Josh McCown doesn't see the negative connotation, whether it's "game manager" or the oft-used phrase "building around the quarterback."
The Browns veteran quarterback understands the perception but brushes it off. He's comfortable with who he is and how he fits with his new team.
"That stuff doesn't bother me," McCown said after Tuesday's OTA. "We're trying to win a championship. You can call it what you want to call it. I just want to win football games. That's my main focus.
"I understand who I am and how I want to go about winning football games. That's the key for us."
McCown's seen a lot in his 13 NFL seasons, but each destination, each role in which he's assumed, has carried a different wrinkle or two. His status as the Browns' first-team quarterback under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo as Cleveland goes through its first week of OTAs is not necessarily new, but the circumstances surrounding it differ greatly from what he's seen over the past two seasons.
And McCown loves it, especially when it pertains to the five big guys tasked with keeping him upright and giving him enough time to find his targets in the passing game.
"I knew they were physically good, you see it on tape, but these guys are so smart," McCown said. "It's rare to get a group of five guys that can really see the field the way they do. I've said this all along, they were a big reason why I wanted to come here. After being with them now the last five or six weeks, had I known it was this good, I might not have even had to take a visit (before signing). They're really sharp. I'm looking forward to continuing to work with them."
The bond between McCown and his new teammates has been quick and productive. Browns coach Mike Pettine won't name a season-opening starter for months, but he's been unwavering in stating where McCown stands at this portion of the offseason. McCown has worked with the first-team offense throughout the offseason workout program and, barring a change of plans, will continue to do so throughout OTAs and into training camp.
McCown's been appreciative of the transparency and said it's had a positive effect on the Browns' other quarterbacks, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw and Thad Lewis.
"I believe it takes away from any distraction you can have and the team can move in one direction regardless of who that guy is necessarily," McCown said. "It doesn't take away from anything we're doing as a group and it doesn't take away from anything Johnny, Connor and Thad are doing. Those guys are working hard and we're all doing it together.
"When we do that, if everyone brings their best to work every day, whoever is at the top, it pushes that guy to be better and ultimately helps the Cleveland Browns, and that's what it's about."
The installation of DeFilippo's offense has been fast-paced and thorough, but McCown has provided a steadying hand. The Browns' defense isn't going easy on the group, either, as it tries to implement "graduate-level" concepts with a unit that is vying to become one of the league's toughest overall defenses.
This part of the process is nothing new for McCown, who has played for three different offensive coordinators in as many seasons. Last year, McCown's offensive coordinator, Jeff Tedford, fell ill shortly before the season and put even more responsibility on his plate.
McCown's level of preparation was one of the first things Pettine highlighted when he was asked about the 35-year-old veteran.
"We're a new group and anytime you come together as a new group, there are going to be growing pains," McCown said. "For us, we understand, especially within this division and the offense that it has and the quarterbacks on the other teams, that we've got to set the bar high early and hold ourselves to a high standard in order to speed up that learning curve. While there will be bumps in the road as we've learned, still the standard has to be high. That's where we are right now."
At this stage of career, McCown wasn't looking for the system that would allow him to put up big fantasy football numbers. He was looking for the right fit, and the past six weeks have further redeemed what he saw when he signed in February.
Pettine understands why Cleveland offered an attractive landing spot, even if some outside the franchise see him simply as a "game manager" in this offense.
"I think he sees that as potentially a way to win football games," Pettine said. "I think virtually any quarterback in the league, if we said, 'Hey, we want to get you in second-and-5 and not second-and-11. We want to get you in third-and-2 and not third-and-8,' I think they'd all be appreciative of that."