At this point in his NFL career, Josh McCown is something of a player-coach, mentoring younger quarterbacks and serving as a highly-experienced backup who can start in a pinch.
This year, however, McCown has been a player and coach, serving as Carson Wentz’s backup on the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterbacks coach at Myers Park High in Charlotte.
It wasn’t exactly how he’d planned on spending the fall, but McCown has made it work.
Change of plans
In June, just a couple of weeks before his 40th birthday, McCown announced his retirement from the NFL after 17 years. The same day, ESPN announced that it had hired McCown as an analyst.
Despite his announcement, McCown still received interest from teams, and he thought to himself that he’d return if the circumstances were right: a team on the East Coast with a chance to win, and willing to let him fly to Charlotte in-season to coach with Myers Park.
When the Eagles saw backups Nate Sudfeld and Cody Kessler suffer injuries in back-to-back preseason games, Myers Park head coach Scott Chadwick figured he’d be looking for a new assistant. He was partly right: McCown did agree to join the Eagles, but he also wanted to keep his commitment to Myers Park, where his sons are students.
Philadelphia gave him its blessing.
“He came in on a Saturday morning after one of our scrimmages and just told the kids, ‘Hey, I've got this opportunity,’ ” Chadwick told ESPN recently. “And the kids were great. They applauded him.”
Private flights, lots of film
In a story posted to espn.com on Tuesday, reporter Tim McManus followed McCown on one of his weekly trips from Philadelphia to Charlotte for Myers Park’s state playoff game on November 22.
McCown flew to Charlotte twice a week: on Monday practice for game-plan installation, and on Fridays for games.
Midday Friday, after Eagles practice wrapped and McCown spent some time in the recovery tubs, he made the short drive to the Philadelphia airport to board a private plane.
McCown spent his own money for travel; Atlantic Aviation, the service he used, said a round trip from Philly to Charlotte is about $13,000 to $14,000, though there are discounts for regular customers. Even if you drop the per-trip cost to $10,000 for a frequent flyer, over two dozen trips (there were 13 Friday evening flights) carried a price tag of about $250,000.
Sure, McCown has earned nearly $50 million in his NFL career, but McCown could have just as easily told Myers Park thanks but no thanks when an NFL team came calling again.
During the 90-minute flight, McCown watches film of the Eagles’ upcoming opponent — that week it was the Seattle Seahawks — and processes the game plan.
Landing in Charlotte at 3 p.m., he makes the short trip to his family’s home to see wife Natalie and his youngest child, Aubrey. His oldest child, Bridget, is at the University of Tennessee.
His sons, Owen, a sophomore, and Aiden, a freshman, are quarterbacks at Myers Park, so McCown sees them when he gets to the school to start preparing for the game.
Aiden is the quarterback of the junior varsity team; Owen is the backup on varsity. Chadwick, the head coach, says Owen would be starting on pretty much any other varsity team in North Carolina, but Myers Park features the one of the best prep QBs in the country: Alabama commit Drake Maye.
Maye isn’t the only high-level player on the roster: Muhsin Muhammad III, the son of former Carolina Panthers wideout Muhsin Muhammad who caught passes from McCown in 2008-09, is headed to Texas A&M; three other players on offense will continue to FBS programs.
‘He teaches me new things every day’
Muhammad III doesn’t take his time with McCown for granted.
“He teaches me new things every day and every time he shows up at practice,” Muhammad said. “I feel like every moment I'm with Josh is kind of a meaningful moment. I know that sounds over the top but I just stop and think, ‘Man, this guy is really doing his thing and I hope to be there one day.’ Just taking it all in every time we link up.”
“He's an unbelievable coach — one of the best in the country. It's a blessing to be out here with him. I try to get everything I can out of him, ask him every question I can think of,” he said.
The game didn’t end until 10:25 p.m., a Myers Park win. After posing for some pictures, he walks with Natalie for a few minutes then heads back to the airport.
He’s back in Philadelphia just after midnight and back at the Eagles’ facility around 9 a.m. Saturday.
Myers Park lost to top-seeded Richmond in the third round of the state playoffs last Friday.
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