McCown was bad in his first regular season start with the Buccaneers. So bad that the two-year, $10 million dollar contract he signed in the offseason already looks reprehensible.
How did Josh McCown get here?
In his thirteen year NFL career, McCown has played with nine organizations, across two countries, and finally got his first opportunity to start in 2014 with the Buccaneers.
McCown finally produced numbers that suggested he could look like an NFL starting back in 2013. However, one must take the context from which those numbers were produced, and my guess is that the Buccaneers have now realized a little too late how much context matters.
For five games Marc Trestman made McCown a star. In those five games, McCown averaged 8.2 yards per pass—which is more than Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Matthew Stafford averaged in 2013—and was fourth in DVOA amongst QBs—higher than Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Russel Wilson. I could feel the eyes roll after that last sentence, and how could you not after performance that McCown put-on on Sunday.
Buccaneers vs. Bears Thought Experiment
While McCown may not have the same quality of skill position players he had in Chicago, overall, the situation still may be considered more advantageous.
Lets think about this as a thought experiment.
Say for some reason the Phil Emery lost his mind and decided to trade Jay Cutler in a one for one trade for Josh McCown, or that Jay Cutler was magically cloned and there were now two Jay Cutlers—there would really be three Jay Cutlers in this hypothetical scenario, because everyone knows who the real Jay Cutler is to begin with. Which team would win more games, the Bears with Jay Cutler or, as they are currently constructed, the Buccaneers with Jay Cutler?
Sure, the Bears have Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but the Buccaneers aren’t exactly barren of talent with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans at the skill positions. In 2012 Jackson lead the NFL in yards per catch—19.2 yards—and somehow managed to be 16th in the NFL, ahead of Keenan Allen, Jordy Nelson, and A.J. Green in 2013 with Mike Glennon at the helm for most of the year.
As far as Evans goes, rumor had it, as extremely unreliable as they may be, that some teams had him ranked ahead of Sammy Watkins in this last years draft, which would be hard to argue when you look at his physical attributes and on-field performance in 2013, which included a 287 yard receiving, four touchdown game against Auburn, who eventually played in the National Championship. That said, the Bears wide receivers are better, but it may be closer than one would think.
However, the biggest advantage the Buccaneers may have over the Bears comes from players that McCown does not even work directly with: the defense. The Bears defense was 31st in weighted DVOA in 2013—17th in DVOA against the pass and 32nd in DVOA against the run—and if the 193 yards they gave up on the ground against Buffalo in Week 1 are any indication, it looks like they haven’t changed.
As bad as the Bears defense was in 2013, the Buccaneers past and future couldn’t be any different. The Bucs were 11th in DVOA against the run and 8th in DVOA against the pass in 2013, all while they played in spite of Greg Schiano. And while they did lose Darrelle Revis, they did managed to sign Alterraun Verner and Michael Johson which, along with the maturation of Mark Barron in his third year, should come close to a compensation for what they lost in Revis.
All that said, I’m not sure which team would win more games: a Bears team with Jay Cutler or a Buccaneers team with Jay Cutler—some Bucs fans may remember that this was almost a reality—but it would be close. Aside from the talent at the quarterback position, the difference between the Bears and the Buccaneers is up for debate, and the futility the Buccaneers showed on offense in Week 1 can be shown from their key dissonance.
McCown’s Week 1 Performance
The problems ranged from bad to worse for McCown in Week 1.
Absent of and with, the Carolina pass rush was a problem for Josh McCown. He continuously threw short of the maker on third downs to push the Bucs off the field; he played into the Panthers hands as he settled for short passes towards the sideline, which showed in his aforementioned 8.2 yards per pass—31st in the in NFL in Week 1.
McCown missed open receivers all game.
Beside the fact that Vincent Jackson did not get his first catch until the second half, McCown was unable to connect with Jackson while he was wide open in the end zone on the Bucs fourth drive of the second half.
Also in the second half, Mike Evans caught a deflected ball in the back of the end zone, which was ultimately ruled incomplete after Evans stepped out of bounds and failed to reestablish himself inbounds. But McCown should have been able to get the ball to Evans. Without the deflection, which is what caused Evans to lose his balance and step out of bounds in the first place, Evans would have been able to securely and safely establish possession.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.
McCown didn’t just have turnovers; he had turnovers that will most likely end up on gag reels which air at half time of games for the coming years.
On the second drive of the game, McCown held onto the ball too long and decided to make a wild throw that ended up in the hands of Antoine Cason, which was, for the most part, exemplary of how McCown handled the blitz all day.
Speaking of holding onto the ball too long…
Speaking of the aforementioned gag real play…
Most commentators have felt comfortable with the assertion that Josh McCown probably is not the long-term solution to the quarterback position in Tampa. But what can we realistically expect of Josh McCown? Is he Damon Huard, Jimmy Claussen, and Curtis Painter bad?
Most likely, we will never know if McCown is as bad as the aforementioned quarterback, because the Bucs would turn to Mike Glennon long before then, but Fantasy owners expected much more than what McCown showed in Week 1 (and what we currently know Mike Glennon to be) when it comes to the talent they assumed would distribute the ball to Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, and Mike Evans.
Devin Jordan is obsessed with statistical analysis, non-fiction literature, and electronic music. If you enjoyed reading him, follow him on Twitter @devinjjordan.