If there’s one thing everyone knows about the preseason, it’s that the games don’t mean anything. Still, it’s impossible not to take notice of a player when he goes off for 244 yards and three touchdowns.
That’s exactly what Jaguars quarterback Luke McCown did in Friday’s opening exhibition game against the Eagles. After starter David Garrard sputtered through a scoreless quarter and a half, McCown stepped in and did everything Garrard couldn’t.
The seventh-year man from Louisiana Tech displayed a big arm and accurate deep ball on touchdown passes of 73, 30 and 55 yards while remaining efficient throughout, finishing his time with 11-of-15 passing. Garrard, meanwhile, was just 5-of-10 for 35 yards.
Of course, Garrard was up against the Eagles No. 1 defense and McCown saw mostly backups, but at the same time, McCown was throwing to and was being protected by the Jaguars backups. McCown – the younger brother of former Cardinals/Lions/Raiders quarterback Josh McCown — showcased all the tools head coach Jack Del Rio desperately needs from Garrard. It’s highly unlikely McCown will unseat Garrard for the starting job by September, but should the four-year starter falter, McCown will be waiting close behind for a shot.
And why shouldn’t he? His only true shot was a five-game audition in Tampa Bay in 2007, and the results were fixed anyway, as veteran Jeff Garcia was guaranteed his job back. McCown, starting only three of those games, finished his limited opportunity with 94-for-139 passing (67.6 percent), 1,009 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Plus, he showed that he could scramble when the pocket broke down, picking up 117 yards on 12 rushes. Prorate that over 16 games, and McCown finishes the year with 3,228 yards, 16 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 375 rushing yards.
Those stats look pretty similar to those of Garrard’s averaged stats of the last two years — 3,608 yards, 15 touchdowns, 11 interceptions — and even may be a bit better. Garrard has always struggled with tossing the ball downfield, but snatched the starting spot from Byron Leftwich back in 2006 after the Marshall grad with the big arm couldn’t cut it. Garrard impressed with a 5-5 record to finish out the year and a 9-4 record the following year, but recently hasn’t been the manage-and-win-the-game quarterback the Jaguars can employ thanks to Maurice Jones-Drew. Garrard is 12-20 in the last two seasons.
McCown has never received a fair shake, and he hasn’t started a game since those three in 2007. The big arm he showed he has would keep defenses a little more honest, giving Jones-Drew slightly more breathing room and potentially opening up the playbook for Jacksonville.
The Jaguars open their season against Denver, at San Diego and at home against Philadelphia and Indianapolis. Should they stumble to 1-3 or 0-4 to start 2010, don’t be surprised if the team desperate to fill its stadium and generate some excitement sits the boring vet for a fresh start.
Preseason games still don’t mean anything, but if McCown’s preseason performance is any indication, it could end up meaning a whole lot for his career.