suntimes
PROPER 
Weather Updates

Even at 34, Josh McCown continues to improve as a QB

Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: December 23, 2013 3:04PM



Since the day Josh McCown was drafted in 2002, all but one NFL franchise — the New England Patriots — has changed coaches. Ten teams have built new stadiums.

In a league in which the oldest average opening-day roster was 27 years old, the 34-year-old Bears quarterback is, well, ancient.

Still, McCown said he’s still getting better.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Over the course of a career and the older you get, some of the mistakes that you used to make, [you] minimize, or you don’t do those as much.

“But there’s still times where you find yourself making a throw or doing something, and you’re like, ‘Man, I shouldn’t do that,’ but you do.

“It’s finding ways to improve in those areas so those things don’t happen.”

McCown’s passer rating of 100 this season is more than 25 points higher than his previous single-season best, but it’s not exactly an old-dog-new-trick situation.

Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and others have given him weapons he’s never had before, and coach Marc Trestman’s offense seems tailored for his skill set.

But it’s a question worth asking, especially as the Bears consider whether to extend Jay Cutler’s contract: At what point, despite making improvements, are you what you are?

Last week, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski wrote that Cutler, who is 30 and has played more than 100 games, has no mystery left to him.

“The issue is that, we’re no longer talking about things he can learn,” he wrote.

He wondered when Bears stop projecting his future performance “and close the book on him, knowing that, for better or worse, this is Jay Cutler?”

McCown conceded, in his own case, there are aspects of his game that “get kinda penciled in as what they are” early in his career.

“I just think, like physically — I mean, I’m not growing any taller,” McCown said. “So I just think those are parts of you that, that’s how you are.

“That part doesn’t change, but there is always a mental side of the game that hopefully you’re seeking to get better at all the time.”

Trestman said he didn’t know a profession that offered a chance for daily improvement on “people levels, emotional and mental, and physical levels,” other than football.

“There’s all different ways of learning on a daily basis,” he said, “so I don’t think it has to stop there.”

He said “everybody is on their own journey — in their own place, emotionally, physically — and now Josh is in that place.”

That place includes getting more turns at practice.

“The more reps he gets,” offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said, “the better off he’ll be.”

Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens has, like McCown, been thrust into a starting role because of an injury.

He’s started 15 games in eight seasons. McCown has 35 starts in 11 seasons, taking 2010 away from the NFL. Neither has started eight or more games in a season since 2007.

McCown said he understands what Clemens went through as a backup, “with the reps situation … and then being able to have to get in there and execute.”

Like McCown, Clemens’ coach said he’s “improving” with added snaps.

“Any time a guy has kind of been a backup for so long, really the only experience you get is in the preseason,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “And that experience comes with inexperienced players …

“Someone once said a long time ago: ‘The difference between a very good player and an average player is reps.

“And that’s clearly what we see on tape with Josh.”

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.