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Starting Sunday is not what McCown wants

Leslie Monteiro

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One would think Jets backup quarterback Josh McCown would be happy to start Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills when he heard the news Thursday after the struggling Sam Darnold would not start because of a right foot strain he suffered in the Jets’ 13-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

After all, this is a chance for McCown to finally play a competitive game and shake out the cobwebs after serving as a mentor for Darnold this season. This is a chance to show he can still win games for the Jets and maybe give this struggling team a spark offensively. This could be his last chance of fame since he is close to finishing his career.

Think again.

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Not only the 39-year-old quarterback unenthusiastic that he has to start on an unfortunate circumstance, but he wanted to be out on the sidelines to help Darnold get through his typical rookie funk. He knows Darnold playing is the best thing that can happen to him and the Jets franchise moving forward.

It shows that McCown gets it. He is team-first, and he wants to see Darnold succeed. He was more than happy to give his starting spot to the rookie quarterback. He understood the big picture for the Jets.

It’s why the Jets were more than happy to give him a one-year, six-million year this offseason. They know he would do lot of coaching and teaching with Darnold. They realized what intangibles he brings to the locker room and to the young quarterback. They know he is willing to embrace the mentor role unlike most quarterbacks.

McCown has been in Darnold’s ear all season long. They work well together at practice and on the sidelines during games. They have also gone out together such as attending the Nets game against the Knicks at Barclays Center last month and going to dinner. It’s like they are brothers.

No one wanted to see Darnold succeed more than McCown. It would show that the Jets backup quarterback eventually has a future in coaching. In a sense, he was learning on the job about being a coach as a player this season. He also had Darnold’s interest.

This is going to be a one-game thing for McCown. Darnold should be back after the Jets’ bye week when he starts against the New England Patriots on Nov. 25. Even then, it would not make the Jets backup quarterback happy since he wants the Jets starting quarterback to figure it out as soon as possible.

He can at least feel better knowing that Jets fans are still in Darnold’s corner. They don’t want McCown starting knowing that Darnold was going through growing pains and he can learn from it by playing through it. They also understand the Jets don’t have enough playmakers or an offensive line for him to play well.

It’s hard to believe McCown will be in a reflective mood heading to Sunday’s game, even though this is his likely his final start of his NFL career. Sure, he is going try to win and get the Jets going back in the right direction, but it will be bittersweet since he wants Darnold to be that guy.

For Jets head coach Todd Bowles, he wants to win. He is in danger of losing his job after this season is over. He is desperate. Sure he is talking a good game about sticking with Darnold, but if he had his way, he would hope McCown do well and then have a reason to start him against the Patriots.

It wouldn’t be a good look for the organization, though. They can’t give up on a struggling quarterback. They need him to get better, and he will only get better by playing. That’s why they will stick with Darnold, and it’s the right thing to do.

McCown understands that more than anyone being that he knows the position of a quarterback.

He will go in and give it one last try to win. He will make the most of it. He will enjoy the competition when he is out in the huddle. He will savor all of this in knowing this could be his last.

It doesn’t mean this is going to be easy for him.

Leslie Monteiro is a syndicated sports columnist who writes about the Tri-State area teams for the Upstate Courier. He is based in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and can be reached on Twitter @MongoGoesInSane.