“When you watch Tennessee and see Jason McCourty, do you see a lot of Devin McCourty in him?”
That was a question Bill Belichick fielded in his Sept. 3, 2012 press conference, days before the identical twins’ teams faced each other for the first time.
“Yeah, I mean there are definitely some similarities, as you would expect. They’re both fast. They’re both aggressive, good tacklers, good solid players,” said the New England Patriots head coach, per the transcript archives.
“We’ll never get a better look at a guy than we will this week from Devin. It’s about as close as it gets.”
Now those looks are about to get even closer.
The Patriots acquired Jason McCourty from the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, hours after the 30-year-old cornerback was announced as one of the organization’s 10 releases. New England swapped its late sixth-rounder in exchange for Cleveland’s early seventh in the deal, dropping down just 12 slots in the 2018 draft to reunite him with his old teammate in the womb and in the Rutgers secondary.
Jason entered the league at No. 203 overall in the 2009 draft, and Devin, born 27 minutes earlier, followed at No. 27 overall in 2010. The former had met the Patriots once before, in October of his rookie season, but the latter wasn’t yet in Foxborough for that 59-0 snow game.
“When I redshirted, we always said there would be a time when we’d separate,” Devin told reporters before the 2012 Titans-Patriots meeting. “I’m not going to lie, at first it was a little difficult. It was different not having him and not having a lot of my friends that I had come in with together. So it was a different year, but it was pretty cool just to watch him and see him out there keep his own that year as a rookie.”
“To grow up with a guy and we were always playing on the same team,” Jason – who’d just signed a five-year, $43 million contract extension with Tennessee – said at the time on a conference call with New England media. “It’s going to be a unique opportunity. So, at this level to be able to face off, will be something special that we won’t realize after the game, but probably years from now.”
That Sept. 9, 2012 game at Gillette Stadium would result in a 34-13 Patriots victory.
Jason, wearing No. 30, started and recorded a pair of tackles for Tennessee. Devin, wearing No. 32, started and recorded seven tackles, two pass deflections and returned one kickoff 28 yards for New England.
It remains the only time the two McCourtys have been on the same NFL field together – with one notable exception being that time they tricked Belichick during Super Bowl XLVI family day at Lucas Oil Stadium.
When the Patriots and Titans revisited one another in 2015, a groin injury had already sent Jason to injured reserve. And by 2017, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound corner was released and signed a two-year, $6 million pact with the Browns, who weren’t on the 5-foot-11, 195-pound safety convert’s schedule.
But the McCourty twins will share a 2018 schedule. They’ll no longer need to make free-agent recruiting pitches. And they’ll no longer need to split a flight itinerary or a two-team jersey for their mother, Phyllis Harrell.
It’ll be more like it was in Piscataway, N.J., a decade ago. Or in Montvale at Saint Joseph Regional High School. Only now, the second set of Patriots identical twins check in with a combined 1,202 tackles, 16 forced fumbles, 163 passes defended, 36 interceptions and a pair of Walter Payton Man of the Year nominations on their resumes. And now, beginning his 10th season in wake of an 0-16 one, Jason has a chance to do what his two-time Super Bowl-winning brother has done 19 times over.
Appear in a playoff game.
But appearing in a game together, and sharing a snap in the secondary, is the place to start. And when that transpires, it’ll far outweigh what did on a sunny afternoon nearly seven seasons ago.
“We thought it possibly could have happened last year and now this year I actually get an opportunity,” Jason McCourty told Patriots.com’s Meredith Gorman on Friday. “Just walking into the building, talking to Coach Belichick this morning, I’m excited. I’m ready to go.”