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'Everybody's got the Eagle on their helmet'

Tom Moore
Gannett Media
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Backup quarterback Josh McCown is the oldest Eagle, but you’d never know it by watching him during games.

Take midway through the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 34-17 victory over the Giants that clinched the NFC East for the Eagles. On fourth-and-2 at the Giants’ 39-yard line with Philly leading by 10 points, cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc came up to tackle New York running back Saquon Barkley for no gain in front of the Birds’ bench.

The first person to greet LeBlanc was the 40-year-old McCown, who repeatedly slapped LeBlanc’s shoulder pads, excitedly congratulated him and clapped toward the sideline.

“If he didn’t make the tackle, I would have,” McCown joked Wednesday.

Part of the reason for McCown’s excitement was because he’d only been part of one playoff team in his first 16 NFL seasons. It happened 12 years ago with the Panthers, who won the NFC South with a 12-4 record. Starting QB Jake Delhomme and Carolina earned a first-round bye, only to lose at home to the Cardinals 33-13 in the divisional round.

“This feels like — I can’t remember,” McCown said, shaking his head.

The 6-foot-4, 218-pound McCown played for numerous other NFL teams that had chances to reach the postseason if they went on a run like the Eagles did by winning their last four to end up 9-7 but couldn’t do it. He also was in a bunch of rebuilding situations, which made this experience mean so much to him.

“To have this kind of season and to kind of go through the ups and down and watch the group just trust and believe in one another and run the table has been special,” McCown said. “(It’s) kind of this thing that you’ve chased and wanted to see happen your whole career. It’s very humbling to be a part of it.”

And then here’s the possibility that this could be McCown’s last season. In fact, McCown thought was 2018 with the Jets would be his swan song, only for the Eagles to call asking him to be Carson Wentz’s No. 2. He jumped at the chance.

Since his on-field role has been limited to 15 offensive snaps as an Eagle, McCown has tried to contribute however he can. He’s worked with former practice-squad receivers such as Robert Davis and Deontay Burnett to strengthen their grasp of the playbook and offensive concepts.

“I’ve been there before,” McCown said.

The young players clearly appreciate McCown sharing his knowledge with them.

“He’s been a huge help (with) us learning the plays and all that kind of stuff,” said Davis, who was promoted from the practice squad Dec. 12. “He’s been one of the main pieces in helping us get up to speed.”

While McCown is one of two QBs in NFL history — along with Ryan Fitzpatrick — to throw a pass for eight different teams (the Cardinals, Raiders, Panthers, Bears, Bucs, Browns, Jets and Eagles), he has never taken a postseason snap. He’d prefer to keep it that way because, unless the Birds blow out the Seahawks in Sunday’s wild-card playoff game (4:40 at the Linc), he won’t play unless Wentz gets hurt in Wentz’s postseason debut.

While McCown, who has thrown for 17,731 yards in the regular season, is one play away from taking over at QB, he was close to playing wide receiver again in the Dec. 9 win over the Giants. He offered to play the position if the Eagles, who were down to two healthy wideouts, needed him there. In 2006, McCown had two catches at receiver for the Lions vs. the Patriots.

“I didn’t feel like I’d ever be reprising that role, especially (at the age of 40),” McCown said. “Everybody’s got the Eagle on their helmet — one for all and all for one. That’s always a mindset ‘what can you do to help?’ Thankfully, … that didn’t have to happen.”

As for LeBlanc, he wasn’t surprised to see McCown run up to him after LeBlanc’s most important tackle Sunday.

“Josh is that type of guy,” LeBlanc said, smiling. “You need those type of guys on the team. He’s full of energy. When I made a play, he was the first guy over to me, like ‘Yeah, yeah. That’s what I’m talking about.’ He got me jacked up.”

For McCown, it’s just another part of a job that he loves.

Tom Moore: tmoore@couriertimes.com; @TomMoorePhilly