Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith added the veteran quarterback to the mix at the position that he wanted when Tampa Bay signed Josh McCown to a two-year contract. It is a two-year, $10 million deal according to reports. Smith said that McCown will be given the first opportunity to start for the Buccaneers over second-year quarterback Mike Glennon, who started the final 13 games of his rookie season in 2013.
“With every position there is competition,” Smith said. “We have starting rotations at every position. That is what we have. Gerald McCoy is at the top of the depth chart with our starting rotation. And then you have to have certain level of play for guys to stay that way. That is the way it has always been for me. But there has to be a starting spot, a starting point, a starting person to go out there first. That would be Josh.”
Smith said that his history with McCown, his experience and his character give him the initial edge in the team’s quarterback competition.
“Josh and I go way back,” Smith said. “Back in 2010 when we got a player hurt in training camp while I was back in Chicago I called Josh. Being the man that he is – and I said, ‘Hey, Josh, I want you to come [to Chicago]” – he had promised his team (Hartford) in the other league (the UFL). He said, ‘Lovie, I would really like to come, and it would be a quarterback’s dream to be in the NFL, but I gave the coach – I think it was Chris Palmer – my word that I would stay here this year.’ We went to the NFC Championship game that year. That’s what he turned down. When you start looking at the character of the man and what you are dealing with it started then. When I had the chance to get with him again I had a different perspective of him and it just worked. I think we all end up where we are supposed to be.
“I told Josh, ‘You knew for a fact, even though I couldn’t talk to you, that when I got a job I would call you.’ And he did. You have to believe in your quarterback like that. We got our guy.”
Smith said that the addition of McCown wouldn’t prevent the team from drafting a quarterback with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
“We have a lot of different ways we can go,” Smith said. “I can make a case for probably six positions with guys that could be there that we could use. This is the position we want to be in.”
McCown was Chicago’s backup quarterback from 2011-13, including Smith’s last two seasons when he was still the Bears head coach. The Sam Houston State product visited One Buccaneer Place on Tuesday shortly after free agency opened.
McCown, who drew interest from the Bucs, the Texans, the Jets and the Bears, wanted the chance to compete for the starting job. That opportunity appeared to be the greatest in Tampa Bay as Bears starter Jay Cutler recently signed a long-term extension that pays him $54 million in guaranteed money over the length of the deal.
“To leave Chicago, it will be a situation where I’m looking to compete to start or to start and be able to kind of grow more as a player,” McCown said on Monday. “The only way as a player that you can do that is on the field. That will definitely be something that we are looking at.”
McCown, who is the brother of former Bucs backup QB Luke McCown, appeared in eight games with five starts for Chicago in 2013, finishing with 13 touchdowns, just one interception and a passer rating of 109. As he enters his 11th year in the NFL, McCown will move on to his sixth team after stops in Arizona (2002-05), Detroit (2006), Oakland (2007), Carolina (2008-09) and Chicago (2011-13).
McCown was 3-2 with the Bears last year after filling in for an injured Jay Cutler, completing 149-of-224 pass attempts for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception. McCown’s 109.0 passer rating was the NFL’s third-highest rating among quarterbacks in 2013. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a journeyman backup quarterback, who will be 35 when the season starts. In 58 games in his career, McCown has completed 794-of-1,337 passes for 8,827 yards with 50 touchdowns and 45 interceptions.
Smith wasn’t concerned about McCown’s age, and said he still had lots of mileage left on his tires.
“If you haven’t played a lot it puts a little time on you, too,” Smith said. “We’re going to be a young football team.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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