The Eagles made Josh McCown the oldest practice squad player in the NFL for a multitude of reasons, his strong relationship with starter Carson Wentz and innate grasp of their offense chief among them. While McCown has not been training with the team, he is staying in shape, taking part in virtual meetings and staying in close contact with Wentz while coaching his son's high school football team in Texas, and his relationship with Wentz could prove vital this week. Wentz's play has been the focus of intense scrutiny in Philadelphia, with the team off to an 0-2 start and struggling on several levels, and McCown has served as an important resource and sounding board for him, sources said.
The Eagles didn't anticipate a slow start such as this when they secured McCown's services this summer on the expanded practice squad (now 16 players and allowing for veterans due to the pandemic), but having him under contract and involved with the team was something the organization prioritized. McCown, 41, remains an athletic specimen -- tales of him running expert routes as a fill-in receiver at Eagles practice or pulling off reverse dunks in pick-up basketball games are common within the team's facility -- and he is viewed within that organization and others as a future NFL head coach, numerous league sources said.
McCown has seen the game from all sides during a unique career that has spanned 18 years and 10 teams. He has left an indelible imprint on all of those teams and impressed a legion of coaches and executives with his ability to absorb and disseminate information and serve as a trusted leader and beloved teammate. Several teams thought he could have served as a play-caller while still on the sidelines. He has been a vital voice in quarterback rooms as far as installations and game-plan suggestions and is already getting coaching experience at the high school level.
As shocking as it sounds to talk about a current NFL player as a head-coaching candidate in short order, several current and former execs I've talked to who have been around McCown believe that he could be an NFL head coach within five years of retiring from the game, perhaps sooner. He could have a job as a quarterback coach right now if he wanted it, some execs told me, and would be on a fast track to quickly move to a coordinator role and, with success there, be a head coach within a year or two.
"Maybe the smartest player I have ever been around," said one former NFL GM who signed McCown previously. "Head coach in the making."
McCown's decades of strong relationships within the industry, the high esteem and respect with which he's held and his past experience commanding a multitude of offensive schemes all bode well for him, and he has been a part of teams at varying degrees of rebuilds and success. He's also seen the game from all sides, as a fairly high draft pick (81st overall), to then being deemed a bust, to being waived and released (at one point by the 49ers without even playing a game for them in 2011), to being out of football in 2012, to being traded multiple times, to being a highly coveted back-up/bridge quarterback making $10 million a year, up to now becoming a 40-something practice squad QB participating remotely from Texas.
Besides his high school coaching, McCown's surely been serving in a coaching role with an under-fire Wentz as well, with the Eagles facing a must-win game of sorts hosting the winless Bengals. Wentz has been holding the ball too long at times, forcing plays and taking sacks, and McCown is someone's opinion he clearly trusts as the Eagles try to get things right immediately.