Memories of a preseason debut 17 years ago for Josh McCown

Memories of a preseason debut 17 years ago for Josh McCown

The Arizona Cardinals traveled to San Diego in August of 2002 for their preseason opener at Qualcomm Stadium.

Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson was in that game. Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie was in that game. Current Eagles tight ends coach Justin Peelle was in that game.

And Josh McCown was in that game.

That was McCown’s first career preseason game, and he remembers it like it was yesterday.

I remember, shoot, Jake Plummer hit David Boston on a dig pump for like a 60-yard touchdown, and I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Man, this game is easy, you know? This is what we’re going to do,’” McCown said. “Then the third quarter rolls around and I get in the game and I just remember running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find the open guy and get some completions and finally settling in. But it’s a fun day. When you put that uniform on for the first time and you walk out there it’s special, and they turn the lights on and you take the field, it’s a special feeling. I’ll never forget that.

McCown’s memory is pretty darn good.

The TD from Plummer to Boston was actually 64 yards. That’s 17 years ago.

And when McCown entered the game he started out 0-for-5 with a sack before warming up and hitting six of his last seven passes. 

That was his first career preseason game, and the one against the Ravens last Thursday might wind up being his last. He probably won’t play against the Jets Thursday night in the preseason finale at MetLife Stadium, and at 40 years old and in his 18th pro season this could well wind up being his final NFL season.

McCown has played in 50 career preseason games, completing 310 of 517 passes for 3,088 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

That’s like a full meaningless NFL season.

McCown, who missed virtually all of this year's training camp, has been around so long he’s a throwback to the old NFL two-a-day practices that have long since been outlawed.

The guys were asking (about two-a-days), what it was like,” McCown said. ‘Hey, practice twice a day, just like it sounds. I think obviously the rule changes for player safety are important, but there was a level of grind and toughness that came out of those days, so when you’re in the middle of that, you weren’t thinking about playing for 17 years, I promise you that. You were hoping to last the next 17 minutes. … I was just trying to make it through camp at that point. Back when camp was really camp. So to be here is a tremendous blessing, I’m very thankful.

The fourth preseason game is always the worst of the bunch. And they’re all pretty bad. 

McCown recalled the final preseason weekend of 2012 with the Bears, when they faced the Browns in Cleveland. 

With Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell not playing and Matt Blanchard just released, McCown had to play the entire game, throwing 29 passes. 

I had been in the league 10-plus years, I’m playing every snap of the fourth preseason game,” he said. “But there were guys trying to make the roster, so I was trying to give everybody their best chance. I got cut the next day.

Then there was last summer, when ironically he was with the Jets finishing the preseason against the Eagles at the Linc. 

He wasn’t scheduled to play, but …

We traded Teddy Bridgewater on the way to the game and I had to find some (cleats) and get myself ready to go,” he said. “But it’s an important night, and you understand that as a young player and going through the league because it’s a night of opportunity and you want to help those guys out.

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Eagle Eye podcast: The biggest news from the combine

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Eagle Eye podcast: The biggest news from the combine

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank is joined by Dave Zangaro from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis to go over the biggest storylines of the day. 

Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson spoke to reporters on Tuesday about a wide range of topics. 

Will Jason Peters return? Have the Eagles changed their free agent philosophy? And what will the coaching staff really look like in 2020? 

• One more year of Jason Peters? 
• Eagles might change free agency approach
• More details about the coaching structure
• The rise of Press Taylor 
• What will Rich Scangarello do?  
• Breaking down Duce Staley’s role in the organization 

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Eagles leave open possibility that Jason Peters returns in 2020

Eagles leave open possibility that Jason Peters returns in 2020

INDIANAPOLIS — Jason Peters is 38 years old, will become a free agent in less than a month and the Eagles already drafted his replacement in the first round a little less than a year ago.

This seems pretty simple, right?

Yet, as Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson spoke to reporters on Tuesday at the NFL’s Scouting Combine, neither man was ready to say the team is moving on.

“I think as it pertains to all of our free agents, it’s important that we keep an open mind with everyone and try to figure out as we get more information,” Roseman said.

“A big part of this week is accumulating information. That’s what we do here. Obviously, when you’re talking about Jason Peters, you’re talking about a Hall of Fame player, a Hall of Fame person, someone that’s very special to us and played at a really high level last year. We’ll go through all those decisions this week.”

Pederson gave less of a politician answer.

“Heck yeah,” Pederson said when asked if he wants Peters back next season.

So that leads us to this: Is there really a chance the Eagles would re-sign a 38-year-old left tackle instead of playing a first-round pick they traded up to get less than a year ago?

It seems crazy.

Coming into Tuesday, I thought there was a chance Roseman would get to the podium and use the forum as a chance to make a statement about Peters. I thought, maybe, he would get up there and tell us all that the Eagles were planning to let Peters hit the free agent market, thank him for his time and give a vote of confidence to Andre Dillard as the left tackle of the future.

That didn’t happen.

In fact, Roseman and Pederson actually invited more speculation and I walked away thinking there’s actually a chance they try to bring back Peters for next season, even though it sounds pretty crazy.

Maybe they just haven’t talked to Peters yet. That’s possible. In a case like this, if the Eagles want to move on, they wouldn’t want to do anything to disrespect a guy who has been here a decade and will likely end up in Canton. Even Roseman admitted that it’s important to treat guys of this magnitude a little differently.

“There’s no question,” Roseman said. “When you talk about guys who are historic players in the National Football League, guys who are going into the Hall of Fame, guys who are going into the Eagles Hall of Fame, those guys are special people and special players and you don’t have a lot of those during the course of your career.

“So you try to make decisions first that are best for the football team and at the same time have respect and appreciation for what guys have done and what guys have done going forward and have been a part of your organization for a long time.”

Peters played the 2019 season on a renegotiated one-year deal that he signed in March. And while Peters didn’t play at an All Pro level last year, he was still pretty good.

But throughout last season, it seemed like the Eagles were going to let Peters play and groom Dillard. And, sure, Dillard struggled at right tackle in his one start at the position, but acquitted himself quite well at left tackle when Peters missed a three-game stretch.

On Tuesday, I asked Pederson about the possibility that bringing back Peters could stunt Dillard’s long-term development. I mean, what would it say about a first-round rookie if the Eagles didn’t start him in Year 2 and instead re-signed a 38-year old to play in front of him?

“Andre is the guy we selected,” Pederson said. “He was our top pick a year ago. We feel like he has a bright future. Again, this is where that fine line comes in. We have to have some difficult conversations, not only for us internally but with the players.”

Pederson said his feelings about wanting Peters back are similar to the way he felt about Darren Sproles. Well, the Eagles brought Sproles back in 2018 and 2019 and he got hurt both seasons. It seems like a cautionary tale.

And unlike Sproles, who was a rotational player, if Peters returns, he’ll be the starting left tackle.

“It is that simple when it comes down to it,” Pederson said. “It’s either JP or it’s Andre and those are decisions we have to make.”

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