Devin and Jason McCourty are identical twins but after nearly a decade apart on the football field, they actually see the game a little different now.
Speaking to New England reporters for the first time Tuesday since his trade from Cleveland last week, Jason McCourty, who came out of Rutgers a year before his twin Devin, acknowledged the obvious. They have had remarkably different NFL journeys. They also look at the game differently now.
“That’s probably one of the most intriguing parts of us teaming back up at this point,” McCourty told me. “We went through all those years of playing football together and now you’re almost a decade later through different experiences. You’ve seen the game over the last nine years through two different lenses, so it’s going to be really interesting, I think, for both of us to see sitting in meeting rooms, being on the practice field, of how we see things and how differently or how much alike.
“I think that’s probably going to be intriguing for the coaches, as well. I think the one really cool thing is we’re probably each other’s biggest fans and biggest critics. I’m very interested to see how much we can push each other to become better leaders, better players and the whole nine [yards].”
Devin has been to four Super Bowls, winning twice. Jason has yet to make a playoff appearance. That alone speaks to the Grand Canyon difference in NFL experience. While Devin has only known the Patriots since being drafted in the first round in 2010, the Titans selected Jason in the sixth round (203rd overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft. He was the second player from Rutgers that the Tennessee Titans drafted after first-rounder Kenny Britt. Eventually, he signed a six-year, $43 million contract extension with $20 million guaranteed in August 2012.
McCourty, like his brother Devin, was eventually named a co-defensive captain (during the 2015 season). But on April 13, 2017, McCourty was released by the Titans after eight seasons with the team as the team looked to save cap space. On May 16, 2017, McCourty signed a two-year, $6 million contract with the Cleveland Browns. He was about to be released but the Patriots stepped in and executed a trade that Devin had long pushed for. Last Thursday, the Patriots acquired Jason McCourty and a 2018 seventh-round pick while sending a 2018 sixth-round pick back to Cleveland.
Now the McCourtys can talk football – and leadership – without worrying about exchanging trade secrets.
“Man, it’s everything. The cool thing for me is I’ve been able to get the perspective, especially when it comes to X’s and O’s,” McCourty added. “We’ve talked a lot, obviously, both of us being defensive backs over the years of the game plan, from a game plan standpoint, of he’s maybe playing somebody in our division and I get on the phone with him and give him all of the notes that we had while we played him. We talk about what their attack would be versus what our attack would be, and that was always really cool just to see the different perspective of how one staff seems to attack a certain team and the way another one does.
“We always got a lot out of that because it helps you to defend that team come Sunday. I think beyond that, the off-the-field dynamic was always cool to learn about just for the fact that we were kind of – I remember being drafted in ‘09 and having Coach [Jeff] Fisher as my head coach and Fish was a real player’s coach, really laid back. I remember telling Dev a lot about that his last year at Rutgers, and then he comes in and goes to New England, which is kind of a little bit different. Us sitting there discussing the way one team is ran versus another team, it gives you just a different perspective to be able to really not take for granted the situation you’re in, whether it’s good or bad, but just so you know to approach it in a positive way and realize how you can make the best out of it.”
✌?is better than ☝? pic.twitter.com/lVVv8XiYzP
— Devin&Jason McCourty (@McCourtyTwins) March 16, 2018
How long will it take to adapt and adjust with Devin?
“I don’t think it’ll take long. I think just from an experience standpoint of I’ve been able to only play for two teams throughout my nine-year career but I’ve had a good amount of defensive coordinators and I think when you have to do that, you’re forced to have to adjust,” Jason said. “You get used to different terminology, different systems, so you start to combine them all and make sense of things. Honestly, having Dev, we talk about different things throughout the course of the season, how to approach one game plan versus the next. Then this is just a team that I watched extremely closely, so I think the one cool thing for me was when I got to Cleveland last year it was a younger team and I didn’t know a lot of the guys when I first walked into the locker room.
“But just over the years of following my brother and the team, I walk into this locker room already having a really good idea of a bunch of the guys on the roster so that, I think, will help for an easier transition. Over the years of going down to the Super Bowls when Dev goes or coming to visit him at different points of the season, I’ve really gotten a chance to meet a lot of the guys.”
Jason, who hasn’t been assigned a locker yet, also made it clear, he’s going to let Devin keep the leadership role in the locker room.
“I think right now, for myself, I’m not going to go in with any expectations in regards to that,” Jason McCourty said. “I just want to go be myself, get there, get accustomed to the guys in the locker room, not try to go in there and say, ‘I’m this 10-year veteran and I’ve been a leader here. Let me lead you guys.’ But just going in and being myself and get to know them to figure out what my niche is and where I’m going to fit in on the team, so I’m just kind of going in open-minded, ready to work and just ready to do whatever it takes to help the team succeed.”
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) March 17, 2018
On the field, the Patriots are getting a corner who has played both press and off-coverage, something that no doubt appealed to Bill Belichick.
“I feel like at this point one of my biggest strengths is experience, being able to have been around the block, going against different offensive coordinators, going against different opponents year in and year out,” McCourty said. “I’m very comfortable playing off-technique, playing press technique. I’ve just had to do it in so many different systems and switch up.
“Last year in Cleveland we played a ton of off-technique. The year before in Tennessee was a ton of press technique. I feel like those are my biggest strengths, and then beyond that just being in the different systems and facing different adversities. I feel like I’ve been able to learn to get along and be able to connect a lot of people. Just being forced to kind of come out of my shell last year of just transitioning, going from being in Tennessee for eight years to now you arrive in Cleveland, a team coming off a 1-15 team (in 2016). You’re one of the older guys on the team and just getting acclimated there and being able to get the guys to trust me enough to say, ‘Hey, he’s a vet who’s done it the right way. He knows what he’s talking about,’ to be able to let me lead them and be able to kind of help them grow. I think those are the things that I can bring to the team and just start to show what I can do.”
McCourty showed love for two people who have had a big role in getting to the point where he is now – former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano and his mom, Phyllis Harrell.
“I would probably say a lot of the leadership just from my mom, the way she raised us, the way she led our house and kind of just who she is as a person,” McCourty said. “I think those characteristics rubbed off on me and Dev a great deal, of just the things she instilled in us of hard work and it doesn’t matter where you start; it’s where you finish. I think we kind of just kept that throughout school, sports and everything as we continued to grow. I think the student of the game a lot came from Rutgers. Being there under Coach [Greg] Schiano – he can be a tough guy to play for but the one thing you’re always going to respect about Coach Schiano is the way that he worked. He spent a lot of nights in that office and he was a grinder.”
Oh, and one more thing, the McCourtys are just like any siblings – there is a natural rivalry there. Devin claimed to be a little more physical than Jason but that Jason is a tad faster.
“Yeah, for some reason he thinks he’s more physical than me, so I kind of let him have that one,” Jason said. “I’m definitely faster than him, and I think some of our skill sets have kind of adjusted to what our roles within our teams have been. For him, making that switch from corner to safety, he’s had to become more physical coming down in the box or coming up making tackles.
“As far as me, it’s just the quickness aspect, getting in and out of breaks, being able to stay at the line of scrimmage and being able to chase some of the dynamic receiver’s that we have. I think those are probably the biggest differences. I would agree with him there. We can have the debate on who did the better pregame speeches. He already told me don’t come in there thinking that I’m going to take over the pregame speech because that’s his thing. I may have to just sneak one for a game or two.”
Maybe Devin will give up the reins for a game or two to rest the vocal chords.