TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s been 10 years, and nearly as many different teams, since quarterback Josh McCown last wore an Arizona Cardinals uniform.
Drafted in the third round (81st overall) back in 2002, McCown started 22 games in four seasons.
Start number-three, however, is the one many remember the most, himself included.
“Ironically, Nate Poole probably lives five miles from me in Charlotte,” he said, referring to his game-winning touchdown pass to Poole with no time left on the clock, which knocked Minnesota out of the playoffs in the season’s final week in 2003.
“We run in some same circles sometimes so I see him. So it’s hard not to think about that play and that time with him.”
McCown played two more seasons in Arizona prior to his release in 2006.
From there, McCown made stops — in order — in Detroit, Oakland, Miami, Carolina, Hartford (of the United Football League), San Francisco, Chicago and Tampa Bay, before finally landing this season in Cleveland, where he’s 1-5 as a starter.
“It’s been a crazy ride and I’m very thankful,” he said on a conference call with Arizona media. “I don’t know if I would change a whole lot of it, because I feel like some of who I am and my family and who we are has been borne out of going through some of these things. I’m thankful for it, as crazy as it is. It’s been good.”
Sunday, the ride continues with McCown facing, for the first time as a starter, the team that took a chance on a young quarterback out of Sam Houston State some 13 years earlier.
McCown, 36, is expected to make his 56th career start and 80th appearance in the NFL, that is if healthy.
The Browns held McCown out of practice Wednesday with a right shoulder injury he appeared to suffer when he ran out of bounds and into a sideline retaining wall in last week’s loss at St. Louis.
“On that play, it felt like I was already out of bounds and somebody pushed me in the back and I just kept going,” he said. “I was trying to get slowed down and then I hit the concrete over there. I slid into the bleachers there. I hit my forearm on the pole, but that has nothing to do with where any of my injuries came from. That was just annoying.”
If McCown can’t go, then the Browns might turn to Johnny Manziel; though that, too, is a question mark.
Manziel is currently under NFL investigation for a potential personal conduct policy violation after his girlfriend alleged that Manziel hit her and pushed her face against a car window while the two were driving together on Oct. 12.
“I know that a meeting with him is imminent,” head coach Mike Pettine said. “I don’t know enough about who they’ve talked to and where they are in their process of giving us some feedback on how they want to move forward with it.”
Over the past five games, McCown is averaging more than 300 passing yards (327.4) with a total of 1,637 yards, which ranks second in the league during that span.
McCown is leading the NFL with a 128.4 rating on third down and is tied for fifth with three 300-yard passing games.
“He’s been as advertised and then some,” Pettine said. “He’s a heck of a football player and an even better person, very genuine, very passionate about football. He loves to compete. That shows up in how he plays. He’s almost a little reckless, too reckless sometimes, and takes some unnecessary hits.
“Guys just gravitate to him. You talk about quarterbacks having an ‘it’ factor. He’s got it.”
On the season, McCown is completing 66.8 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s also rushed for 68 yards and a score.
But for all the starts and stops in his career, it’s the start in Arizona that McCown remembers most fondly.
“Just those guys, coming into the league and being rookies with Damien Anderson, Preston Parsons, Jason McAddley and the guys that I came in with; just realizing the childhood dream that you have. I think I’ll always remember that. Obviously, a kid growing up in Texas, playing with Emmitt Smith and being there when he finished his career was special too,” he said.
“Last week, I ran into Coach (Dave) McGinnis; just will always appreciate his passion, my first head coach, and he and that group of people selected me and put me on that team and helping me realize a dream and how much that means to me. Those are the things I think about when I think back.”