Former NFL MVP Murdered: Remembering Steve McNair
On Saturday, July 4th, former Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens' quarterback Steve McNair was found dead in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. It was said that the 36 year old McNair died in a shooting where he took a fatal shot to the head along with another female victim. Details are still under investigation.
In high school, McNair was a three sport star, playing basketball, football, and baseball. He was even drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 35th round of the MLB amateur draft in 1991.
However in football, McNair was an All-American out of high school, playing free safety and quarterback for Mount Olive High School. In his junior season there, he won the state championship.
McNair ultimately decided to attend Alcorn State, where he would wind up winning the Walter Peyton award in his senior season. He also set more than a dozen records in the process, as well as being named an All-American. In his senior season, he had over 6,000 yards rushing and passing, and 53 touchdowns.
McNair was the third overall pick, just like current Titans' back-up Vince Young was in 2006, in the 1995 NFL Draft. He signed a seven year deal with the Houston Oilers, who couldn't get good quarterback play from Billy Joe Tolliver, Bucky Richardson, or Cody Carlson, resulting in a 2-14 record, their worst since 1982.
In his first two seasons, McNair saw little action, throwing just 223 passes combined and starting just six games as he played largely behind Chris Chandler, who was later traded to the Atlanta Falcons.
He got his first full season in 1997, where he gave the new Tennessee Oilers stable play. He had good weapons around him, what with last year's rookie of the year Eddie George and soon to be three time Pro-Bowl tight end Frank Wycheck.
However, the receiving corps was largely unproven, as the ultimate star, Derrick Mason, was only a fourth-round rookie. The Oilers only finished 8-8 that season, but had a lot of upside.
1998 was even better for McNair personally. He brought his completion percentage up from 52% to 58.7%. He also threw one more touchdown and three less interceptions than 1997, and had 11 fewer fumbles.
His running wasn't quite like 1997, but he still was a solid dual-threat quarterback that the league wasn't used to. However, the Oilers would only finish 8-8 again in 1998.
In 1999, the Oilers became the Tennessee Titans, and it proved to be a strong season for McNair. He played in the opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, but was diagnosed with an inflamed disk, which would require surgery and him to sit out until after the team's bye week. Neil O'Donnell stepped in nicely, leading the team to a 4-1 record until McNair could return.
McNair would lead the team to the playoffs at an impressive 13-3 record. He lead the team past the Buffalo Bills in the Music City Miracle, and zoomed past division rivals Indianapolis and Jacksonville to reach the Super Bowl, where the team faced the St. Louis Rams.
Despite the team's loss, McNair still had a great season, throwing just eight interceptions and taking 17 fewer sacks than the previous year. He also ran for eight touchdowns.
McNair would go on to have some great seasons, being a Pro-Bowl selection in 2000, 2003, and 2005 with the Titans. He would also be the league's MVP in 2003 and an All-Pro the same year, where he lead the league in passer rating with a whopping 100.4.
However, following the 2002 season, McNair became less of a running threat and more of a pocket presence, which seemed to work well the following season in 2003. Since 2002, he didn't take more than 45 carries or score more than four touchdowns on the ground.
Despite great success on the field for the Titans, he wasn't invincible off the field. McNair was arrested for illegal gun possession and DUI in May of 2003, the offseason before his best season ever. His blood alcohol level was above .10 (the legal limit being .08) and had a 9 millimeter handgun with him in the car.
He had another DUI problem in 2007, though he was actually not the one behind the wheel in the pick-up truck. The charges would be dropped about two months later.
After the 2005 season, McNair's contract was up with the Titans, and they would reach an agreement to send him to the Baltimore Ravens for a 4th round selection in the 2007 NFL draft. The Titans seemed content to stick with Kerry Collins and the rookie Young at quarterback.
McNair would start 22 games for the Ravens, including all 16 in the 2006 season. 2006 was a great season for McNair and the Ravens, who started out 4-0 for the first time in franchise history and ended at an impressive 13-3. McNair completed 63% of his passes, the second highest single season percentage for him, as well as 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
One of the funny things about 2006 was that McNair joined former Titans teammate Mason, who along with tight end Todd Heap and young receiver Mark Clayton, gave the Ravens a pretty formidable receiving corps. Throw in Jamal Lewis to run the football and the Ravens had a potent offense, along with a defense of all-stars with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
2007 was a short season for McNair, who was injury plagued for a large part of it. He still completed a high number of passes, 64.9%, but threw just two touchdowns and four interceptions. He also was only able to run 10 times.
McNair, at age 35, retired. His career totals included a 60.1% completion percentage, 31,304 passing yards, 174 passing touchdowns, 119 interceptions, an 82.8 passer rating, 3,590 rushing yards, and 37 rushing scores.
McNair won't be remembered by the numbers; he will be remembered for his toughness and leadership abilities. Long-time teammate Mason said the following:
"Steve was such a happy person. I even called him 'Smile.' He was always smiling and was always willing to lend a hand to anyone who needed it. I've known him for 13 years, and he was the most selfless, happiest and friendliest person I have known. His family and my family are close, and it is a blow to us all."
He was the kind of quarterback who refused to give in and loved the game thoroughly. He is one of few dual-threat quarterbacks to succeed in the NFL, and was one of the first to use his legs as a threat.
He pioneered a new era for the Tennessee Titans and the NFL itself. McNair, who was born on Valentine's Day and died on Independence Day, will be in the hearts of the Titans and Ravens faithful for years to come.
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