Could Dolphins have done it with McCown?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
DAVIE, Fla. -- This notion is insinuated but never really delved into when discussing the merits of Chad Pennington as an MVP candidate:

The guy who would have been the Miami Dolphins' quarterback couldn't have gotten them to the playoffs.

So I decided to ask the man himself.

"As a competitor, I don't agree because I have confidence in myself," said Josh McCown, who the Dolphins dealt to the Carolina Panthers after they acquired Pennington. "But at the same time I can't play that game. I can't get in a time machine to prove myself.

"I just give Chad all the credit for getting it done. He ran that offense and made the most of that opportunity."

That McCown wasn't the Dolphins' quarterback this year was a series of "ifs" come true.

If Brett Favre hadn't decided to play again ... and if the Green Bay Packers hadn't rebuffed him ... and if the New York Jets hadn't swung the trade ... and if the Jets hadn't released Pennington ... and if Pennington hadn't been convinced a 1-15 team was worth his while ... then the Dolphins wouldn't have traded McCown to Carolina.

And maybe McCown is starting against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Maybe.

"The way Chad's playing, maybe the Jets are in the playoffs," McCown said with a laugh. He's spending the Panthers' first-round bye weekend in Davie, where his wife and four children have stayed at their house a few blocks from the Dolphins complex.

"I'm a human being. I'm not going to sit here and say it wouldn't be fun to be playing down here and be on the field and have a chance to lead those guys.

"It's hard to say. All I know is that's where my faith comes into play. The big man had a different plan for me, and I was supposed to be in Carolina this year."

McCown has backed up Jake Delhomme all season, appearing in two games but not throwing a pass.

But when McCown signed a two-year contract with the Dolphins on the opening day of free agency, he thought he would stick around. His career numbers are pedestrian, but he has played for some awful Arizona, Detroit and Oakland teams.

Dolphins football operations boss Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland obviously saw something they liked when they brought McCown aboard.

But McCown knew his days were numbered when they signed Pennington in August.

"I don't want to sound like a super-righteous man," McCown said, "but at the end of the day after I punched the pillow and screamed and got upset I said 'This is God's plan' and just moved on. That's how I don't get down in the dumps."

McCown said he and his agent began to examine other rosters because he assumed he would be cut. Most teams had their starters by then, so they looked at strong organizations with attractive offensive systems in need of a quality backup. They narrowed their best options down to three teams, one of which was Carolina.

"When Jeff Ireland called, that's the only thing that was disheartening. When he said 'We've traded you to Carolina,' I was excited. That was a big blessing.

"It was mixed emotions. I was excited about the new team, but at the same time you go into this thing with the mind-set of what you're trying to build and you have a bond with those guys.

"I was involved in the offseason program here. I was, to a certain degree, providing leadership to the program. I feel I helped lay some of the groundwork because when so much is new you're trying hard to lay down a culture."

McCown, playing on his fifth team in the past four years, insisted he wouldn't trade his current situation aside from being separated from his family. McCown, after playing under Lane Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Dave McGinnis, is enjoying John Fox's established and proven program.

"Would I have won games the same way Chad won them? Maybe not," McCown said. "I would like to think that I could have had the same success, but nothing against Chad. He stepped into a situation and made the most of it. For me, I'll just wait for the next opportunity.

"But I guess I was destined to win the division one way or the other."