McCown open to being Cutler's backup

Updated: May 3, 2010, 8:16 PM ET
By Jeff Dickerson and Michael Wright | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Josh McCown isn't fooling himself about the current situation.

That's why he'd relish an opportunity to join the Bears, who might be looking to add a veteran quarterback well-versed in the scheme of offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who isn't looking to take snaps away from starter Jay Cutler.

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
Bob Donnan/US PresswireJosh McCown has played for four teams in eight NFL seasons, spending the 2009 campaign with the Carolina Panthers.

"I understand right now there's not anybody beating down my door to be a starter," McCown told ESPNChicago.com. "So understanding that, where do you go to be in a great situation where you are a backup? For me, in Mike Martz's offense and where I'm at in my career, I feel comfortable with [coming to Chicago]. The fact that Jay [Cutler] is there doesn't affect me at all, and probably gets me more excited because you get to work with a guy that talented, and hopefully help the coaches get the best out of him.

"The commitment they have to Jay, there's nothing you can do coming in to get on the field. So for me, my motivation would be to come in and help him be the best he can be, but also get myself ready so if anything happens to Jay, I would be able to help the team win games."

An eight-year veteran, McCown hasn't seen extensive playing time since 2007, when he started nine games for the Oakland Raiders. McCown completed 58.4 percent of his attempts during that nine-game stint, but threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10).

Still, McCown would make for a viable backup option behind Cutler. McCown worked with Martz in Detroit back in 2006. McCown also has spent time with the Arizona Cardinals, who drafted him in the third round in 2002, and the Carolina Panthers (2008-2009).

McCown says he still practices some of the teachings learned from Martz in Detroit.

"Early on [in Detroit] it was tough because Mike was very hard and very demanding on younger quarterbacks, and the volume of the system was very demanding for me," McCown said. "When we started to install things, you started to see the system take shape and how everything was coming to fruition & man, it was fun. It was a good experience. It's funny. Even now, I'll pull things from what I learned from Martz a few years ago."

For now, the Bears are counting on rising third-year player Caleb Hanie, second-year man Brett Basanez and sixth-round selection Dan LeFevour as the fallback options should Cutler suffer an injury that forces him to miss time. Cutler has never missed a game because of an injury.

But the combined body of work for Hanie and Basanez gives the Bears cause for concern. The duo has thrown a combined 18 passes in the NFL, and Martz suggested during minicamp over the weekend that he's not totally comfortable with Hanie or Basanez as the top backups.

Knowing firsthand the obstacles faced by young quarterbacks trying to master Martz's offense, McCown understood the coach's concern.

"It's definitely tougher on a rookie or even a first- or second-year guy [as] opposed to a veteran," McCown said. "You come in kind of na´ve as a rookie, and think you can handle anything. Then you run into a system like Coach Martz's where the volume is so high. Then you go, 'Wait a minute. Maybe I can't handle as much as I thought I could.' Then as you go along, you're kind of starved to get pushed mentally. You really enjoy it the older you get. You want to keep pushing it here and there. When you're pushed mentally, just like in life, it's a healthier environment."

Whether McCown receives an opportunity in Chicago or elsewhere this upcoming season remains in question. McCown worked out for New Orleans earlier this offseason, but hasn't received substantial interest from anyone else.

The fact that coaches often prefer players who are familiar with a team's schemes and philosophies bodes well for a possible McCown reunion with Martz. Free agent Marc Bulger, who operated Martz's offense in St. Louis, is also available.

But Bulger's preference to remain a starter could also help McCown's chances in Chicago.

"It's different because I've always signed on the first day of free agency," said McCown, whose 7-year-old son, interestingly, plays little league baseball for a team called the Cubs. "But my offseason is going well. I'm just working out and throwing. I appreciate all the time spent with the family. But [with] that being said, I would like a job."

Jeff Dickerson and Michael Wright cover the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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