Remembering Steve McNair, Once An Oiler

Steve McNair was going to be the next savior of the Houston Oilers. Bud Adams decided he didn't want to stick around in Houston, however, and McNair ended up becoming the first savior of the Tennessee Titans. Nicknamed "Air Mcnair," he was the Oilers' number-one pick in the 1995 draft who came from an obscure college who some thought couldn't quarterback a legitimate NFL offense. 

McNair ended up lasting 13 seasons in the NFL, leading the Titans to the Super Bowl in January of 2000, and nearly leading them to the victory as the team ended up one yard short of the game-tying touchdown as the clock expired. He was known as a tough bastard who despite not being able to practice because of severe injuries was always able to play in the games.

McNair was murdered this weekend, his body discovered in a Nashville condominium on Saturday afternoon. He was shot multiple times. Sahal Kazemi, a 20-year-old lady, who despite not being his wife is now being called his girlfriend by the Nashville police, was also found dead with one shot to her head and a gun at her side in what appears to maybe have been some kind of murder-suicide, though the police are still being careful to not classify it as such.  (Allegedly McNair and his wife were in the process of divorcing.)

Thanks to Bud Adams and his greed, we never really got to know McNair in Houston. Or not as good as we would have. He played two just seasons in Houston, but he spent most of that time on the bench, and he didn't assume the starting mantle until the team was settled in Tennessee. And while I have tried not to pull for the Titans, I was still able to appreciate the greatness of McNair.

How could one not appreciate a guy who took the beating that he did week after week, but continued to come back and play at an exemplary level week after week, despite the doctors telling him and the coaches that he couldn't play. Towards the end of the 2002 season he was so banged up that he couldn't practice, yet for five straight weeks he suited up on Sunday led the Titans on the field as the team finished with a 11-5 record and advanced to the AFC Championship Game. He was the NFL's co-MVP in 2003, an honor he shared with Peyton Manning. He retired having thrown for 31,304 yards and 174 touchdowns.

Except for McNair and running back Eddie George, the Titans were never the most talented of offensive teams, and coach Jeff Fisher was never known for his willingness to take chances on offense. So one can't help but wonder how good McNair would have been were he to have some better talent at his side. Just imagine him behind the center for the Texans with weapons like Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter, and Steve Slaton. And unlike the current occupant of the Texans QB job, you just know that McNair would be out at his position every week, for every game, because that was his job.

I'm sure that as the week progresses we'll learn more of the details behind the death of McNair. And I'm sure they're going to become rather sordid. So excuse me if I just remember him as a quarterback who, if he were still playing, would probably have found a way to shake off the bullet wounds and play that week because he didn't want to let down the fans, his coaches, or his teammates.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal