One of the most important jobs in football has not factored into the Giants’ season-opening plans in 15 years.
It matters now. More than ever. And it matters deeply to Colt McCoy to emerge on the other side of a difficult journey.
Iron man Eli Manning retired and took with him the sense his backup quarterback could leave the pads at home on gameday. In the year of the coronavirus, any player — including starting quarterback Daniel Jones — could be held out of a game on short notice because of an asymptomatic positive test result, thus increasing the value of a veteran No. 2 like McCoy.
“Everybody has to think of it that way now,” McCoy told The Post. “I don’t think it would change my preparation. Part of my role is to have myself prepared to play in a worst-case scenario, whether that’s coming off the bench or in these crazy COVID times. You just never know.”
Say that again.
Three weeks after Washington quarterback Alex Smith suffered the horrific injury that nearly led to leg amputation in November 2018, his replacement, McCoy, fractured his fibula just above the ankle. Infection turned a four-week timetable with hope of returning for a playoff game into a three-surgery nightmare that spilled into the following season and marred his chance to be a starter again.
“There were a lot of complications that I dealt with and the up-and-down emotions that go with that,” McCoy said. “It was really frustrating — especially when you know it’s your opportunity to play — but I finally feel like I’m very healthy.”
After making 21 total starts for the 2010-11 Browns, McCoy slipped onto the trusted career-backup carousel. The former third-round draft pick didn’t start a game in four of the next five seasons and watched Washington cycle through Mark Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins when he and Smith were sidelined.
McCoy was exposed first-hand to parts of Smith’s “miracle” comeback to return this season. In his own recovery, McCoy, 34, rushed back too soon to make one start last season — and he wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.
“I spent the whole offseason focusing on getting my leg [strength] back and turned a corner,” he said. “If I wasn’t going to get it back, I wasn’t going to play anymore.”
When McCoy sought a fresh start in free agency, the most logical landing spot was the Rams based on a relationship with coach Sean McVay. Then the Giants called to offer a one-year contract and absolutely no familiarity, but McCoy instantly clicked with coach Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
“There’s something about going with your gut,” McCoy said. “To be wanted in a place where I really didn’t have any prior relationships was intriguing. I’m in the right place. To be going into my 11th year and learning a new way to do it has been challenging, but it’s been fun.”
Manning made 232 starts (210 consecutive) in front of 18 different mostly anonymous backups and two more off the bench last season when Jones missed two starts with an ankle injury. McCoy’s preseason play inspired confidence as he helped a slew of unproven receivers stick around.
“Colt does a nice job managing the game,” Judge said. “He has a lot of savvy to really find the open receiver. He has a lot of poise in the pocket to sit back there when the pass rush is coming. He has that clock in his head from being so experienced that he knows when to get the ball out.”
In meetings, quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski suspects McCoy asks questions he already knows the answer to in order to help a young team.
“At this point in my career, I’m not afraid to ask a question,” McCoy said. “If I’m unsure then I imagine a lot of people are. Great offenses click when they all understand what the goal is. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
Jones can learn from McCoy, but the inverse is also true. McCoy is trying to replicate Jones’ communication, cadence and audibles.
“If I’m thrown in the fire,” McCoy said, “I want to be able to make sure I’m doing it just like Daniel’s been doing it. That way everyone can feel normal.
“You have to go to a place where you might go 16 games and not step on the field, and yet you have to be ready each of those weeks. That sort of grind takes a toll on your mind, but I’ve been through that.”
And much worse.
New York Post
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