In the locker room after the final 2012 preseason game, in Cleveland against the Browns, Josh McCown wasn’t as interested in talking about his own performance of 20-for-29 passing, a couple of touchdowns and a rating of 90.7, as he was about the teammate whose locker stall was to his immediate right.
“That guy should be starting for any of five or six teams in this league,” McCown said, “including this one [Cleveland].”
“That guy” was Jason Campbell, who indeed is the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Fittingly, his lobbying fan – McCown – also is a starting quarterback, at least for now, for the Chicago Bears.
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The two have remained in texting touch since that training camp and preseason, which saw McCown released after the Cleveland game, then brought back behind Campbell when Jay Cutler suffered a concussion and couldn’t play at San Francisco.
“I love Jason,” McCown said. “It’s great to see what he’s doing now and it couldn’t be happening to a better guy. Or a better quarterback.”
Campbell would say the same. Campbell ranks 15th among NFL passers with an 88.0 rating, ahead of his career 83.0 rate. McCown, a 77.6 passer for his career, is third in the NFL with a 109.8 rating after his NFC offensive player of the week performance Monday against the Dallas Cowboys.
“He’s seen a lot of things, he’s been through a lot and I think just his coaching mentality [McCown was coaching high school football when the Bears called], I think really helps him when he gets onto the field knowing the game,” Campbell said. “Just watching him Monday night, he’s playing in a way where he just knows exactly where to go with the ball, he knows exactly what the coaches are doing on the board, where they’re trying to attack and the things they’re trying to do. And he’s just doing his part. Because that’s pretty much what he is. He’s like having an extra coach on the field.”
Part of the difference for both is dialing down interceptions. McCown is tied with Philadelphia’s Nick Foles with an INT rate of 0.5 percent (vs. a career rate of 3.4 percent).
Campbell, picked off at a rate of 2.3 percent for his career, is taking better care of the football as well, with only 1.5 percent of his passes picked off.
Both have arrived in starting jobs because of issues with their teams’ starters: McCown in when Jay Cutler was injured, Campbell when Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer flopped.
Campbell may have picked up some of McCown’s clairvoyance regarding Campbell’s future, signing with Cleveland last offseason for a reason that has come to pass.
“I wanted to kind of put myself in a position where I could maybe get an opportunity to play again and be a starter,” Campbell said. “Cleveland gave me that opportunity to come here. My first job was to try help Brandon, and then it kind of presented itself for me to have an opportunity to play, as well.”
And like McCown, he has done something with the opportunity.