The first thing you do is marvel at the mismatch. A bad quarterback, a bad team. We have seen what that combination can do.
Josh McCown was terrible last year, winning only one game, struggling mightily to overcome an offense that was stuck in place. The Cleveland Browns were terrible. Not as bad as the Tampa Bay Bucs – no one was – but it was another year in which no playoff tickets were printed.
This couldn’t amount to anything, could it? The news that McCown was running with the starters at the Browns’ mini-camp was a giggle, right? Nothing more?
But maybe a thought entered your head, too.
Could this be the start of something special? Again?
You see, the Bucs have a history of throwing away perfectly good quarterbacks, then sitting back and watching those quarterbacks win playoff games. It is a nightmare that Bucs’ fans have grown used to over and over again from Doug Williams to Steve Young to Vinny Testaverde to Chris Chandler to Trent Dilfer. Is McCown next?
Oh, no one wanted McCown to stay, and no one regrets that Jameis Winston is in charge of the Bucs’ huddle these days. But are you really sure that Winston will win more games next year? Are you certain that the Bucs won’t regret giving McCown away for nothing?
Again, he was awful last year.
But if you remember, no one thought all those other quarterbacks could succeed at the time the Bucs got rid of them, either.
Williams was a .500 quarterback. He had won 33 and lost 33, thrown 73 touchdowns and 73 interceptions. Yes, he had made the playoffs, but he was only 1-3 in the post-season. His completion percentage was only 47.6.
Sure, when you look back, it was absurd how cheap Hugh Culverhouse was. Williams was the lowest paid starting quarterback in the league, and reports said he was behind 12 backup quarterbacks. The three previous seasons, he had been only 19-21 as a starter.
But letting him escape to the USFL was a tragedy it took this team years to overcome. They started chasing bad quarterbacks, and they started having double-digit loss seasons. It was the most classic botched negotiation – worse than Booker Reese, worse than Bo Jackson – in team history.
And Young was a confused mess when he left Tampa Bay, certainly not the Hall of Fame player he would become. He was only 3-16 with the Bucs, and two of those games were close wins over Detroit.
He threw 11 touchdown passes. He threw 21 interceptions. He completed only 53.3 percent.
When the Bucs dealt him for a second- and a fourth-round draft pick, there weren’t a lot of protests. The Bucs had drafted Testeverde, the Heisman winner. What could go wrong?
As it turns out, a lot. Testaverde won only 24 games and lost 48. He threw a whopping 112 interceptions and only 77 touchdowns. His rating was only 63.1.
Part of it was the team around him, of course. Looking back, that’s clear. Testaverde went on to play in the AFC title game. But in Tampa Bay, Testaverde didn’t seem like enough, which was why Ray Perkins gave the return of a franchise quarterback for Chandler.
And what a mess that turned out to be, as bad a trade as when the Bucs gave a No. 1 for Jack Thompson. Chandler never won a game in Tampa Bay, losing all six of his starts. His completion percentage was only 50.8, and his rating was only 44.9.
Then there was Dilfer, a quarterback who didn’t satisfy the fans even though he played on great teams. He was 38-38 as a starter. His rating was only 69.4. When he left after the Bucs decided not to give him a $4.6 million contract, fans held the door open. And his flaws were obvious because of the greatness around him. Oh, he still had greatness around him when his Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl.
As a group, they were all young, and they were all scatter-gunned, and the best thing that happened in their careers was leaving Tampa Bay. When they left, they all went to better coaching: Williams to Joe Gibbs and Young to Bill Walsh and Testaverde to Bill Belichick and Chandler to Dan Reeves and Dilfer to Brian Billick.
So could it happen with McCown? The odds say not, because the Browns are nearly as big a mess as Tampa Bay. McCown was 1-10 last year, but that was more than Chandler won. His rating was only 70.6, but that was higher than all of the others.
Could it happen again? Probably not.
But it’s more likely than with Josh Freeman.