The Josh McCown era is over.
“At the end of the day, no matter what team I was on, I tried to serve it to the best of my ability, and I tried to influence my team in a positive manner. I hope I did that,” McCown wrote for The Players’ Tribune. “And I made sure that when my number was called, I was prepared, and I gave it everything I had, every time. I may not have turned out to be the franchise quarterback I set out to be back at Cardinals rookie camp, but I’m extremely proud of the career I had.
“So to everybody who’s been a part of it — Coach Turner, Natalie, my family, my teammates … everybody — thank you, from the bottom of my heart. It’s been one heck of a journey,” he wrote. “And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
As McCown, 39, wrote, he plans to do more work for ESPN as an analyst. He also said he’s excited to help coach his sons, both of whom are high school quarterbacks.
It wouldn’t be surprising if he eventually became an NFL coach. In between NFL stops — right around the time he breathed another life into his career as a fill-in starter with the Bears — McCown also worked as a coach at Marvin Ridge High School in North Carolina, helping the program reach the state football playoffs twice, as ESPNW’s Kelsey Allen chronicled back in 2012. Given how long he’s spent around the game, he’d likely be able to offer something as a quarterbacks coach or an offensive assistant.
McCown entered the league in 2002 as a third-round pick of the Cardinals. In addition to the Cardinals, he also played for the Lions, Raiders, Dolphins, Panthers, 49ers, Bears, Buccaneers, Browns, and Jets. Of those 10 teams, he threw at least one regular season pass for seven of them. He also briefly played for the Hartford Colonials in the UFL. He’s been playing for so long that he was the one who handed the ball off to Emmitt Smith for the final run of his career.
“I wanted to be a franchise quarterback. I wanted to bring a Super Bowl to Arizona. I wanted to retire a Cardinal,” McCown wrote. “So if you would have told me back then that I would go on to play for 10 different NFL teams over the next 17 years, I would have said, ‘Shoot, 17 years? I’ll take it. But 10 different teams? No way….’
“I guess it just goes to show that you don’t always get to choose your own path. But looking back, I’m proud of how my career has gone. I don’t shy away from the journeyman label. I embrace it, full force. Because it’s been one heck of a journey.”
He’s perhaps best known for his awesome stretch of play filling in for Bears starting quarterback Jay Cutler during the 2013 season when he threw 13 touchdowns and one interception over eight appearances. His success prompted a quarterback controversy before the Bears ultimately decided to give Cutler his job back. But McCown cashed in on his brief success in Chicago. Over the final five years of his career, he started 38 games with the Buccaneers, Browns, and Jets. In the end, McCown retires with 17,707 passing yards and 98 touchdown passes.
It’s difficult for backup quarterbacks to leave a lasting impression, but that’s what McCown managed to do.
McCown’s retirement also closes the door on the 2002 NFL Draft. Last season, Julius Peppers and McCown were the only two players from that draft to make regular-season appearances with an NFL team. Both players, however, .