This silly little game called fantasy football that we all play and, in some cases, care more about than the teams we claim to support, eh?
At the start of the season my league, run with a few friends from the Hearts support network across the world (okay, largely Edinburgh, but including Minneapolis and Harrisburg), had its draft during the NFL preseason. It was about 2pm central time, which was 8pm for my friends back home. On that day, the New Orleans Saints were in Houston for a pre-season game.
This was a problem for me: I wanted to do my fantasy draft properly, but I also wanted to go see the game. The Texans were heavily favored in the AFC for the upcoming season and the Saints had Drew Brees likely to play at least a half of the game, maybe longer.
A long time ago I made a pledge to myself that I would try to enjoy sports as a form of entertainment. That sounds a little new-age, doesn’t it? What I mean is that wherever possible, I would go to watch the very best athletes play in their chosen sport while I could. I missed out on the Michael Jordan era, not because I wasn’t into basketball, but because I wasn’t in the US during NBA seasons while he was at his peak. My first ever trip to the US was in 1998 so I could only ever have made it to a Wizards game, but still, that would have been cool. I’ve now seen LeBron James play four times. He’s awesome. Properly awesome, not like the cheeseburger you had last week.
On the same principle, last week I went to see Tom Brady pull out a narrow win for the Patriots against the Texans. So, all those weeks ago, I went to see Drew Brees try to ease himself into shape against the Texans. This meant I missed my fantasy draft but the auto-draft did me proud. I had been thinking about either Ryan Tannehill or Michael Vick. I ended up with Vick. Obviously that hasn’t turned out all that well (I did pick up Foles when Vick went down the first time, but a mediocre performance in his first full game prompted me to pick up Case Keenum…I’m far from a fantasy genius, I confess) but at the start it was amazing. I started 4-0 behind strong performances from Vick. Small point of note, the backup Saints QB that day was Luke McCown.
Once the Case Keenum fantasy experiment was over, I picked up EJ Manuel off waivers. I still have Vick on my bench, but it looks likely that he is done for the year, largely because of the form of Nick Foles. That probably means he’s done at Philly. Perhaps he’s even done in the NFL, who knows?
In a moment of inspiration just over a week ago, however, I noticed that Josh McCown was available on waivers. Jay Cutler (have you noticed that his name is often run together to make it sound like Jake Utler?) I decided to take the plunge and go with Chicago’s seven-team reject backup QB.
Josh McCown is so old, he played with Emmitt Smith. Indeed he was the last QB to hand off to the great running back. He was drafted out of Sam Houston State and is their only alum in the NFL today. His first team, the Arizona Cardinals, played its first season in the NFC West that year. Prior to the season, linebacker Pat Tillman turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract offer to enlist in the Army.
McCown eventually lost the starting job in Arizona to Kurt Warner. That worked out pretty well for the Cards. Since then, he’s bounced around the league: Detroit, Oakland, Miami, Carolina, the Hartford Colonials of the UFL and San Francisco. He signed in Chicago in 2011 to backup Caleb Hanie.
He’s been in Chicago ever since, but it is only in the last few weeks, filling in for the injured Jay Culter that McCown has shone. He has thrown ONE pick this season, in 220 pass attempts. In the three games since the overtime win in Baltimore, he has thrown for 352, 355 and 348 yards and eight TDs, four of them last night.
Last night, I went into my fantasy matchup with one player left against a team that had a two point lead and Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and the Dallas D to play. Josh McCown gave me THIRTY-EIGHT points and a famous win. His previous three weeks saw him get 12, 18 and 22 points. He is clearly going to lose his starting role as soon as Cutler is fit again. Cutler still, despite his injury issues, has one of the best arms in the entire league. One suspects that Josh will not be short of offers, should he decide to part ways with the Bears this off-season. At the age of thirty-four, he is finally playing the sort of football that gets you noticed.
Perhaps McCown’s legacy will always be these last few weeks, but the national obsession with fantasy football has clearly helped that legacy become somewhat more durable than it might otherwise have been.
Josh McCown, I salute you. You are a BALLER.