Josh McCown likely knew coming into this season that he wouldn’t be the New York Jets starter come Week 17 or perhaps even by the midpoint of the season. But when he re-signed with the Jets this offseason, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the veteran McCown would begin the season as the team’s starting quarterback.
And now, McCown is thrust into the role as full-time mentor and backup quarterback perhaps a lot earlier than he had anticipated.
Sam Darnold is not just the future for the Jets, he is the present, head coach Todd Bowles making it official on Monday that the rookie first-round pick is getting the nod for Week 1 and likely beyond. The former USC quarterback has been impressive in training camp and preseason, translating to him getting the starting nod a lot earlier than most expected.
And the 39-year old McCown, set to enter year No. 16 in the NFL, is being forced into the caretaker role perhaps earlier than anyone had anticipated. It had seemed this offseason that, prior to the draft, the Jets would bring along their rookie quarterback slowly.
Instead, Darnold took the starting job by control and now McCown might have made the last start of his Jets career and perhaps his NFL career.
“Josh has been like that since he walked in the door before he was even a starter last year when we played Hack (Christian Hackenberg) in the preseason the second and third game,” Bowles said. “He’s always been trying to help players out as well as compete, and that’s what you love about him because he’s a great team guy. You always want guys backing up that want to start, at least they want to play. We feel like we’ve got two good quarterbacks.”
Darnold will likely be the only rookie starting quarterback in the league this week.
What has been impressive about his rise to the starting job is not just how he played, but who he beat out for the job.
Not only did Darnold unseat last year’s incumbent returning starter McCown, but also another established NFL quarterback. His play throughout preseason allowed the Jets to ship Teddy Bridgewater to the New Orleans Saints, sending a young quarterback out who had become expendable.
This despite the fact that Bridgewater was very good in preseason and has 30 NFL appearances (28 starts) with over 6,100 passing, a 64.7 completion percentage and 28 touchdowns during that stretch.
“That's just him. He loves to compete and whether it was a starter or a backup, I think he would have been fine,” Bowles said of Darnold. “Like I said, we didn't hold him back but we didn't rush him either. He just came in with a work hard mentality and kept his head down and he earned it. It says a lot about him.”