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Josh McCown’s family comes first — that’s why he may not play anywhere next season

Against Packers as Bear Jay Cutler has thrown 17 interceptions has eight TD passes. | Sun-Times Library

Against the Packers as a Bear, Jay Cutler has thrown 17 interceptions and has eight TD passes. | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: January 26, 2014 6:35AM



Josh McCown loves Christmas.

The Bears quarterback listens to Christmas music to and from Halas Hall. His house is decorated, and the family put up the Christmas tree weeks ago.

But coming and going from his Winnetka home the last few weeks has been torturous. The Christmas lights can brighten his day only so much.

“It looks great, but the energy is just not there,” McCown said.

That’s because his wife, Natalie, and their four children — two daughters, ages 15 and 6, and two sons, 10 and 9 — aren’t present. They come and go from their home in North Carolina.

“I like where each day that gets closer to Christmas, they come home and they’re a little bit more nuts,” McCown said. “It gives you joy. You’re excited because they’re excited, and sometimes it gets a little crazy where you are like, ‘All right, calm down.’ That’s what I miss the most, when it’s building.”

Family is everything to McCown, the 34-year-old who won over Chicago with his impressive play in place of Jay Cutler and his likability. His family will play the most influential role regarding what happens in the offseason, when McCown becomes a free agent.

“Whether it’s us living together and moving quite possibly or just being done playing, one or the other, it’s just figuring out a way to be together,” McCown said.

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McCown might miss playing catch with his sons, but he stays in touch with technology. He’ll watch his eldest daughter’s junior-varsity basketball games on his phone and talk with her afterward.

“He knows what her plans are on a Friday night,” Natalie said. “He knows about her first high school dance that she’s gone to.”

But that doesn’t make it any easier.

“It’s a year-to-year thing of how long is this going to be,” McCown said. “In our minds, when we commit to it, it’s for a year. So to be apart like this, it’s a tough deal. But it’s something everybody [in my family] talks about, including my daughter, my oldest, especially, just sitting with her, ‘Is all this OK? Are you cool with this?’ So she’s been great with it all.

“But for me, I know that there is a time coming where it’s going to get harder and harder. I kind of have a thought process in my mind of: I don’t know if I want to do this and let her get out of my house having done this the last four years where we live apart.

“There’s not enough money in the world to justify and make it feel OK to miss those games and stuff like that. It’s a process. It’s things that we think about, quite honestly, moving forward in my career in the direction, ‘Are we going to keep playing?’ All those things, because it’s a real question, because those things are hard.”

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“There is no act in [McCown],” Scott Chadwick said.

McCown’s high school coaching stint at Marvin Ridge High in North Carolina with former head coach Chadwick included three offseasons and nearly two full seasons as his NFL career pulled him away.

But when McCown was present, “He invested in the whole school,” said Chadwick, who is no longer at Marvin Ridge. McCown went to basketball and baseball games. He flipped pancakes at school functions.

McCown’s commitment reached a point during the 2012 season — after he was cut by the Bears in August and before he was re-signed after Cutler suffered a concussion — that Chadwick said McCown told him a prospective NFL team would have to wait until after the high school season.

“That’s the kind of a guy he is,” Chadwick said. “[McCown said,] ‘I just don’t feel like at this point that I can leave the kids and I can leave you with everything. I just don’t think it would be fair to the kids to leave now.’ ”

McCown, who tutored quarterbacks, including Chadwick’s son Tyler, loved coaching, and the players loved him. McCown ran the scout-team offense, picked up breakfast for the team and held early-morning film sessions. Marvin Ridge won 17 games and made the playoffs with McCown in 2011 and ’12. This season, without McCown and Chadwick, the team went 2-9.

“We all knew he was trying to get back into the NFL, but we never felt that — ever,” said Tyler, a record-setting quarterback at Marvin Ridge. “I learned a lot about being a quarterback from him, but probably more about being a leader.”

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McCown said getting traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Carolina Panthers in 2008 was “the toughest one” to deal with when it came to being away from his family.

But this season has flown by.

Natalie has attended every home game, typically bringing the children along. For Christmas, they traveled to Chicago on Saturday and will stay in town past Wednesday.

“There’s not one thing about Chicago and the Bears that hasn’t been fun,” Natalie said. “It’s been just such an experience for him. I’m very happy to see him happy.”

The Bears are ecstatic, too. McCown is 3-2 with a 109.0 passer rating, rejuvenating his career.

“I have to say, I’m probably the one who pushes him more to continue than he does,” Natalie said. “I know there is an end in sight, whether it be one more year or three more years or five more years. From that perspective, we’re able to push through this time.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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