This was Chad Pennington’s first week as a Miami Dolphin in August 2008.
The offense had a rough day, a “terrible practice,” Pennington recalls. After the practice, he turned to fellow quarterback Josh McCown and said they had to do something. McCown got a copy of the practice script from quarterbacks coach David Lee. Pennington called the offense together and told them they were staying late in the South Florida heat.
McCown would call out a play. Pennington would run it with the offense. They went through the entire script – 40 plays.
“We run a whole practice script against air,” Pennington said Tuesday. “He and I tag-teaming it. That was a pretty cool moment.”
Four weeks later, McCown would be traded from the Dolphins to the Panthers, the odd man out. But he left an impression on Pennington during that month together.
Pennington arrived in Miami with his head spinning after the Jets cut him following their trade for Brett Favre. McCown, who had been No. 1 on the depth chart before Pennington’s arrival, helped him get the lay of the land.
“I really respect him because when I came to Miami it was obvious that one of those quarterbacks would have to go,” Pennington said. “Josh was amazing in my own transition in Miami and it ended up that he was the one who had to go. I hated that because he was such a great teammate. He really helped our quarterback room and he saw the big picture. He was a true asset. I’ve always respected that about him. When the Jets had a chance to get him, I thought it was a great decision.”
It is a decision that has paid huge dividends for the Jets this season. McCown has played better than anyone could have anticipated – even Pennington. He has completed 70.4 percent of his passes, the second-best mark in the NFL behind the Saints’ Drew Brees. He has finished six games with a passer rating of 100 or above. Only the Chiefs’ Alex Smith has done it more with seven times.
Of all the surprises the 2017 Jets have given us, none are greater than the play of the 38-year-old McCown, the NFL’s version of Forrest Gump.
McCown came to the Jets – his 10th NFL team – without much fanfare. The Jets signed him to a one-year, $6 million deal in March. He was viewed as a placeholder until Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty was ready to take over. Instead, he has kept them firmly planted on the bench.
“He has been able to help stabilize an organization and team that quite frankly went through a lot of change and went through a lot of negativity and not a lot of positive energy around the organization as a whole,” Pennington said. “He has been the perfect guy to help establish that, help provide some stability.”
McCown is Mr. Positive. He had just the right touch for a team that heard all offseason how bad they were going to be from everyone outside their locker room. McCown had endured bad last season with the Browns, going 1-15. He assured everyone who would listen these Jets were not that bad.
If his play continues to stay at this level through the season, the question will become: Do the Jets bring him back in 2018? There will be some trepidation because the organization was fooled in 2015 by a great season from Ryan Fitzpatrick into giving him another one, and the roof caved in.
Pennington wants McCown to stick around next year and beyond.
“I would love to see Josh be part of the equation for about three more years,” Pennington said. “I don’t know how long he wants to play. I could certainly see him continue to be able to stabilize the position and also be professional enough to understand when it is time to hand over the reins. He would be such a great asset in the room. I think that’s something that would benefit the Jets, to have his presence there.
“I would love to see him do that.”
It sounds crazy to think about McCown sticking around that long, but after this season, would you doubt him?