Jets quarterback Josh McCown takes a timeout to huddle with Post columnist Steve Serby for some Q&A.
Q: What are you like in the huddle?
A: I try to stay pretty relaxed with the guys. Try to be as natural as I can to help guys get fired up, get motivated to play … remind any details, last-minute coaching points that I can remember for each guy. I try to keep it as smooth and upbeat as we can be, because it gives us the best chance to be successful.
Q: Do you crack jokes?
A: Oh yeah, all the time, ’cause I think the minute you can start smiling, you’re breathing better, you’re not anxious, you’ll see clearer and you’ll play smarter. So whether they laugh or not, I think it helps me (laugh).
Q: What is your funniest single huddle moment?
A: (Pause) Oh man. … Well, I’ve been in a lot of hurdles, you know … gol-lee. Against the Giants, I was in Arizona, and I ran for a first down, and Gibril Wilson and I kind of went head up. And I got up and I was all fired up and got a first down. And then kind of being like a little … disheveled … got back to the huddle, and we had wristband plays, and they called the play in, they called the number in, and so I’m like looking at it, but they were small print, I’m trying to read it, so I remember grabbing a guy, and we were just all laughing: “Read play No. 42 for me.” And I was like, “Does this say?” and he’s like, “Yeah yeah yeah, that’s the play, that’s the play,” and I was like, “All right great.” And we went on down and scored a touchdown.
Q: Describe your on-field mentality.
A: Calm, but fun.
Q: What makes you a leader? What makes guys gravitate to you?
A: I didn’t know they did (chuckle). I don’t know … hopefully just ’cause I care. I care about their careers and their life, and care about winning, care about wanting to help in any way I can.
Q: What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
A: I guess the year I spent out of the league. The UFL was only a six-week or eight-week season, then the lockout was the following year, so a lot of time away from the NFL. That’s a mental grind, ’cause you have a vision of what you hope’s gonna happen versus what reality is and you’re grinding every day working out. But normal offseasons for the previous eight or nine years or whatever it was, I was working out knowing I was gonna play for this team. Whereas you’re working out, you don’t know what’s gonna happen. So sometimes that can be a challenge and a test to your focus.
Q: Did you worry that your NFL career could be over?
A: I dealt realistically, and that’s kind of what led me into high school coaching, was just, “OK, if this part of my life is done with, then I’m gonna take what I’ve learned in that and go serve in another capacity. So stepped into coaching, and if that door opens back up, then I’ll be ready, and just thankful that coaching, especially outside of the state of Texas, where you can volunteer coach, and that’s what I did in Charlotte [N.C.], I was able to work out in the day and coach in the afternoon.
Q: You and Al Davis shared the same birthday, July 4. Did you ever celebrate it with him?
A: (Laugh) Other than championships, I don’t feel like Mr. Davis celebrated very much of anything.
Q: Give me an Al Davis anecdote.
A: I remember watching him walk in and tell a guy, “You played all your snaps last year in college, you got all your sacks from the left side, and you had your left hand down. … Why are you putting your right hand down now?” He goes, “Put your left hand back down,” and he walked off. It was a great experience because it was somebody who was truly, truly passionate about his team.
Q: If you could pick the brain of any quarterback in history …
A: Since I got to talk with Joe Namath the other day for a little while at the luncheon, I’ll exclude him, ’cause that was a great 10 minutes or so that we got to be around one another. I would say … I’d want to hear Joe Montana, Steve Young — those guys that were with Coach [Bill] Walsh. And just how they went about learning the system and understanding and growing in the system.
Q: Was Roger Staubach your boyhood idol?
A: Well, forever, I’ve always worn the No. 12 pretty much everywhere I’ve been, unless it’s retired or somebody else had it. We started wearing 12 in our house, ’cause we grew up in Texas Cowboys fans, and my older brother [Randy] wore 12, so I just kind of followed suit. So he was the reason why we wore 12.
Q: When you came into this league, what kind of career did you envision or imagine?
A: I thought it was cool how guys played with one team the whole time. Nobody goes in going, “Hey, I hope I can just hang on for a few years.” I think everybody envisions themselves being a starter and playing a long time in one place. So that was certainly my goal too. But I enjoyed being here, I wanted to be in a long time, and I thought, “Man, it’d be cool to have a 15-year career.” I don’t remember setting a lot of goals other than that. I don’t know if that was influenced by growing up in Texas watching guys like Jason Garrett and other quarterbacks, whether it was starters or backups, which is people that made long careers for themselves.
