Bucs sign Josh McCown to start over Mike Glennon

Published March 15, 2014


From the start, the offense will belong to Josh McCown.

It is his now. It will move at the sound of his voice and march to the rhythm of his arm. Wherever the Bucs go, McCown will lead them. Whatever they do, he will be the quarterback in charge.

McCown laid claim to the Bucs' offense on Wednesday afternoon as he signed a two-year contract to be the most important guy in the huddle. There will be no competition. Barring injury, there will be no alternative.

As of now, the team is his.


"Yes, it is," said Lovie Smith, coach of the Bucs. "We'll have a starting rotation at every position, and you have to have a certain level of play to stay there. But there has to be a starting spot, a starting point, a starting person to go out there first. And that will be Josh."

Perhaps you would have thought the Bucs would have exited Wednesday afternoon's news conference talking about competition between McCown, the new guy in town, and holdover Mike Glennon. After all, most of McCown's 11 NFL seasons have been spent as a backup. Put it this way: Glennon started 13 games last year as a rookie; you have to go back to 2007 to encompass the last 13 starts of McCown.

That, however, is how much Smith believes in McCown, who played for him in Chicago. Wherever Smith would have ended up as coach, he planned to call McCown quickly.

"You look at quarterbacks and what you ask them to do," Smith said. "First, they have to make good, sound decisions most of the time. He can do that. You have to have an arm to get the ball where you need to. He can do that. I want a guy who is mobile, a guy who can scramble to throw the ball or get a first down. He has most the things you want.

"As far as intangibles, there is leadership. When you have a guy who everyone seems to rally around and listen to, that's what we're getting in Josh."

If you prefer to wait and see, well, that's understandable. There is a lot of mediocrity on McCown's resume. He has started only 38 games in his career, and he has won only 16 of those. Before last year, he had passed for 37 touchdowns to 44 interceptions. Counting an offseason in San Francisco, this will be his seventh NFL team.

That said, a light seemed to click on for McCown last season. His 109.0 quarterback rating was third-highest in the league. It was the kind of blossoming that left onlookers talking about how former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon had become a star at 34.

Still, a lot of teams have looked at McCown without seeing him as the answer.

"I like to judge a guy by what he's doing at the time," Smith said. "There was a time I had a lot of hair on my head. Times change. You can change for the better. We're a 4-12 team; you can't base it on us winning the Super Bowl. With Josh, you have to judge what he did the last time he played. He played good football, and I expect him to play that way for us."

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Where does that leave Glennon? Probably where a third-round draft pick should be at this stage of his career: Learning. Yes, Glennon had some nice moments last season, but he never looked so special that he should be entrusted to a team. This will give him a chance to watch an old pro at work.

"For a young player like Mike Glennon," Smith said, "it can only help him to be around a player who has been around all the things that Josh has. I've had a chance to see Josh in every situation. As a leader. As a guy coming back from adversity. I think he has yet to play his best football."

For the record, Smith said the addition of McCown will have no affect on who the Bucs draft. Yes, he said, they could still draft a quarterback with the seventh overall pick.

For McCown, the older brother of former Bucs quarterback Luke, the $10 million payday was a lesson in persevering. For instance, as recently as August 2012, Smith sat across from McCown and told him he was cutting him from the Bears. Without a job, McCown became a volunteer coach for Marvin Ridge High School in Charlotte, N.C., coaching quarterbacks.

"It's a great story," Smith said. "It's one for everyone to learn. We can all learn from situations like that. We all go through adversity. How do we learn from that. No team wants me to play quarterback, I'm going to go and coach high school football. He was coaching quarterbacks and watching a lot of video. You can gain an awful lot of football knowledge watching from a different perspective. And when you come back, you're normally a lot better.

"You look at Josh last year. He was playing as good a football as any of the guys around."

Ah, but will he here?

That's the question, of course. In Chicago, McCown had stellar wide receivers and a great play-caller in coach Marc Trestman. How will he adjust to this offensive line, to these receivers, to this running game? How will he respond to new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford?

Hey, veteran quarterbacks have played well for the Bucs before. Brad Johnson came at age 33 and won a Super Bowl. Jeff Garcia came at 37 and the Bucs had their last two back-to-back winning years.

The 34-year-old McCown?

All he has to do is win. If he does that, he need never go near a bench again.