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McCown embraces role with Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Josh McCown's popularity in Chicago is growing with every week and every victory.

The good-natured quarterback puts the "win" in "winsome" for a franchise where the stars are perennially disgruntled.

Going into his third start as Jay Cutler's injury replacement, quick-trigger Bears fans flood the sports-talk stations calling for McCown to start, regardless of No. 6's health. Many of them aren't joking.

That's life in a city where "good quarterback" is often an oxymoron, like easy traffic.

As his legend builds before he takes the field Sunday in St. Louis, reporters search for new and interesting angles about the 34-year-old Texas native, such as, "When Josh makes the call in the huddle, what does that sound like?"

("It sounds like Josh talking," tight end Martellus Bennett noted Thursday.)

But as one FOJ (Friend of Josh) noted, Chicago isn't the only place that loves McCown right now.

"My middle son Cody said I bet McCown is on more fantasy teams in the Charlotte area than any other area in the country," Scott Chadwick said in a phone conversation Thursday.

Until being fired this past March, Chadwick was the head football coach at Marvin Ridge High School in Waxhaw, N.C. For his last two seasons, his quarterbacks coach and "right-hand man" was McCown.

McCown's stint as a high school coach is a major part of his budding legend. It's like Michael Jordan getting cut from his varsity team, except Jordan was a sophomore, and McCown was in his 30s coaching sophomores.

McCown's late-career success could earn him several more NFL paychecks before he really hangs up his cleats for a whistle and bike shorts, and it has led some to consider whether signing Cutler to a long-term deal is even necessary. (It is, but it's a worthy debate.)

Chadwick, who said he is taking a year or so off from coaching high school football, recently moved back to his hometown in Maryland. That worked out quite well in late October, when he got to see McCown replace Cutler in the Bears' 45-41 loss to Washington.

Chadwick was one of the few, if not only, Bears fans in attendance, rooting for McCown to play -- and not just because he got McCown's tickets.

Once McCown got into the game, Chadwick noticed the Bears running a handful of plays they called together in Marvin Ridge's no-huddle spread option.

For instance, with the Bears trailing by four and 4 minutes, 2 seconds left in the game, they had marched down the field and were at Washington's 7-yard line. They were in the shotgun, with two receivers to the right and one to the left, and Matt Forte in the backfield.

Chadwick could figure out what was coming next.

McCown "flash-faked" to Forte, freezing middle linebacker London Fletcher, and threw to the only receiver in the route, Bennett, who ran straight past Fletcher and caught a well-zipped touchdown pass to give the Bears a brief lead.

"FIZ All 9s," Chadwick said to his friend.

FIZ stands for Fake Inside Zone, which is what McCown did to Forte, and the 9 is the common football terminology for deep routes.

"Josh had told Forte on the sidelines, 'If I give you the flash fake, London will bite and the tight end was wide open," Chadwick said.

Sunday, in the Bears' overtime victory over Baltimore, McCown and Bennett connected on the same route, a 43-yard gain that set up Robbie Gould's winning field goal.

After the Washington game, Chadwick and McCown talked about that play and the "smoke" throws, bubbles and "50 Under" plays. You know, football talk.

"He took a sack on the last play of the game and I'm like, 'Dude, you can't get sacked there.' It was like I was coaching him. You can't get sacked there."

Two weeks later, you can bet Chadwick was joining the chorus of Bears fans wondering why coach Marc Trestman didn't insert McCown earlier for a hobbled Cutler. Now Chadwick and his son Tyler, who quarterbacked Marvin Ridge High and now plays baseball at Coastal Carolina, are glued to Bears games.

It's been a few years since the ex-Carolina Panthers quarterback strolled into Chadwick's office and offered up his services. McCown had thrown six passes in two years with Carolina, his third team since getting drafted in the third round by Arizona in 2002. His NFL career was waning, at best.

"He just said, 'My kids are getting older, I've bounced around. But no matter what happens in my career, this is where I want to live and make my home. So I want to do things in the community,'" Chadwick said.

Since then, McCown's high school coaching career has been interrupted -- he has played in the United Football League, gone to 49ers training camp and is now in his third stint with the Bears in the past three years.

Of course, this time it's a little different. McCown didn't need to coach this past offseason, because the Bears were committed to giving him the backup role to Cutler.

It was a good move by both sides. McCown has fit perfectly in Trestman's West Coast offense, moving the chains and avoiding turnovers. Not game-managing, mind you, just efficient quarterbacking. That's something rarely seen in these parts.

Through 10-plus quarters, McCown has given the Bears even more than they anticipated. He has a 100.0 quarterback rating, having completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 754 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions or fumbles.

McCown said he likes the offense because it provides him with a sense of trust in his teammates and coaches. He's trying not to get cocky, noting he needs to improve in the red zone, and probably study even more on Saturdays. Can he make the back-shoulder touchdown tosses to Brandon Marshall like Cutler does?

We might never find out. Once Cutler's bum ankle heals, he'll be starting and McCown will be helping Cutler from the sidelines. Until then, it's McCown's show, and everyone is enjoying it.

"Everybody is happy for him, he's that kind of guy," Chadwick said. "I watch his press conferences. I heard him on the Scott Van Pelt show. That's Josh. He's not putting on an act. It's nice everybody else gets to see it."

So, how was McCown as a coach?

"The biggest thing Josh did was he took things we had in our system and he helped perfect them," Chadwick said.

In a way, that's what he's done in Chicago, too.