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Potential Jets: Josh McCown

Should the Jets try to sign the Bears seasoned backup?

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

I typically find the word "mentor" to be utter hogwash when discussing the reasons to sign a backup NFL quarterback to your roster. When you call a backup player a potential mentor, you're making the assumption that a player with what is usually an inferior skill set from a different system is able and willing to be an on-field coach to a younger player with more upside while adjusting to a strange new team.

Perhaps the most frustrating of all the Jets moves in recent years has been their errors in choices at backup QB. David Garrard and Mark Brunell never had the potential to start or be anything more than "mentors", while Tim Tebow was never seriously considered as an alternate option. I would have called Brady Quinn an emergency QB, had he ever so much as dressed for a game. You also have the mishandling of the Stanton/Tebow debacle and unsuccessful developmental prospects in Erik Ainge and Chris Simms. The best Jets backup in recent years has been journeyman QB Kellen Clemens.

The Jets common thread of failure on what has been otherwise loaded rosters in the past illustrate where they are falling short in terms of personnel. The Jets lack of a viable backup QB to turn to when things are at their worst is nothing short of gross mismanagement by the team. If New York ever wishes to get out of the leagues basement, they have to make more constructive decisions and stop signing quarterbacks who cannot contribute to the team. In other words, no more mentor players.

Josh McCown would be the first potential Jet in a very long time who has value and potential as a backup QB or more. McCown is 34 years old and has never been a star in the NFL, so you do have to accept the fact that Josh is a band-aid in the best case scenario. In a free agency where your best option is an aged and displaced Michael Vick, McCown is a potential diamond in the rough, in relative terms at least.

Josh McCown began his professional career in 2002 when the Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the third round, playing two very poor games for an awful team in relief of Jake Plummer. In his second year, McCown had over 1,000 yards passing in spite of only being named the starter in 3 games and playing less than half a season. McCown would hold a 57-60+ completion percentage through 2007 with several teams while his QB rating would remain in the mid-70's range. In spite of passable play in embattled Western divisions, McCown pulled down 32 of his career 50 interceptions from 2004-2007 with the Cardinals and Raiders.

McCown was replaced as starter for the Cardinals by Kurt Warner and stepped into the backup role in Detroit before being replaced there by Drew Stanton. For a couple of seasons it appeared as if the older of the still-playing McCown brothers would be an inactive backup for the remainder of his career. Then in 2007, Josh McCown won the starting job over Dante Culpepper for the consistently embattled Oakland Raiders. McCown had another up and down year rife with turnovers as is to be expected when an inferior team asks a middled QB to win games for them, before finally succumbing to injuries and ending his tenure with the Raiders.

For the next two seasons McCown appeared to again be on the outs, seemingly destined to be a journeyman backup QB with limited upside. Between 2008-2012, McCown started only 2 games and threw more picks than touchdowns, mimicking his completion numbers from earlier in his career. That might have been it for Josh McCown right there, but then Jay Cutler went down last year.

Here's where it gets interesting.

Playing eight games and starting five in relief of Cutler with a Bears team that outside of Alshon Jeffrey and an aging Brandon Marshall has very limited receiving options, Josh McCown completed 13 touchdown passes to 1 interception and a 109.0 QB rating. To be fair, a considerable amount of said production came in one night against the Dallas Cowboys bottom-ranked pass and scoring defense. Against Dallas, McCown pulled down 5 all-purpose touchdowns and a 141.9 passer rating. McCown would have ratings over 100 for the remainder of his games with the Bears, being named NFC player of the week once.

So we're left looking at two very different players in Josh McCown. One pulled down 32 interceptions in less than three years and the other is one of the greatest performing backups in the history of the NFL. The truth about McCown as a potential starting option is probably somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, however Josh has demonstrated he has the ability to lead a functioning offense to victory and put up serious production. Josh McCown has earned the right to compete for the starting role on the next team he plays for, especially in such a quarterback starved league.

Whether you are interested in Josh McCown or not, he is definitely something that the Jets last several choices in backup QBs haven't been: a capable player. McCown is the perfect blend of able to push a young quarterback while being affordable and expendable a the same time. One thing McCown is not is a player you have to desperately justify signing by calling him a mentor. It's time for the Jets to start making better, more constructive choices at the backup QB position either way.

I would like to pursue Josh McCown if the price is right. What say you? Are you interested in signing Josh McCown to the Jets roster?