Q: Jason Garrett?
A: I think he was the first guy that me and my brothers [Randy and Luke] realized like, “OK, you can play a long time.” … I think in my mind, it was always you have to be a starter for a long time. He played a long time, and he wasn’t a starter.
Q: Were there quarterbacks that you loved the way they played?
A: Yeah, [Brett] Favre. I think everybody would say that. It’s hard not to watch Brett play. I was kind of going through high school right when he was winning MVPs. Every time I got a chance to watch a Green Bay game I watched it, and loved watching Brett play.
Q: What would the movie title be about your career?
A: (Smile) I don’t know! “The Journeyman”? I don’t know. Or “Pack Your Bags”? (laugh), I don’t know. I’ve been on a bunch of teams, and it seems to have been my path, and the provision that this game gives you is great, but the relationship that you get from all these people is awesome, and it’s so cool, and the privilege that I’ve gotten to be in these different cities and meet all these different people — I’m very thankful for that.
Q: Did you have a mentor as a young quarterback?
A: I picked up a little bit from Jake Plummer my rookie year, but more from my fourth year with Kurt Warner. And then my fifth year with Jon Kitna was probably, I think, more of a defining type of year for me than anything.
Q: How so?
A: Because Jon was driven to play good football, but he was also driven to help his teammates along in their careers. And I think we were like-minded in that degree, and he just had done it for longer, so he understood how to do that. We realized that there’s a lot of things that you can do help people not only in their career but in their life by helping them be better pros, because there’s so many things in football that correlate to life.
Q: What is your favorite memory from the Hartford Colonials of the UFL.
A: (Smile) I don’t know, I shift back and forth between like the bus broke down on the way to the first practice to the week we stayed out in Vegas. We played the Vegas team on a Saturday, then played Sacramento the following Saturday. So we stayed (chuckle) in Vegas the whole week in between. Probably, I guess, financially it was better than going back and forth or whatever. I don’t know if that was the best idea for our team. It was interesting to come off the field from having played against the Vegas team into the casino where we were staying, and seeing members of both teams around the same craps table (chuckle), who were just going against each other an hour ago. UFL wasn’t a very high-paying thing. I know there were some guys that went through their salary that one week, and I don’t think that was a good thing (smile).
Q: You once caught two passes in a game from Kitna in 2006.
A: That was awesome. Started ’cause I would run routes for Dan Orlovsky, he was our third quarterback, and I would come in and get conditioning on Monday and Tuesday and run routes. And I think they saw me and so they threw me in on some scout team stuff. … We had some issues at receiver, with how many guys we were gonna dress on Sunday, so they said, “Hey, you can be the fifth guy.” So, I end up coming in at the end of an Arizona game for a couple of routes, and then I come into the Patriots. And we have a guy, he runs a bad route at the end of halftime and the ball gets intercepted. So Coach [Mike] Martz comes to me, we’re walking off the field (chuckle), he goes, “Get your gloves, you’re the fourth guy the rest of the game.”
Q: Describe your first catch.
A: I ran like a drag route across the middle, like a shallow route. I remember catching the ball, and feeling like, “I’ve never been in this position where my back is to the defense.” I turned, and tried to make a move on Mike Vrabel or somebody, and got six or seven yards or whatever. It’s was surreal, man. It was so much fun.
Q: You had one catch called back later.
A: Jon’s scrambling, I went to the sideline — unfortunately, it was on their sideline — but I can’t remember who it was, I don’t think it was Asante Samuel, but I was running, and Jon back-shouldered me, and he came by me and I put my hand there to kind of balance, but I didn’t push off. And I turned and caught the ball, and it was like about a 20-yard gain, and I was really excited about the play, but Coach [Bill] Belichick was right there, and he was right in the ref’s ear, and I got a flag for [offensive pass interference].
Q: Describe your first touchdown pass in 2003.
A: First touchdown pass was in the north end zone of Candlestick Park on Fire Grass Right Zero 72 X Shallow, and it was [fullback] James Hodgins, in the flat.
Q: You were with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco?
A: Yeah. For three weeks.
Q: What do you remember about him as a rookie?
