- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Bear with me a minute for this anecdote that best illustrates what the Chicago Bears lost Wednesday when backup quarterback Josh McCown signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he joins former Bears coach Lovie Smith.
It wasn't long after Marc Trestman took over the head coaching job in Chicago last year when driving around near the club's practice facilities, he decided to drop by the hotel where the team houses rookies during the offseason. Trestman figured he'd pop his head in, take a look and see who might be milling around the hotel.
Trestman walks in, and in the hotel lobby, McCown had gathered the rookies for an impromptu film session in an attempt to help the inexperienced players digest the copious amounts of information they'd soon be trying to process on the practice field. As they watched film, McCown drew up the X's and O's on a grease board he'd borrowed from the front desk.
He'd pulled together everyone for film study without anybody ever asking him. Soon, starting quarterback Jay Cutler was doing the same thing with the rookies at that hotel.
That's the type of influence the Bears lose in McCown's departure to Tampa Bay. General manager Phil Emery once called McCown "a glue guy," while others within the organization have described him as "fatherly." That's why the team held supreme confidence in McCown's ability to get the job done in 2013 during the times Cutler was unable to play because of injuries.
Cutler will probably miss McCown the most.
"I'd like to see him come back," Cutler said back in January. "There are talks about him getting other opportunities, which I think, rightfully so he'll have. We've had candid talks about what he wants to do. I'll let Josh address that when he wants to. I know we'd love to have him back. I know Phil talked on it. We'd like to have him back in the building: Just the amount of work he does behind the scenes with the younger players and myself, just the experience he brings to the quarterback room, it's very valuable. The guys in the locker room are hoping we see 12 back next year."
They will, but McCown will be standing on the other side of the field playing for Tampa Bay -- possibly as the starter -- next season when the Bears host the Buccaneers at Soldier Field.
In weighing his options, McCown hoped for an opportunity to compete for a starting job, and it appears the Buccaneers will grant such a chance.
"To leave Chicago, it will be a situation where I'm looking to compete to start or to start, and be able to kind of grow more as a player," McCown said. "The only way as a player that you can do that is on the field. That will definitely be something that we are looking at. So we'll see. We'll see what opportunities come and where we are at tomorrow."
McCown is expected to receive a significant bump in pay from the one-year, $840,000 veteran league minimum salary he received from the Bears last offseason that included a $25,000 signing bonus and $5,600 workout bonus for a total compensation package of $870,600.
He'll be missed in Chicago. But Emery put it best Wednesday in reacting to the news McCown is headed elsewhere.
"We all want to congratulate Josh. He's been provided with a great opportunity to be a starter down there in Tampa. We're very happy for him and very proud for him," Emery said. "Obviously we look forward to competing against him on the field; very happy for him that he's had this opportunity. Josh has earned the right and respect to be given the opportunity."