization picked this young man in the first round and has high hopes for him—still does. So I wanted to help him.”
That sounds trite, honestly. You’re tempted not to buy it. But I know it’s the way McCown feels, because I’ve heard it from him before—about Jay Cutler, about Mike Glennon—and because he has this weird attitude that quite a few players don’t. Team guy.
“My wife and I went to couple of the NBA Finals games here in the spring,” he said. “We’re walking downtown and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if this would happen with the Browns?’ The energy, the passion, the drive. So I promise you—I get it when they chant for Johnny. You know why? They want to win. They want a spark. Give us a win! Make us feel good!”
McCown got his job back in Week 3 and threw for 341 yards, but the Browns lost to Oakland. He kept the job in Week 4 and threw for 356 yards at San Diego, but the Browns lost in overtime. No reason to think Sunday in Baltimore would be different; the Ravens were 13-1 against Cleveland in the John Harbaugh era, and Harbaugh’s 1-3 team needed a win badly.
Baltimore up 21-9. McCown, methodical, with 75 and 79-yard drives to put Cleveland up 22-21. The second touchdown came on the strangest TD catch you’ll ever see. From the Ravens’ 18, McCown, pressured, lofted one to tight end Gary Barnidge at the goal line. He jumped with a Ravens’ defender, and Barnidge ended up falling, the ball near his feet. As he fell, Barnidge kept the ball off the ground between his legs but not touching his hands; somehow it never touched the ground and he was able to pop it back into his hands while lying on the goal line. The officials couldn’t believe it, and no one else could either. Touchdown. Browns up.
They were waiting for replay after the score to confirm or deny when McCown saw Barnidge on the field.
“Did you catch it?” McCown asked.
“Yeah—just not with my hands!” Barnidge said.
“Hey, put that on the stat sheet!” McCown said.
The catch counted. But back came Baltimore. They traded touchdowns again—Ravens up 27-22, then Cleveland up 30-27—and Justin Tucker’s field goal with 25 seconds left tied it going into overtime.
Now, the Browns are not set up to be a throwing team. With Josh Gordon suspended for the year and with a solid run-blocking line, coach Mike Pettine was planning to be pretty balanced between the run and the pass. But it hasn’t worked out that way in the past three weeks. Since McCown has taken the reins back, Cleveland has called pass plays on a remarkable 72 percent of the snaps. “When I came here, I was thinking maybe 30 throws a game,” McCown said. “But in our quarterback room, we have the attitude that we don’t have to be babysitters. We can win the games.” On this overtime drive, there was a key third-and-1, and Baltimore expected run. McCown delivered a strike to Barnidge for 19 up the seam. That got Cleveland near field-goal range. After nibbling at Baltimore’s exhausted defense a little more, the Browns set up for Travis Coons’ winning 32-yard field goal.
When it was over, McCown saw the incredible numbers: 36 of 51, 457 yards, two touchdowns, no picks.
The Browns were founded 69 years ago. Through Otto Graham and a succession of pre-’90s very good passers and the Browns’ rebirth, no quarterback ever had a regular-season game like this one. No other Brown ever threw for as many yards.
“When I’m done,” McCown said, “I think it’ll sink in, and I’ll enjoy it. But we’re in the middle of something pretty cool here. We went to San Diego last week and had our hearts broken, and the energy in the locker room was so fantastic—we’ve got something good going here. Today we come back to Baltimore, and obviously it’s a team that’s been tough for us, but the energy was fantastic again. I just love being in there. I love being a part of the team. That’s what means something to me.
“Now, we have a quarterback room, and the Browns have these murals on the walls with all the great quarterbacks, back to Otto Graham, and Frank Ryan, Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar. You see the history in there. It’s cool. And I’ve sat there and I’ve thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to be on that wall someday, and have the respect of the next generation of quarterbacks in this room?’ That would mean something to me.”
We've heard plenty about Aikman and both Mannings etc etc and how they struggled in their first NFL starts.
Here's a list that is Manziels true comparisons at this point. This is the talent level that he's in at this point.
NFL QB's to be shut out in their first NFL start in the last 20 years:
2014 Johnny Manziel 2010 Rusty Smith (who??) Titans 2003 Dave Ragone (seriously who???) Texans 2002 Henry Burris (LOL) Bears 2000 Spergon Wynn (will always be able to say he was drafted ahead of Brady) Browns 1997 Danny Wuerffel (Heisman Winning College gimmick QB) Saints
So that's the company our first round draft pick is in and we're supposed to have patience for this clown?
Fuck him and his homo fagboy fans that have been showing up here since we drafted him.