Steve McNair

August 7, 2009 · 1 comment

in NFL

Steve McNairSteve McNair was one of the toughest quarterbacks to ever take a snap in an NFL game.  He played through pain and injury and was fearless in and out of the pocket.  Drafted third in the 1995 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers, McNair didn’t take the helm until the 1997 season.  After two 8-8 seasons, McNair lead his Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV where they most memorably came up a foot short of the goal line on a pass to Kevin Dyson as time ran out. Nicknamed “Air” McNair, he was as impressive with his legs as he was with his arm, racking up 31,304 passing and 3,590 rushing yards. So the question remains, is he Hall or No Hall?

Career Passing Career Rushing
161 82.8 2733 4544 60.1 31304 194.4 6.9 174 119 669 3590 22.3 5.4 37
  • 1 Co-AP NFL MVP (2003)
  • 1 All-Pro Selection (2003)
  • 3 Pro Bowl Selections (2000, 2003, 2005)


by Matt Thompson

First and foremost, what happened to Steve McNair was tragic.  Two months ago when Jon and I decided to work on, we discussed football players and McNair was at the top of the list.  Any player that played the game the way he did—with all heart and little disregard for his body—deserved a place on our site.  This almost feels like a tribute.

I remember hearing about McNair on Sportscenter in high school.  His numbers at Alcorn State were astonishing.  His senior year:  6,000 yards rushing and passing, 53 TDs.  As a I-AA player he finished third in the Heisman voting; something we may never see again with the popularity of college sports.

McNair played from 1995- 2007 with 1997-2006 being the years he will truly be measured by.  Looking at similar careers of Hall of Famers, one player stands out—Joe Namath.  Before I even started writing this entry, I thought of Namath being comparable.  By all accounts I've heard, Namath wasn't the best QB, but he played with a lot of heart.  That's exactly what comes to mind when thinking about McNair.  As it turns out, Namath also had a 12-year career.

McNair ended up with a 60.1 completion percentage, over 31,000 yards, 211 total TDs (174 passing and 37 rushing), 119 INTs, an 82.8 passer rating and 3,590 rushing yards.  And McNair finished two feet from winning an NFL championship.  McNair's teams also finished in the playoffs 6 of his 12 seasons.

McNair's stats kill Namath's in every category.  But, then again, we all know Namath got into the Hall because of a prediction and that he could outdrink every writer.  Okay, only part of that is true.  Namath had fewer TDs (180 total, 173 passing), more INTs (220), less yards (27,663) and a paltry 65.5 QB rating.  Hell, Namath only completed half of his passes!

I had to dig deeper.  Namath is a HoF Hailey's Comet, and judging by his statistics, Kerri Collins will be in the HoF.  Enter Troy Aikman.  Aikman played about the same amount of time (1989-2000) and had fewer TDs than McNair (174 total), a comparable passer rating (81.6) and completion percentage (61.4%), and slightly more passing yards (32, 942). The final comparison is championships, and Aikman had three.

Aikman was surrounded by superstar talent.  Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and probably the best offense line in the modern era (turns out also the biggest drug dealers).  McNair had Eddie George for some time, Derrick Mason (who is not Michael Irvin), and Clay Matthews (who is just one man).

As you can guess, I do not think championships leap a QB into the HoF.  Last I checked, this is a team sport and I am always reminded by Bobby Bowden's comments when it comes to winning a championship—you need some luck.  I think this applies to all levels. Because I think winning a championship makes you rely on others and some luck, I feel Dan Marino is the greatest QB that ever played the game.  A QB should try to win at all costs and if that means throwing the ball 60 times a game (in the case of Marino) or rushing three yards for a first down with crazy ass linebackers running at your head like McNair, then a QB does it to the best of his abilities. McNair's abilities were elite for his era.

McNair, no doubt, is a Hall of Fame QB.

No Hall

by Jonathan Brown

As we prepare for the 2009-10 NFL season, and not so ironically, the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, we'll be doing so without Steve McNair.  I learned of McNair's death flipping television channels on the evening of July 4th.  I caught his name in a news ticker and paused, waiting for the scroll to pass by again.  Like most sports fans, I was shocked.  Such a peculiar and curious situation turned out to be a much darker story than initially understood.  It's a tragic scenario and the sports world will miss him.

Steve "Air" McNair—what a great name for a quarterback.  Currently, there are only 23 quarterbacks in the Football Hall of Fame and the most recent inductees are giants—Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, Steve Young and John Elway.  Right off the bat, I'm skeptical of McNair's numbers and how they stack up to that list.  Of those quarterbacks, Steve Young and John Elway are the two guys with a similar style of play to McNair.  All three could hurt you with their arms and when necessary, their legs.

I'm going to focus on Steve Young because the numbers between Young and McNair are similar.  Let's compare their passing statistics.


At first glance, it looks like McNair matches well against Young.  However, when you start digesting the numbers, and considering only eight games separate the two players, it becomes clear that Young was in a different hemisphere than McNair.  Young's TD-INT ratio is unbelievable, reflected in his 96.8 career passer rating.  While McNair's numbers are respectable, I think we have to look at another quarterback if we want to make a case for McNair based on pure passing numbers.

So let's consider his rushing game.  McNair rushed for 3,590 yards and 37 TDs.  But he also had a mad case of the fumble fingers with 99 fumbles in 669 attempts.  On paper, it looks like McNair's legs hurt him more than helped him, but having watched him play, we know that paper numbers can lie.  Young is better in all of those rushing categories with 4,239 yards, 43 TDs and only 68 fumbles in 722 attempts.  McNair's rushing numbers are still impressive but they look eerily similar to another famous rushing QB not currently in the Hall of Fame, Randall Cunningham.

Having looked at all 23 HoF quarterbacks, it becomes clear to gain entry into the Hall you must have extremely gaudy numbers (ala Dan Marino) or have at least one Super Bowl/AFL/NFL title (ala Joe Namath).  The numbers criteria is self-explanatory—they define your technical ability to play the quarterback position. Championships, on the other hand, measure a quarterback's leadership on the field.

It will be interesting to see how the Hall of Fame Board views McNair's career in light of his recent tragedy.  Co-MVP and three Pro-Bowl selections aside, it's unfortunate for Steve McNair's legacy and Titans' fans that I don't think he had what it takes.  Having failed to capture his championship, albiet by only a couple of feet, McNair is lacking the statistical prerequisites for a quarterback to be in the Hall of Fame.

Steve McNair: Hall or No Hall?

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  • Brendan Wenzel

    No Hall! While he was a great quarterback, I don’t think he was in the elite quarterback ranks. To me, the Hall of Fame should be for the best of the best of all time and Steve McNair to me is not in the category.

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