CLEVELAND -- In the National Football League, the old adage is a backup quarterback is just one play away from being the starter, and the Cleveland Browns and veteran signal-caller Josh McCown know that all too well.
This time around, McCown is the backup that has been thrust into the role of starter after Robert Griffin III was placed on injured reserve Monday with a broken coracoid bone in his left (non-throwing) shoulder in a 29-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday.
McCown will make his first start for the Browns on Sunday, when they take on the Baltimore Ravens in the home opener at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“It is a change because for me, it is just different hats,” McCown said. “You enjoy the role of the backup and being able to help not only the quarterback, but different position groups and be another set of eyes for everybody to now having to be in the day-to-day, having to be ready to take every rep and be really focused on each and every play and in practice and all that.
“A lot of times, when you are not having to take the reps in practice, you step back and look at the big picture. You make sure this receiver is doing this and be able to help a coach here or there or whatever if need be. It narrows your focus a little bit more obviously because you are having to take the reps and focus on what you have to do as a quarterback. That is really the biggest change with the day-to-day and the practice and stuff.”
In his first season with the Browns, McCown won the starting job out of training camp, but was hampered by injuries for the bulk of the year. When healthy, McCown proved to be an impactful player, as in eight games, he completed 186 of his 292 attempts (63.7 percent) for 2,109 yards and 12 touchdowns against four interceptions.
“We were good in some statistical columns, but the one that matters, we didn’t get it done and we had to find a way to do that,” McCown said. “For me, it is just functioning within the system, not doing any more than that, but just functioning in the system and knowing that when we go out there and we do win games, it is going to be as a team.
“I’m excited about playing, absolutely. Especially, as we’ve talked about before, at my tender age (laughter), these opportunities you do not take lightly. I’m looking forward to competing with these guys. I loved watching them play and watching them fight, so I want to do whatever I can to help us.”
Early last season, McCown broke a pair of franchise records in a 33-30 win over the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
McCown completed 36 of his 51 throws for 457 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Ravens. The 457 yards were a single-game franchise record, surpassing the previous mark of 444 collected by Brian Sipe against the Baltimore Colts on October 25, 1981.
For putting together a 457-yard, three-touchdown (two passing, one rushing) performance against the Ravens, McCown became the first Browns quarterback with three straight 300-yard passing games and was recognized as the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
“They’ve got some guys back,” McCown said. “Terrell Suggs is back. They are a hard-nosed group. There is no doubt about it, especially the front seven. You add a veteran in the back like Eric Weddle, he is a fantastic player, too. They held Buffalo to 50 plays or so. That is a short amount. That is a lot of three-and-outs and what not.
“We will have our hands full. We know that, but all the faith in the world in the coaches. They are going to put a great plan together for us. We are going to come out and the thing is from Week 1 to Week 2, similar to preseason, is that everybody can kind of get their regular-season jitters out of the way and we can look at the tape of our game, make our corrections and focus on what they are doing, internalize this gameplan and be ready to go play good ball Sunday.”