Tom Sorensen

Josh McCown’s work with a Charlotte amateur validates rooting for his recovery

New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown, left, injured against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, lives outside Charlotte. But his work with a Charlotte Cobras quarterback demonstrates a reason people should care about his return to the NFL.
New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown, left, injured against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, lives outside Charlotte. But his work with a Charlotte Cobras quarterback demonstrates a reason people should care about his return to the NFL. AP

Although the results Sunday were good for fans of the Carolina Panthers, they were unfortunate for former Carolina quarterback Josh McCown. McCown, who was having a fine season for the New York Jets, broke his left hand Sunday in a loss to Denver. He won't play again this season, and he doesn't know if he'll play the next.

McCown had signed a one-year contract with the Jets, his seventh NFL team. He has some miles on him. The Arizona Cardinals picked him in the third round of the 2002 draft. To put 2002 in perspective, the Panthers drafted three players before Arizona picked McCown – Julius Peppers, DeShaun Foster and Will Witherspoon.

Foster played in the NFL until 2008, Witherspoon until 2013. Peppers, as you’re aware, still sacks quarterbacks. Until Sunday, McCown still threw touchdown passes.

Will he get an opportunity to throw another?

McCown lives outside Charlotte. If you wonder why you should care about McCown, here's a reason.

Mark Brown, a firefighter, played quarterback for the Charlotte Cobras. The Cobras are a team made up of police officers, fighter fighters, EMTS and federal agents. They play in the National Public Safety Football League. I assure you they need a release and tackle football provides it.

Brown had been a basketball player, not a quarterback. He met McCown in the gym and McCown took him in. This is an NFL quarterback volunteering to work with, in football terms, an absolute amateur. McCown worked with Brown, he told me at the time, for the “purity of the game.”

Think about it. You’re McCown. You're proud of your sport, you’re good at it and you obviously know something about it. So you work with a man, a good athlete, who wants to learn about your position and your game. In 2015 the Cobras went undefeated and won the league championship. They had a lot of talent, and a lot of really good guys ... and a quarterback who could play.

TomMcCown2.jpg
Josh McCown, the best quarterback in New York this season, broke down Sunday as he talked about breaking his left hand. Joe Mahoney AP

McCown played for Arizona, the Oakland Raiders, the Panthers in 2009, the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League, the Chicago Bears, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cleveland Browns and the Jets.

He had a quarterback rating this season of 94.5, the second best of his wandering career. (His best was in 2013 with the Bears.) Although he lifted the Jets, a team he loved playing for, he doesn’t know if he’ll be back.

The beauty of McCown’s career is that he got a second chance and a third and a fourth and a fifth and a sixth and a seventh. But his timing was consistently poor. The trick is to sign with a team that needs a long-term starter. He never did.

The best quarterback in New York this season broke down Sunday as he talked about breaking his left hand.

McCown turns 39 on July 4. He’s the past. Yet I want to think he has another season in him, and that he’ll gets one more chance to play.

He wasn’t supposed to start this season. But when you’re the best quarterback on the roster, it sometimes works out that way.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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