DENVER — Josh McCown’s broken left hand was covered with a white bandage. His feelings couldn’t be so easily masked.
The leader of the New York Jets fought back tears when reflecting on the best season of his 15-year career and how it just might be over following a 23-0 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
“It’s been the best because of the guys, not numbers, you know,” the 38-year-old McCown said. “It’s been the best because of the group of men in the locker room. I’m just proud to be a part of it and I’m so thankful they let me be a part of this team.”
McCown took a hit from Shane Ray in the third quarter, rolled over the linebacker and either was bumped by a knee or a foot — he’s not sure — but knew instantly it wasn’t good. He headed toward the sideline before dropping to a knee. After a quick consultation with the trainers, he went straight to the locker room.
A blow for him in what’s been a stellar season.
A blow for the Jets (5-8), whose slim playoff hopes took a major hit as they dropped another road game.
Bryce Petty figures to be in line to start next weekend in New Orleans. Provided, of course, McCown can’t go. He’s not ruling it out.
“We’ll see what happens, but if I can finish, I’d love to finish,” said McCown, who has thrown for 2,926 yards and 18 TDs with nine interceptions this season. “We’ll see what the tests (Monday) say.
“I’ll do whatever I can to get ready to go.”
It was an abysmal day for a New York offense that managed only 100 yards and six first downs against Denver (4-9), which snapped an eight-game skid. The Jets were just 3 of 13 on third down.
“They had a good game plan,” coach Todd Bowles said. “They outcoached us. They outplayed us. They out-hit us and they beat us in every phase.”
McCown was banged up in the second quarter when he was scrambling for extra yards and took a hit from Aqib Talib, along with Jamal Carter. McCown got up holding his hip and Petty momentarily replaced him.
“That hurt pretty bad, but I was able to get it back loose where I felt good, felt like I could throw,” McCown explained. “I wanted to go back in there.”
On his first pass back, McCown tried to throw a deep ball to Robby Anderson, only to have it picked off by Darian Stewart .
Just the way things went for the Jets and McCown, who also fumbled and was sacked four times as he finished with a QB rating of 25.
“The slow start hurt us and obviously turnovers hurt us,” McCown said. “It’s hats off to them to continue to fight especially considering where they’re at with their record and everything.”
At the beginning of the season, the Jets weren’t given much of a chance and even more so with two straight losses out of the gate. But McCown helped keep them competitive. That wasn’t lost on his teammates.
“You never want to see a guy go down like that, especially with how hard he’s worked all year,” tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. “I feel for him. It hurts us, but at the same time, we have guys who need to step up.”
Like Petty, who was 2 of 9 for 14 yards in place of McCown. Those could be some big cleats to fill.
“He played his butt off, he fought and fought and fought,” Petty said of McCown. “That is what you want in a leader, in a veteran guy. We get to see his grit day in and day out and his passion for it.”
McCown can’t say one way or the other if he will play again this season. Not yet. He remains hopeful.
“Guys were fighting and when you can’t be out there for your guys — that’s the hardest thing,” McCown said. “It was just disappointing, and just hate that it went this way.”