Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Josh McCown set a pair of NFL records Sunday with one swipe of the pen. He became the oldest practice squad player in league history at age 41, and the first active player to work remotely — like the other side of the country remotely.
Football typically doesn’t lend itself to social distancing, but McCown will be operating from his new home in East Texas, some 1,200 miles from the Eagles’ practice complex in South Philadelphia. From Texas, McCown will serve as an emergency quarterback/pseudo coach/mentor to Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz while pulling in a cool $12,000 a week.
The McCown signing is a creative answer to a question teams across the sport have been asking themselves this offseason: What happens if the quarterback room gets the coronavirus? Talks started getting serious within the past couple of weeks as the Eagles hammered out how McCown could be quarantined away from the team while still bringing some virtual value during the 2020 season.
It’s a fascinating, unprecedented set-up. Here’s how it will work:
What does each day look like?
McCown is modeling his day to reflect the Eagles’ schedule. He has already started videoconferencing into team meetings and quarterback meetings. He’ll watch and listen as the game plan is being installed each week, he will break down opponent film and he’ll offer his voice when needed while serving as a sounding board for Wentz.
When the rest of the team goes out to practice, McCown will get his exercise and field work in. He has a weight room in his house and has access to the local high school facilities as well. As for getting his throws in?
“Thankfully, I have two young quarterbacks in my house,” McCown said of his sons Owen and Aiden, who are high school players. “We throw the ball every day and I’m involved with them all the time. So that stuff is the best way for me to stay sharp.”
When practice is finished, it is instantly uploaded onto a server that McCown can access. With knowledge of the Eagles’ game plan in hand, he can analyze practice and relay what he sees.
“It was cool to listen to Coach [Doug] Pederson talk in the team meeting and then connecting with the quarterbacks and then hop on and watch practice,” McCown said. “I was texting Carson late last night about some things I saw during practice and just how sharp I thought it looked.”
Will McCown still coach his sons’ high school team?
No. He served as the quarterbacks coach at Myers Park High School in North Carolina last season, flying from Philadelphia to Charlotte and back twice a week by private plane so he could be there for installs on Monday and the games on Friday night.
Coaches in North Carolina and elsewhere can be volunteers, McCown explained, while a teaching certificate is required to coach high school ball in Texas. Plus, McCown figures it’s time for Owen and Aiden to hear some different coaching voices other than their dad’s while carving their own way.
That’s not to say the coaching bug has left him. At the end of last season, McCown talked with the Eagles about his desire to eventually transition into a coaching role. This season will allow him to get a little taste of that while staying near the home front as his boys finish school.
What is the process should the Eagles need him to play?
McCown started testing for the coronavirus a few days ago, he said. Regular testing will continue throughout the season, and it will be up to McCown to be diligent about wearing a mask and socially distancing in public.
By following those protocols, it’s only a 24-hour process to rejoin the team should the Eagles need him, McCown said.
“Hopefully everybody stays healthy,” McCown said, “and we don’t come to that.”