If you look at the numbers, especially early in the game, it’s easy to place all of the blame of the Buccaneers’ loss to Carolina on Josh McCown. After all, isn’t that always the plan? If the quarterback isn’t playing at the level of a Peyton Manning or the consistency of a Russell Wilson, scream and shout to draft someone else. Loyalty is a fickle concept when it comes to football.
Some fans are fickle, while others simply believe that every single bad play should cost a player their job. If that were the case, Peyton Manning would’ve been cut after last year’s Super Bowl. Cut him, and draft someone else! If there’s an even semi-capable backup on the roster, than the cries immediately turn to them. The logic is flawless, right? He didn’t suck before, so he must be able to not suck now. Right?
I understand that gametime reactions are sudden, but really guys? I consider myself a Mike Glennon guy. I don’t want us to draft someone else. I love what Glennon did last year, especially considering the coaching and inexperience he had to work with. That being said, there is no part of me that does not want Josh McCown on that field when the Bucs have their back against the wall.
Josh made mistakes, but at least he made them in an attempt to do something. Things were stalling and Josh panicked. If you look at him, it’s a logical course of action. The closest Josh has ever come to playing a full season was in 2004 when he was with the Arizona Cardinals. Josh started 14 of their 16 regular season games. Those two that he missed weren’t because of injury, but instead because the head coach decided to bench him. What’s even more telling is that this completely backfired and the backup was significantly worse than Josh.
This mid-season benching stunt only kept him out for two games. In the second game where Josh did not start, the crowd booed viciously and started chanting “Josh, Josh, Josh!” Josh was put in late in the fourth quarter as the Cardinals struggled. Josh forced as hard as he could to pull a victory out of a poor performance, and it resulted in two interceptions. Sound familiar? Josh knew that his entire livelihood could be riding on that moment, and he had to do everything he could to make it count.
The stretch of games Josh got the opportunity to play last year in Chicago was one of the few times in his career that he was “the guy.” Unfortunately he was only “the guy” temporarily, and he was quickly knocked down a peg once the Bears’ real guy, Jay Cutler, was able to play again. However, he knew in those moments that he didn’t have to force it. He had things to work with, and he was comfortable with the system.
I believe Josh understood that he wasn’t fighting for anything in that opportunity with Chicago. His role in that moment was to hold his own while Jay Cutler was injured, plain and simple. As a result, he didn’t overreach and make plays. He played calm and comfortable, and it resulted in only one interception for his portion of that season. He didn’t have to worry about losing his job or being benched because of a bad throw.
I understand the value in a quarterback competition, but I think just as much value can be gained with faith in a player. When Lovie Smith signed Josh McCown this past March, he signed him to a two-year contract. The choice of signing him to a two-year contract speaks volumes about the team’s faith in him to deliver and be “the guy” in the near future.
With all that in mind, what happens in his first regular season start? Disaster. The offense didn’t just stall, it never even got started. Meanwhile, the defense didn’t create turnovers or hold Derek Anderson or Greg Olsen in check at all. I’m just speculating, but I imagine there was a small part of Josh that saw it happening again. Things weren’t going his way, and he saw his opportunity slipping away.
He felt like he had to force the plays in order to fix the problems, much like I believe many of his past situations played out, and that forceful approach backfired in the shape of poor decision-making that led to turnovers. By the fourth quarter, Josh had calmed down. He had settled in, and it showed. In the postgame press conference, Josh was asked about the turnovers. His words spoke volumes on the situation.
“I’m more disappointed in the first [interception] really, because I should’ve just ate it. I should’ve went down. I saw Austin [Seferian-Jenkins] there flashing, and I was trying to make a play. I have to trust our defense and trust our system. [I have to] realize that everyone has a part in this and everyone has to make plays. I don’t have to try to force it and do that. I think that was part of the reason we got going, maybe, is that I started to sit back a little bit and trust those guys, give them the ball, and I didn’t try to force things.”
Josh McCown isn’t used to being able to trust the system. The system has always been working on keeping him out. I can only speculate on this, but a part of me feels like there had to be a moment between Lovie and McCown at halftime or even during the third or fourth quarter. There had to be a moment where Lovie, just the way he does, let a few words speak with the weight of many. I feel like there was a moment where Lovie simply told Josh that he was their guy, and he was going to stay their guy.
Josh didn’t blame a single thing on the offensive line or any other issues, saying, “Those things can’t happen. They absolutely can’t happen. It’s a hundred percent on me, and we’ve got to do better in that area. And we will do better than area.” I understand how hard it is to have faith in Josh, especially after his performance for most of the game Sunday. In that press conference, he called this a journey. It’s a 16 game journey, and we’ve just barely gotten started.
It’s not time to press eject and bail out of the plane. It’s not time to start planning for a first round quarterback next year in the draft. It’s time to play football, and Josh McCown is in Tampa to do that. If he’s Lovie’s guy, he’s my guy. Josh isn’t going to let this performance slide. It’s going to fuel him into the kind of beast that was sighted in Chicago with surgical precision as a passer. Don’t burn him at the stake so quickly. This isn’t Salem, and Josh is no witch. He’s our quarterback, and he’s going to stay our quarterback.
(Disagree? Let me know in the comments below!)