The Jets lost their cherished veteran quarterback Josh McCown to injury late this season, but he could be their good luck charm this week against the Patriots. While he does have an 0-3 record against New England, there was a time when McCown may have won the psychological battle against them.
And he wasn’t even playing quarterback.
Before joining the Jets in his 15th NFL season this year, McCown last threw a football against a Bill Belichick-coached team in 2004 while with the Arizona Cardinals. But that wasn’t the last time he went up against the future Hall of Famer.
Flash it back to 2006, when McCown was with the Detroit Lions in his first, and only, year with the team. He had come to the Motor City with a plan intact: to compete with Jon Kitna for the job of starting quarterback.
It didn’t quite go that way however.
“Obviously when you’re in a competition, you want to win the job,” McCown said in a recent NFL Films interview. “So, when it didn’t go my way, I was frustrated. But the fun thing about that is that I end up playing receiver for a few games that year.”
McCown first saw some snaps at the unfamiliar position against his former team in the Arizona Cardinals.
“We’re in the two-minute drill (and) I get lined up,” McCown reminisces. “I run my route and as I turn, I flick it toward the Cardinals sideline. When I look over there Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are laughing they’re heads off.”
And while he didn’t make a great impact in his first go at receiver, that didn’t stop offensive coordinator Mike Martz from letting McCown have another go at it.
The following week, the Lions we’re up against New England, and McCown got another shot.
“We got to Foxborough and we have a receiver make a miscommunication on a route. Martz wasn’t too thrilled about that and in a very quiet voice he says [to me], ‘Get your gloves. You’re the third receiver the rest of the game.'”
And just like that, the receiver was benched, and McCown played out of the slot for the remainder of the second half.
“Jon [Kitna] and I were like ‘How are we going to do this?’ I was just lining up and we were having a blast out there,” McCown said.
It’s safe to say that the quarterback-to-quarterback formation certainly threw off the Belichick-lead Patriots. A clip from NFL films shows what looks to be a Patriots assistant approach Belichick and say “They actually had McCown run a couple of routes at wide receiver.”
Belichick hesitates and then responds, “McCown?!”
On the day McCown had two receptions for 15 yards. His longest was an eight yard snag that moved the chains for Detroit. A third catch was also made but was nullified by an offensive pass interference call, something that McCown still disputes against, according to NFL.com
McCown’s tenure with Detroit didn’t last too long after that. He concluded his stop in the Motor City with zero passes thrown at quarterback, and two passes caught at receiver.
The Journey Continues
While McCown won’t see the field against the Patriots this weekend, the Jets may ask for some versatility from him as a player coach.
With his eyes and support fixated on third-year quarterback Bryce Petty, and possibly Christian Hackenberg, the Jets may not mind some extra route-running tips from the ex-receiver. Since McCown’s season-ending injury, the Jets have only amassed 239 yards receiving amongst eight qualified targets. They have yet to have a receiver with 50 or more yards in a game since his collapse.
That being said, it’s too bad the fans won’t get to see McCown lining up in the slot. Does Hackenberg have any pass-catching ability?
To see McCown take on the Patriots at wide receiver, check out the mini-documentary from NFL Films below: