LAKE FOREST – Let’s get real.
Deep down inside, Bears quarterback Josh McCown must have been fuming mad. He must have been punching walls. He must have been swearing up a storm.
Because all of this Mr. Humble Teammate stuff made for great sound bites on TV, but there was no way a millionaire quarterback possibly could be this gracious and selfless. You win NFC player of the week and you get benched for Jay Cutler the very next day, and you smile and shrug it off as the best decision for the team?
Please. Not buying it.
The time had come to discover the dirt on McCown from inside of the Bears’ locker room.
“Any dirt?” receiver Earl Bennett said. “Nothing, man.”
“None,” right tackle Jordan Mills said. “I like to say Josh is like the white version of me.”
“That’s the real deal, man,” offensive lineman Eben Britton said. “There’s no dirt.”
We all know the saying: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Both on and off of the field, McCown seems too good to be true. He stepped in for an injured Cutler and set a team record with three consecutive games with 300-plus passing yards. And once the Bears cleared Cutler to play, McCown stepped aside without complaint.
“I understand my role on this team,” McCown said. “It’s the backup quarterback. So, that being said, if Jay is healthy, he’s ready to go. I’ll support him and help him as much as I can.”
So maybe my dirt-digging mission wasn’t going to unearth some sort of secret criminal past. At least tell me that McCown dropped a bunch of swear words when he was in the huddle.
“No,” Britton said. “He chews gum the entire game. He comes into the huddle chewing gum. ‘All right, guys, here we go! We’ve got flex right, twin, 784…!’ Something like that.
“That’s what you love about Josh. You love him as a teammate.”
OK, so he didn’t swear.
At least tell me that he clenched his fist and screamed something like, “Fiddlesticks!”
“I’ve never seen him get frustrated,” Bennett said with a smile. “I’ve never seen him get mad, turn red, nothing. He’s just a great guy.”
Wait a minute.
This was starting to feel like one of those situations in which players on offense looked out for one another. What happens on offense stays on offense. Gotcha.
Maybe somebody on the defense would dish some dirt. They hate quarterbacks, right?
Defensive end David Bass offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse into McCown.
“Say they’d get a three-and-out and they’d have to punt,” Bass said.
This should be good.
“He’d say, ‘Yo, D, we need you one more time. Keep it coming. We’re going to help you on our end,’ ” Bass said. “He’s always like that. Always positive reinforcement coming from him.
“So, I don’t think he’s acting. That’s from the heart.”
Almost all hope was lost.
McCown was as genuine as advertised. There was no dirt. He was unblemished.
At least, it seemed that way until Britton heaved a “Hail Mary” pass toward a determined dirt-digger.
“He has a tattoo,” Britton said.
You know who else has tattoos? Prisoners.
“It’s pretty [great],” Britton said.
Only, Britton didn’t say great. He said a word that McCown never would say. It started with “bad” and ended with another description for “donkey.”
Armed with this information, it was time to grill the veteran quarterback.
McCown’s group interview already had ended, and if he were like most other players on the team, he would have turned down any additional requests. But he stopped what he was doing and politely agreed to answer a few more questions. What a mistake.
The tattoo, Josh.
We know about it.
Are you going to fess up, or what?
McCown lifted up his right sleeve to reveal a tattoo of a large cross on his right shoulder. Inside the cross was the face of a lion.
“It’s just my faith,” McCown said. “It’s a cross with a lion in it, and the lion represents Christ. And, obviously, the cross.
“As a follower of Christ, that’s what is central to my faith. So, that’s all it is.”
It was time to stop digging.
McCown really was a nice guy.
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.