Coach compares QB to Culpepper

Updated: February 12, 2004, 1:33 AM ET
Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. -- New Arizona coach Dennis Green is so certain that Josh McCown is his starter that he is downplaying the prospect that the Cardinals will draft a quarterback with their No. 3 pick.

Other returning Cardinals apparently have some proving to do before they keep their jobs, though, Green indicated on Wednesday.

His list of players assured first-string status was a short one: McCown, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, linebackers Ronald McKinnon and Raynoch Thompson, and center Pete Kendall.

"Now, I'm sure there are some more, and if the other guys get upset about it, they can call me," Green said. "But I'm saying based on what I've seen I would pencil those guys in as starters. The rest of the guys maybe after a couple of days would, too."

Conspicuous by their absence were guard Leonard Davis, tackles L.J. Shelton and Anthony Clement, safety Dexter Jackson, tight end Freddie Jones and running back Marcel Shipp.

The Cardinals cut Jeff Blake last week and Green embraced McCown not only as this year's starter but as a potentially great quarterback in the mold of Daunte Culpepper.

The coach went so far as to tell the East Valley Tribune on Tuesday that chances were slim the team would pick a quarterback at No. 3, even if Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger was available.

Green wouldn't go that far in a wide-ranging session with reporters on Wednesday.

"I'm not going to repeat what I said yesterday because that was a different interview," he said. "What I said is I don't want the players thinking that somebody outside of here is going to come in and win games for this program. I don't see it happening."

McCown, a third-round draft pick out of Sam Houston State in 2002, hardly played at all until starting the final three games of last season. He impressed teammates and coaches with his toughness, mobility and strong arm, but didn't expect Green to go so public with his support so soon.

"Obviously it's given me a ton of confidence," McCown said.

McCown is best known for his final pass of the season, a perfectly thrown 28-yarder to Nate Poole as the game ended to beat Minnesota and knock the Vikings out of the playoffs.

"Before that, I don't think anybody knew me," McCown said Wednesday from his home. "I hadn't made that one play, who knows, I might not be talking to you about all this right now."

Green repeatedly has said that McCown's size (6-feet, 4-inches), speed, mobility, arm strength and competitiveness all remind him of Culpepper, his last quarterback in Minnesota.

"The advantage he has over Daunte is Daunte was coming out of college and Josh is in his third year," Green said. "He's not a baby. He is a third-year player."

McCown relishes the responsibility.

"I can't remember when I was this fired up about football," he said. "My mind-set is that it doesn't matter who they draft. I want to go take my team to the playoffs this year. I think I can do that."

He said he and Green hit it off right away.

"He shoots straight and he's going to command the type of discipline our team needs," McCown said. "I could see he had a passion to turn guys around. I also saw that he enjoyed working with quarterbacks, so that definitely excites me."

Although he wouldn't name them, Green said there are eight "blue-chip," can't-miss picks in this year's draft. Bet that one of them is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was a ball boy for the Vikings when Green was coach.

But Green noted that Al Davis, whose Oakland Raiders have the No. 2 pick, loves speed and receivers. As for the prospect of trading down in the draft, Green said, "We're keeping all of our options open."

McCown said he supported whatever draft decision the Cardinals make, but he loved the idea of teaming Fitzgerald with NFL offensive rookie of the year Boldin next season.

"Man," he said, "that would be excellent."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press