Why new quarterbacks coach Josh McCown is perfect fit for Vikings

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There was a particular throw during Vikings rookie minicamp earlier this month that sent shivers down the spine of new quarterbacks coach Josh McCown. As rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy tried to rip a ball toward the sideline, McCown was instantly transported back to Oct. 18, 2015.

Though the play itself has been lost in the sands of time, McCown can still recall it without much effort. He was playing quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, and he tried to complete a pass to receiver Travis Benjamin on the outside. The new thing McCown knew he was chasing star cornerback Aqib Talib into the end zone after gifting the Denver Broncos an interception returned for a touchdown.

“Sometimes as a coach I’m talking about plays and there are real scars there,” McCown said with a laugh on Wednesday afternoon at TCO Performance Center. “I said, ‘Listen, I’m not just saying this, I tried to make this throw. It did not go well and I watched Aqib Talib run into the end zone.’ ”

The message was received loud and clear.

“It’s like learning from his mistakes,” McCarthy said. “He’s so vocal about it. It’s invaluable. I really appreciate it.”

That anecdote illustrates why McCown is the perfect fit for the Vikings at this moment in time. Not only does he have the knowledge to help develop McCarthy in the early stages of his career, McCown has a preexisting relationship with veteran quarterback Sam Darnold dating back to their time together with the New York Jets.

“I was teammates with him in 2018 and it felt like we were best friends,” Darnold said. “The youngest guy on the team with the oldest guy on the team. It’s good to be back with him. Just so much wisdom he can share.”

The experience that McCown possesses is arguably the biggest reason head coach Kevin O’Connell made hiring him a priority this offseason.

After getting drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2002, McCown bounced around the NFL mostly as a backup before officially retiring in 2020. He played for seemingly every team on under the sun in that span, learning tricks of the trade from a long list of players that includes everybody from legendary quarterback Kurt Warner to  journeyman Jake Delhomme.

“Those things kind of come up organically in our meetings,” McCown said. “Something will happen and I’ll say, ‘Oh yeah remember playing with this guy, and I learned that from him.’”

Asked what he felt the biggest thing he could impart on McCarthy and Darnold at this point. McCown laughed to himself before delivering the punchline.

“Well a lot of it is what not to do,” McCown said. “They can learn from my mistakes, and we can avoid some of them.”

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