Best receiver, JaMarcus Russell regret: Josh McCown tells all about NFL

In 16 NFL seasons, Josh McCown has played with hundreds of teammates and against hundreds of opposing players.

He gave Emmitt Smith his last hand-off. He threw Larry Fitzgerald his first pass. He has been on the field with and against Hall of Famers. McCown went from an unpolished rookie out of Sam Houston State to the mentor for Sam Darnold.

“More than anything, it’s humbling,” McCown said last week about all the players he has played with and against. “Those guys I’m talking about, it’s cool talking about them as players, but as people they are even better. To me, I value that so much. I’m so thankful I got to be around those guys. It’s fun to watch guys play at the highest level, but it’s awesome to watch humans operate at the highest level.”

McCown, 39, is unsure whether he will play in 2019. He said he will sit down with his family after the season and reach a decision. If he does call it a career, it has been some ride. He has played on eight teams over 16 seasons.

McCown reflected on his career with The Post and answered questions about who was the best at certain categories. The only ground rule was no current teammates or coaches could be named.

Best hands: “Holy cow. I have played with a lot of great guys, but three guys come to mind and I can’t choose between them — Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin.

“Larry’s ability to track the ball was unbelievable and different than anything I’ve ever seen. The ability to make catches in traffic with Anquan Boldin was crazy because he could have guys hanging all over him and still make the catch. More than anything with Steve, his confidence in his hands to catch the ball and make moves while he was in the air. … I remember thinking he is more concerned with the move than he is with the catch, and it shows you how confident he is in the catch.”

Fastest receiver: “Travis Benjamin could roll when I was in Cleveland. He’s a lot like Robby [Anderson]. Robby might be the fastest, but I would say Travis. The other guy I think of when you say that because he is sneaky fast for a big guy is Mike Evans. He had unbelievable hands, too. I’ve had the privilege of playing with some good guys.”

Best route runner: “Anquan Boldin for sure. He wasn’t the fastest guy, so he had to be efficient with his feet. He was just a technician, just a great route runner.”

Most complete receiver: “Oh geez. I’ve played with some Hall of Famers. Pick your poison or your passion. It’s whatever you’re looking for. Golly, I hate to [choose] because every one of them brings something to the table. If you’re looking for a technician, you’re getting Anquan. If you’re looking for guys to extend fields and make plays on the long ball, you’re talking Alshon [Jeffery], Mike Evans, Larry Fitzgerald. If you’re looking for a playmaker when you put the ball in his hands, it’s Brandon Marshall or Steve Smith. You just throw it out there to Smitty and let him do his thing. A lot of times it’s like pulling teeth to get young receivers to block, but all these guys who are great catchers are great blockers. All of them are complete receivers. I’m close with all of them so picking one of them would not get me more Christmas cards.”

Toughest running back: “Jonathan Stewart was the toughest runner for sure. I’d also say Matt Forte or I played with a guy in Oakland named Justin Fargas out of USC. For that year he played with us, he was a banger. He ran really tough.”

Fastest back: “I played with Damien Anderson my first few years in Arizona. He was out of Northwestern and he could really run. He was fast. D.A. could run.”

Best vision: “Emmitt Smith was unbelievable. Kind of like we talk about with an old quarterback, he was able to function because he was so smart.”

Toughest lineman: “Logan Mankins comes to mind. Gosh, there were so many good ones. Joe Thomas because of his consistency. Shoot, Alex Mack, the same thing. All three of those guys were freaking tough dudes.”

Best run blocker: “Kyle Long. He’s a stud. That group we had in Chicago. Him and Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson, holy buckets. Those three alone were probably my favorite group I got to play with in terms of guard-center-guard. Those guys were good. Kyle was unbelievable, just so gifted as a run blocker.”

Best overall lineman: “Roberto Garza. He was just unbelievably smart, tough. He was a leader. It doesn’t get a lot better than Garz as far as overall linemen.”

QB you learned the most from: “I learned a little bit from everybody. It was really helpful when I connected with Kurt [Warner] in Arizona and Jon Kitna in Detroit. Jon was immensely helpful for me. Every one of them I took kind of a different part of their game. It was fun to watch them do what they were good at. Kurt’s ability to process the whole field was awesome. Kit just from a leadership and locker-room standpoint and the ability to lead a locker room and rally guys was just outstanding. Jake Delhomme was kind of the same way. Jake was the master of the two-minute drill. I was always really impressed with him and learned a ton from him.”

Best QB at reading a defense: “Kurt. Just his ability to see the feel and process was so impressive. He was sharp.”

Strongest arm: “Jay Cutler. He could hammer it, man. Both he and JaMarcus Russell. But Jay could really, really throw it.”

Most accurate: “It’s a close one between Kitna and Kurt Warner.”

Young QB you wished you could have helped more: “I was only in Oakland for a year, but JaMarcus [Russell]. He could really throw the ball and the path his career took. You wish you could have connected with him more just to help him out. I look back at that and wish I had more time with him.”

Funniest teammate: “I’m going to go with the tandem of Ryan Kalil and Jordan Gross from Carolina. The two of them together, their sense of humor, they were definitely funniest guys.”

Best overall athlete: “It’s easy to say a skilled guy. Anquan Boldin was an unbelievable athlete, but one of the most impressive to me was [defensive tackle] Shaun Rogers. Big Baby, as we called him. We were playing hoops one time and we steal the ball and flip it up to him and he takes two dribbles and then goes 360 [degrees] and dunked it. I was like, ‘Holy cow. This guy is 330 pounds.’ ”

Best cornerback faced: “Obviously, I think for the longest time people respected and feared [Darrelle] Revis. He was so good. The other one is Champ Bailey. Both of those guys were difference makers for sure, and special players. I think those were the two guys and I’ve always had a ton of respect for Aqib Talib.”

Best rusher faced: “Early in my career it was Jevon Kearse. He was unbelievable. Julius Peppers, I’ve been on both sides of it — with him and against him. You always had to know where he was because he could disrupt a game. DeMarcus Ware, too.”

Best middle linebacker faced: “Brian Urlacher, he was the best. Like in practice, to watch him work was unbelievable and to see him call out plays and process dissect an offense.”

Best safety faced: “Ed Reed. Guys ask me, ‘What was it like to play against Ed?’ I say, ‘You don’t want to know. Let’s not even talk about that.’ Ed was so special. He’s the best safety because of his ball skills and he could read what you were doing. With Ed, you’d read what they were in and he could pick that ball off over there because he’d go on a hunch.”

Toughest defensive coordinator to face: “The guy that comes to mind that always had his guys playing hard and I always respected is Dean Pees, who was in Baltimore all those years. It is always a dogfight when you play him. I think Mike Zimmer as a defensive coordinator and now as a head coach has long been excellent at game planning and attacking what you do.”

Best game-planner you played for: “I really flourished and appreciated Marc Trestman’s approach and Aaron Kromer when I was with those guys in Chicago. I went into a game as prepared as ever with those guys.”

Best play caller: “I got the chance to work with Mike Martz in Detroit. I didn’t play but watching him kind of make his magic was impressive. Mike had an unbelievable sense and fearlessness to him.”

Best motivator: “My first few years Dave McGinnis was just outstanding at just talking to the team and getting guys going every day. Coach Mac was really special.”

Best overall head coach: “Shoot, man, it’s a close one. I have so much respect for Lovie Smith. I enjoyed playing for him. Both he and Marc Trestman in Chicago and John Fox in Carolina as well. John was awesome.”

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