New Chicago Bears backup quarterback Josh McCown knows football. He's played for four different teams in the NFL – the Cardinals, Lions, Panthers and Raiders – during his eight-year career. McCown has started 31 of 47 career contests, passing for 6,584 yards with 35 touchdowns and 40 interceptions.
He also played for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League in 2010 before being signed, then released a month later, by the San Francisco 49ers. Most recently, he worked as a high school coach in Charlottesville, N.C.
McCown played for coordinator Mike Martz in Detroit in 2006. The longstanding connection with his former coach was what brought him back to professional football after Jay Cutler was lost to injury a few weeks back.
QB Josh McCown
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"When I heard that Jay had been hurt, I spoke to my agent," McCown said. "Both he and I felt that it was a reasonable assumption that the Bears would call. I had an interest in coming to Chicago for the past year or so. I like the organization and of course, the opportunity to work with Martz again was very appealing."
But first things first. When he heard from Chicago, McCown's high school team was in the midst of a playoff run.
"I gave that team my full attention until they were no longer in contention," he said. "Working with them was a valuable experience and I probably got more out of it then they did. We became close as a team. In fact, I still hear from them. Got a text earlier today."
Now that he's back in the NFL with an offensive coordinator he both knows and respects, McCown has it easy, right?
"Wrong. Its been a fun week or two but it is so difficult to come back after any break. Everything is different; everything is incredibly fast," he said. "It's true that the basic plays don't change much from one pro team to another, but there are nuances. Mike is particular as far as how things are done, as he should be. I've spent considerable time in film rooms and in meetings since I arrived here. I am doing my best to understand the Bears system as quickly as I can."
McCown is happy to help out where he can, which includes considerable work with the practice squad.
"My experience comes in handy there. I feel that I can give the defense quite a few different looks as far as things they might come across in upcoming games. Mike and I have good communication but my job now is to build that same communication with the Chicago players I am working with right now."
One source of frustration for McCown is his self-perceived delayed reaction time within the the offense.
"I can go faster," he said. "The more I understand, the quicker my reaction time will become. I need to feel comfortable with the plays first, then quicken my pace. Right now I feel like the new kid in school. I know what to do and I need to translate that confidence on to the field."
McCown is also working on building confidence and trust between himself and his receivers, running backs and linemen.
"That comes with time. They need to have confidence that I will get the ball to where they need it to be. I have to have confidence that I will be protected and that my targets will be viable. It will happen. That is what we are concentrating on in practice. I'm also doing my best to help prepare the defense. The only thing missing so far from our routine is contact. I told the defense they could hit me if they wanted to. Luckily they haven't taken me up on that offer."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.