Steve McNair–Death of a Titan

In a senseless act of violence, former Tennessee Titans Quarterback Steve “Air” McNair has been murdered.

Reaction has ranged from poignant tributes of loved ones…

to the businesslike matter of explanation from the Associated Press.

While I personally do not want to go anywhere near the seedier aspects of this story, Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star had no reservations about this. Whitlock is one of the best and most hard hitting sports journalists in the country. His column made me uncomfortable, but great writing and analysis does that from time to time.

While I do not believe in sugarcoating the truth, it is imperative for people to understand that the trouble that Steve McNair got into that cost him his life were not crimes against man. They were crimes against God, and only God can judge him for that.

His sins were sins against his family, and they want to be left alone. I for one will honor that.

What I cannot deny is that my burning passion is the National Football League. Steve McNair never did anything to dishonor the game of football. He did more than play hurt. He played injured. He was a warrior and a leader who put his teammates on his back and carried them one yard short of a Super Bowl Championship.

With Jeff Fisher running a 46 Defense in the mold of Buddy Ryan, and Eddie George running hard tough yards, Steve McNair only needed to be good. Yet he was great, and back to back 13-3 seasons in 1999 and 2000 delivered Nashville everything but a world championship. In fact, the 2000 Titans took a 7-0 lead over the Baltimore Ravens in their bitter playoff game. Steve McNair took a late hit straight to the chest, which allowed the Ravens to clamp down. A 10-10 tie was broken late when a blocked field goal return and an interception return gave the Ravens the 24-10 win. Yet the win may have been sealed once McNair got leveled. He played through the agony, but was a sitting duck.

Yet the season that really stuck with me was 2002. As a fan of the Oakland Raiders, the only team that scared me was the Titans. When Tennessee started the season 1-4, I kept thinking “keep this team down.” The teams played in Oakland, where the Raiders raced to a 38-7 lead. Out of nowhere, the Titans pulled to within 38-25. The Raiders did win 52-25, yet beneath the apparent blowout were signs of resilience.

Several weeks later the Titans had scratched to a 6-5 record. The Raiders were one game ahead of them. What many people do not know is that Steve McNair played the last five games completely injured. He could not practice all week. All he did in those games was win all five of them. The Raiders and Titans both finished 11-5, with the Raiders getting the top seed due to the regular season win.

The Titans had to go to overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tennessee prevailed 34-31, setting them up on a collision course with Oakland. The Raiders had home field advantage. They had a healthy team that was ready to reach the Super Bowl. The Titans were injury wracked. Yet they had Steve McNair.

The Titans led 17-14 late in the half when a pair of turnovers allowed the Raiders to take a 24-17 lead into the locker room. The Titans closed to within 27-24, but the Raiders salted the game away with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to win 41-24. The normally aggressive Tennessee Defense struggled against the ridiculous Oakland scoring machine, led by Rich Gannon. Yet when I look back on that game, I think that an entire team faced off against one person, and Steve McNair still nearly won that game. I mean no disrespect to Eddie George, but McNair was the one on that day that nearly pulled off the upset.

McNair still was not done. The next year, he shared the 2003 MVP award with Peyton Manning. The two rivals shared the stage, but even Manning would admit that the first several years of his career were frustrated by an inability to beat Tennessee. In 1999, the Titans went into Indianapolis and downed the Colts 19-16.

After over a decade with the Titans, McNair was traded to the archrival Ravens. The Ravens had long beena  team with a Super Bowl defense and pathetic offense. Steve McNair was meant to be the last piece of the puzzle. Although they fell short in a playoff loss to Manning and the Colts, McNair did guide them to a 13-3 record.

His strong 2006 campaign was followed by an injury wracked 2007 season. Without him, the Ravens went back to being half a team. Their offense collapsed and so did the team. McNair was a warrior, but his body finally gave out.

Some have speculated that McNair does not belong in the Hall of Fame, that he should be in the “Hall of Very Good.” I disagree. His career was worthy of Hall of Fame status. He has better statistics than other quarterbacks in the Hall, and the man won games.

