Josh McCown had retired. He’d said his goodbyes to professional football.
After 16 NFL seasons with eight different teams, the 40-year-old quarterback finally was ready to get on with the rest of his life.
He was helping coach his youngest sons Owen and Aiden’s high school team in Charlotte, N.C. He had accepted a part-time studio gig with ESPN that would allow him to live in Charlotte and spend a lot of time with his family.
His agent, Mike McCartney, still fielded calls from any team inquiring about McCown’s availability. But the answer always was “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Until the Eagles called last week.
While McCown has had a long career, it’s usually been spent with really, really bad football teams. He’s been on just two winning teams and one playoff team in 16 seasons. Despite a career plus-16 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential, his record as an NFL starter is 23-53.
“Throughout my career, I’ve kind of been mainly in startup situations where there’s a new head coach or they’re rebuilding and it’s been my job to go in and help with that type of stuff," McCown said.
Not this time. The Eagles aren’t Rent-A-Wreck. They are two years removed from winning the Lombardi Trophy and appear to be a legitimate contender again this year if they can stay reasonably healthy.
“To have an opportunity to come to a place that’s had success and won a championship and be a part of that, it was hard to stay away from,’’ McCown said.
“Looking out over the course of my career and only having had a couple of situations like that, and none as solid as this one, it was intriguing and enticing, and good enough to get me to come back.’’
It was so intriguing and so enticing that even his sons, who are in ninth and 10th grades and were really enjoying the quality football time they were spending with their old man every day, signed off on him grabbing the next plane to Philadelphia.
“It was cool when the opportunity came up and we started to talk about it as a family,’’ McCown said. “They were excited and they were like, man, you’ve got to go. I think for all the same reasons [I wanted to go]. They’ve been through these situations with me and have seen it all, and the opportunity to come here and, hopefully, experience some success was huge for them too.’’
McCown signed a one-year deal with the Eagles on Saturday, two days after Cody Kessler suffered a concussion in the Eagles’ preseason game against Jacksonville.
With the addition of McCown, the Eagles currently have five quarterbacks on their roster – starter Carson Wentz, rookie Clayton Thorson, Nate Sudfeld, Kessler, and McCown.
Sudfeld, who was supposed to be Wentz’s season-opening backup, broke his wrist in the Eagles’ first preseason game and is expected to be out until the third or fourth week of the regular-season.
Kessler is going through concussion protocol, but was on the sideline for Sunday’s practice, which is an indication that the injury wasn’t severe and he’s close to being cleared.
But Kessler has struggled in camp, and McCown’s arrival definitely is not good news for him. It probably isn’t good news for Sudfeld either.
Asked Sunday whether it’s no longer a given that Sudfeld will be Wentz’s backup when his wrist heals, head coach Doug Pederson said: “We’re not there yet. We have to get Nate back. but we’re not at that point yet, as far as who is two, who is three. We haven’t made those roster [decisions] yet.’’
Thorson, the Eagles’ fifth-round pick in the April draft, has struggled in training camp and was awful in the first preseason game.
He played better against the Jaguars, but is a likely practice squad candidate, unless he comes up with a convenient hamstring or groin injury right before roster cuts and winds up on injured reserve.
McCown’s extensive experience in a myriad of offensive systems should help him assimilate the Eagles’ offense fairly quickly. He’s seen just about everything, though he admitted that one of the things that appealed to him about signing with the Eagles is that some of the things they do in their offense are different than other NFL offenses.
“It is a little bit different. It’s a little new,’’ he said. “You do this for 18 years and you kind of have seen everything. But there are some new things and new wrinkles in this offense that I’m looking forward to working with.
“A lot of the concepts are the same [as other offenses I’ve been in]. But one of the reasons I was interested in coming here was, what they’ve been able to do with some of those concepts, and the new twists they’ve put on things. It’s interesting and I wanted to learn it.’’
McCown didn’t take any 11-on-11 practice reps Sunday. He likely will take a few Monday and Tuesday in the joint practices with the Baltimore Ravens at the NovaCare Complex.
It remains to be seen whether he’ll play in Thursday’s preseason game against the Ravens. “We’ll see where he is,’’ Pederson said. “Obviously, he has a lot to learn and to catch up on. So we’ll see. We’ll see on that.’’
McCown said he’s in pretty good shape.
“I was coaching high school ball and playing hoops and running and staying pretty active,’’ he said. “I’m not someone who likes to sit still.