I’ll never forget the reaction I had when word broke back in February the Cleveland Browns were signing veteran quarterback Josh McCown. To summarize, said reaction was undoubtedly negative.
Fresh off a season where we watched Brian Hoyer excel before imploding, followed by then-rookie Johnny Manziel having one of the worst debuts in team history, the idea of McCown being any sort of fix at quarterback seemed laughable. At 36-years-old and coming off a miserable year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there was just no way the vet could be considered a solution.
McCown’s season with the Browns officially ended yesterday, when the team announced he suffered a broken collarbone in the Monday night loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Though he only started eight games, McCown was still able to prove something this year.
Did he end the constantly revolving carousel of Cleveland quarterbacks? No, that baby is still rolling right along. However, what McCown did do was prove to be one of the only Browns to truly give everything he had during a frustrating season full of losses.
A fractured collarbone was hardly the only ailment McCown dealt with this season. He left just minutes into the first game of the season with a concussion, injured his shoulder midway through the year and seemed to be peeling himself off the turf more often than not in the past few weeks.
On top of all of this, McCown revealed yesterday he’d been playing with broken ribs since Cleveland’s Week 7 game against the St. Louis Rams. Despite dealing with such a significant injury, McCown still started two more games before even letting anyone outside the team know about it.
Obviously, playing through so much pain can certainly be seen as crazy, especially with the team as a whole being hapless throughout the season. However, you also can’t ignore this being proof McCown continued to give no less than 100% this year, which is more than you can say about a lot of players in Cleveland’s locker room.
It was pretty clear early in this season the Browns weren’t going anywhere other than the top of the 2016 draft order. As a result, a lack of effort could be seen in many of Cleveland’s games. In an embarrassing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers a few weeks ago, you could see more than a few Browns were just playing out the string.
In considering this, you can see why McCown gutting it out through multiple significant injuries even though many of the players around him could’ve cared less is so impressive.
McCown knew he wasn’t going to be much more than a stopgap in Cleveland. Age, along with the ever-present need to see what Manziel could do, both factored into his long-term status with the team. It’d have been easy for McCown to follow the routine of some of his teammates, slowly decreasing effort as the losses piled up.
But he didn’t. McCown kept toughing through the pain, putting forth a year which ended up being a lot better than anyone would’ve predicted.
McCown finishes the year passing for just 100 fewer yards than last season, but in three fewer games played. He threw for one more touchdown than last year, while also dropping his interception count from 14 to four. It was hardly a perfect campaign by any matter, but still, looking at his stats while knowing what he’s been dealing with for most of the season, it’s certainly impressive.
Additionally, when asked to mentor Manziel, especially leading up to games where the younger quarterback would be starting, McCown obliged. Where last year Hoyer wanted no part of being a tutor to Manziel, McCown accepted the duty from Day 1.
As great as it was to see how much McCown gave for a losing team, you also can’t help but be frustrated. Not so much with the effort he showed, but with how little it affected to the rest of the locker room.
For the most part, this team hasn’t played with any sort of heart for weeks now. The season has been lost from the get-go, and many of the players have taken the field with an attitude reflecting this. Outside of McCown, you can’t really name many players who continued to give as much as possible even though there was no postseason in sight.
Not Manziel, who clearly still prioritizes partying over being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Not Dwayne Bowe, who received $9 million guaranteed in March and hasn’t displayed a lick of effort since. Not the majority of the Browns’ defensive players who, based on recent results, packed it in weeks ago.
McCown is not the future quarterback in Cleveland. At the end of the day, though, he was never supposed to be. However, he also wasn’t supposed to have such a bounce-back season, complete with throwing 423 yards and four touchdowns in his past two games despite playing with broken ribs.
Because of this, it’s important for Browns fans to appreciate everything McCown brought to the table this year. They need to do so, frankly, because there wasn’t another player on this team who came anywhere close to giving the effort he did.