Steve McNair was a winner in many ways off the field. He kept his home in Nashville, and became a pillar of the community. He raised plenty of money for disadvantaged youths. Yes, it now appears that his family life was far from clean, but that does not invalidate his good deeds.

So what happens after Steve McNair is laid to rest?

We love him for his goodness, and let the rest just go.

We live in a 24 hour news cycle where every life of ever celebrity is dissected. People may not have been morally superior decades ago. They were just allowed privacy.

Steve McNair was a victim of a senseless and tragic crime. He did not deserve to die. His girlfriend committed a murder-suicide that was every bit as horrifying as the Phil Hartman tragedy over a decade ago. In both cases, a man with a great smile who made people happy was taken from us by another person who let rage consume them until everything burned.

No, we should let the McNair family just be. Let the final days of Steve McNair be a footnote. Let’s create an artificial zone of privacy.

When I think of privacy, I think of the end of the Super Bowl between the Titans and the Rams. The Titans fell behind 16-0 in the third quarter. Steve McNair brought them back to a 16-16 tie with two minutes remaining. The Rams needed one play for Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf to back up top 23-16 with a perfectly executed bomb.

Steve McNair kept fighting. He took the Titans over 80 yards in less than 2 minutes, reaching several yards from a tie game and overtime with five seconds left. With one play left, McNair found Kevin Dyson. Dyson was so close to the goal line when Mike Jones made what will forever be known as “the tackle.”

The Titans had lost 23-16, and while confetti came down, Warner and Coach Dick Vermeil celebrated, and Jones and Dyson lay sprawled on the grass. Yet far away from most of the cameras, Steve McNair fell to one knee. Coach Jeff Fisher came up to him, whispered some things in his ears, and hugged him. Like a father consoling his son, Fisher comforted McNair.

What made the moment so poignant was that the media later asked Fisher what he told McNair. Always a class act, Fisher replied that it was a private moment between a coach and player, and that it would stay private.

Most likely, Fisher told McNair that he loved him. Yet even in a world where everything is public, and important moment stayed private.

We never knew the real Steve McNair because he did his best to keep his transgressions private.

Therefore I will go with what was meant to be public.

Steve McNair treated the game of football with respect. He treated many people on and off the field with kindness. He made a bad mistake more than once, and it cost him his life.

He left us way too soon.

The Tennessee Titans should retire his number not because of how he died, but for what he accomplished on the field while he lived.

Farewell, Steve McNair. Like a pass sailing toward the end zone, you are now at the goal posts in the sky. You are now in the “Air.”


2 Responses to “Steve McNair–Death of a Titan”

  1. Very well said. McNair was truly the consummate football player – not just QB but PLAYER. He was one of the all-time greats and definitely should make the HoF.


  2. rudemarc87 says:

    Boo Raiders! Chargers baby! SD Sur Califas all the way. Now thats outta they way. I can see why your always crying like a real raider fan does haha. Im just joking. You have to be one of the most intelligent raider fans I have ever heard formulate a coherent opinion. On McNair, It is evident in his title of Titan he fits the archtype of a true titan. Lets look at the ancient Titans and who they were. Mythology tells us they were sons of God who rebelled againts heaven. In the Judeo-Christian account of the story it was satan and his angels fall who later decieved Eve and later the world at the tower of Babylon. The founder of Babylon was Ham’s son Nimrod who was dark skinned. This is where hero worship began and the deification of man as god. Our media points to this as true as they elevate sports figures as idols. Nimrod’s wife was Zimmeramis who can be associated with the virgin mary image the roman catholic religion adopted from babylon imported by the etruscans to italy. Zimmeramis was by legend another kings wife and a woman of loose morals. This can be compared with kazimi who shot Mcnair and herself. Nimrod was murdered in the mythological story in the hunt. The title of this post caught my attention and caused me to take a closer look at the death of a titan and the death of the titans in the past. Thought provoking article. People fit into the role they are conditioned to accept it seems like you cannot escape fate.

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