McCown gets well-deserved payday

Updated 3/13/2014 9:27 AM
  • Josh McCown was signed by Tampa Bay on Wednesday to a two-year, $10 million contract.

    Josh McCown was signed by Tampa Bay on Wednesday to a two-year, $10 million contract. Associated Press

You don't run across many people in life so at peace with their lot, so comfortable and willing to accept their fate, that even when pressed to want more, they instead step back into the shadows.

You certainly don't consider it a common trait among backup quarterbacks in the NFL.

But that was the essence of Josh McCown in Chicago.

Having been picked up off a high-school football field where he was coaching kids, McCown is now a very wealthy man after Tampa Bay signed him Wednesday to a two-year, $10 million contract. At least half of that is guaranteed and with incentives the deal could be worth $15 million.

Who says the era of opportunity is over in America?

Not a career backup who will be 35 on July 4. Not Josh McCown, who ought to send a thank-you note to Bears coach Marc Trestman for creating a market surrounding a player who was lucky to have a job when Trestman turned him into the best No. 2 QB in the game, and now a starter in Tampa.

At the same time, credit McCown for understanding the playbook better than anyone on the team -- including Jay Cutler -- for playing well when given the chance and for being a remarkable teammate.

There was never a point when McCown took the bait and acknowledged a competition. There was never a point when he pretended to be the starter. There was never a point when he tried to portray himself as anything other than a caddie.

Of course, Trestman also made that crystal clear every time he was asked. Nevertheless, there were cries in Chicago for a new starter, and McCown wouldn't bite.

"The team knows who the starting quarterback is and I know my job as the backup," McCown said. "I want to play efficient football, winning football and keep us in contention while the starter isn't healthy."

When did he say that? Only after the Bears beat the Cowboys 45-28 on Monday Night Football as McCown went 27 of 36 for 348 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions, with a career-high 141.9 passer rating.

The game began with a wind chill of minus-9, only got colder and McCown got hotter.

He became the first QB in Bears history to have 300 yards passing in three straight contests, and it was just the fifth time in Bears history a QB had at least three 300-yard passing games in a season.

He was the first Bears quarterback to account for at least 5 TDs throwing and rushing in a single game since Jack Concannon in 1970.

The Bears' 33 first downs tied for the most in franchise history (vs. Green Bay, December 1980), and it was just the fourth time in franchise history the Bears did not have a punt in a game, first since 1972.

It was the first time in franchise history the Bears did not have a punt or a turnover in a contest, and the 72.7 percent conversion rate on first down was the highest since at least 1991.

Yeah, McCown was on fire, but he threw cold water on the QB controversy the moment he opened his mouth.

"It's completely reasonable," McCown said late that night, when it was pointed out he could not keep the starting job. "I'm the backup. Jay's our starter. When Jay is healthy, Jay should be the starting quarterback. That's really it.

"I don't go out there going, 'You know what, if I do this now, I'll be the starter.' That's not my mindset. I've told you guys that. My mindset is to serve this team as the backup quarterback as best I can and play efficient football and winning football in this situation to keep us in contention, so whenever Jay takes back over we're in position to make a playoff run."

Amazing to hear from a professional athlete who had waited an entire career to be in that spot, in the right offense with the right coach, right protection and right weapons.

And Cutler loved him for it. A guy with Cutler's ego is hardly beyond the insecurity that comes with being hurt while the backup lights it up. Yet, the two were thick as thieves and McCown's demeanor only made Cutler more comfortable.

It's a shame the Bears had to lose him but you have to be happy for a good man who's cashed in big in Tampa, where head coach Lovie Smith believes offense is something that happens when the defense isn't scoring, and where weapons are cornerbacks and defensive ends.

He's almost certain to struggle and might even be out of a job 10 months from now, but at least he got paid.

In the meantime, Trestman is developing a reputation akin to Tom Thibodeau, who can take anyone off the streets and turn that player into a legitimate NBA asset.

Trestman can do the same with quarterbacks. Maybe next it's Jordan Palmer. More likely, it's someone not yet on the roster.

Either way, the Bears will be fine. Either way, so will McCown.

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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