A: I was impressed. The verbiage of that playbook, and what they were asking the quarterback to do in that playbook and in that offense, it was a lot. Alex Smith is as sharp as it comes in the league. So here’s Kap spitting out these plays, he was quiet, seemed like a humble kid, could really spin the football, and so I thought, “The sky’s the limit for this guy.”
Q: Are you stunned or surprised he isn’t in this league right now?
A: A little bit, yeah. There’s certainly all kinds of things that come into play when you consider signing a guy like that, because of the attention that he’s gotten.
Q: What advice would you have for him?
A: I don’t know that I have any advice for him. I go back to playing this position, it’s an all-in lifestyle, and I think sometimes you get judged on that, whether that’s right or wrong. I think if the perception is in a certain way, then teams get scared. I hope it works out for him, if he wants it to. If he loves it and he wants to continue playing, and by all accounts I guess it seems like he does, then I hope it works out for him.
Q: Describe former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh.
A: I went to workout for the Niners, and he’s got his standard Harbaugh gear on, you know he’s got the fleece tucked into the khakis, he’s got cleats on. And he goes, “Hey, I’m gonna throw. I’m gonna throw with you. Let’s go throw for throw.” (Laugh) I’m like, “All right. Fine with me. You’re running the workout.” So we proceed to throw all these routes, and he’s right there with me throwing these routes. I really believe he enjoys every single day, and I respect that. He’s having a blast at what he’s doing for sure.
Q: What was Johnny Manziel like in Cleveland in 2015.
A: Love that kid, man. Wish him the best. Tons of potential.
Q: Did you try to counsel him?
A: Yeah, I mean, as best you can. You can’t want something more than that person. I think he’s got a great heart, and he just has some things that he fights. We still keep in touch, I root for him and just like any teammate, try to help him with the things that I think help you build a career in the NFL. I think he’s really, really talented, I think he’s a smart kid, and I think if he decides to be fully committed to it, he could play in this league. But at this position, it’s hard, it’s a lifestyle, and you gotta be committed to it.
Q: You played with top-overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell during his rookie season in Oakland.
A: Sad. Because he was as gifted an arm as I’ve probably been around as far as just the ability to throw a football and as string of an arm as I’ve been around. But unfortunately, like with Johnny, if you don’t really understand how much of a lifestyle this is, it’ll expose you real quick. Unfortunately, I don’t know if JaMarcus understood that, and it caught up to him.
Q: Describe former Bears teammate Jay Cutler.
A: Misunderstood. He’s an excellent dude. Sometimes gets unfairly judged.
Q: You weren’t with the Cardinals in 2006 when Dennis Green said, “They were who we thought they were!”
A: (Laugh) That’s vintage, right there. He came in one time, and he said, “If we play like we play when we play we’ll win.” And the whole room I think collectively was like, “Wait a minute … what just happened?” Our minds were blown. So he had those kind of sayings.
Q: Did you have a favorite coach prior to coming here?
A: Head coaches, I enjoyed playing for Rod Marinelli in Detroit. I enjoyed Denny. I enjoyed Dave McGinnis, my first one. Marc Trestman, learned so much from him just offensively. And then Mike Martz, it was just awesome to take in his knowledge.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Jesus, Dr. [Martin Luther] King, Larry Bird.
Q: Favorite movie?
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Daniel Day-Lewis.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Halle Berry.
Q: Favorite entertainer?
A: Kevin Hart.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Steak and potatoes.
Q: How much longer do you want to play?
A: I don’t know, we’ll see. It’s literally kind of year-by-year just taking assessment of my family, where we’re at. We do this apart, and my kids are getting older.
Q: Do you have the most understanding wife in sports?
A: Of all time. Of all time. Yeah. [Natalie is] the best. There’s zero chance any of this happens if she’s not a part of my story, do very, very thankful for her.
Q: You will want to coach one day, correct?’
A: I think so. Be hard for me to see myself 20 or 30 years from now not having coaches in some form, whether it’s high school or in the NFL.
Q: Best single moment?
A: They were both on “Monday Night Football,” and they were about four weeks apart [in 2014 while with the Bears] — going to Green Bay and beating them, just because of the rivalry, and however many years it had been since the Bears had gone into Lambeau and won. Jay got hurt and I started that week. Four weeks later we played the Cowboys in Chicago, it’s like 7 degrees, and just because I grew up in Texas, and against my family’s team. We got after ’em. Those are two cool moments for me.
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