Air McNair Dead at 36.

Steve McNair was found dead in his Nashville home last night in an apparent murder-suicide case. In the last two weeks, many notable figures have passed away. Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and Billy Mays all died, and will be missed. But McNair is a guy who I will remember where I was when I found out he was dead, and not just because he was a quarterback who led the Ravens to a playoff appearance after a 13-3 record. No, I will remember him for other things. When my friend went on his iPhone, and told me the news, it ruined a 4th of July BBQ I had been looking forward to for weeks.

Steve McNair will always be known for two things. His leadership and his legs. Anytime Air McNair’s Titan offense stepped onto the field, you could see the players just looking at him, waiting for his word. He commanded leadership, and got it without question. He earned his power by throwing for 3,000+ yards year in, year out and by running all over defenses. He won the co-MVP in 2003 with Peyton Manning and went to a Super Bowl with an unlikely team in 1999, that had been solid all season. He was one of the first QB’s in the late 90s and early 2000s to use his legs as a weapon. From 1997-2002, McNair ran for over 400 yards, and peaked with 674 in the first season of that stretch, also adding 8 rushing touchdowns in that 1997 campaign.

McNair will always have the lore about him, whether it’s his career at small Alcorn State in Mississippi, or his drive in Super Bowl XXXIV, there will always be that aura surrounding him. He gained 6,000 total yards in his senior season at ASU (yes, 6 thousand yards) and finished 3rd in Heisman voting that year, the highest ever finish by a Divison 1-AA player, and was drafted #3 overall by the Oilers (soon to be Titans). In that Super Bowl, advancing there from the Music City Miracle, McNair led a drive down the field resulting in Kevin Dyson being taken down at the goal line, and losing his only Super Bowl appearance 23-16. Seeing what he could do on a field awed me, and obviously awed defenses, as he was never able to be stopped.

He came to Baltimore in 2006, after an injury-plagued fallout with the Titans, and was exactly what the Ravens needed. A guy who could pass effectively and bring the offense to the same caliber as the famous D. His scrambling skills were basically done, and the team couldn’t afford a season-ending hit to their new QB. He threw for over 3,000 yards, which was incredible for a Ravens passer at that time, and led the team to a 13-3 record. In my opinion, that season was the best to be a Ravens fan. Everything seemed like it was clicking, and McNair was the key. He got them a bye, and maybe, just maybe, he could mentor Kyle Boller to finally have him fulfill the potential that he always had. Well, the team lost the first game and Boller gained nothing noticeable from the experience. McNair was injured the next season, and retired after the season.

With career totals of 31,000 passing yards, a 194.4 YPG average, 174 TDs and an 82.8 QB rating, McNair was an incredibly prolific passer, but his impact as a QB has to be shown by his rushing stats. He ran for 3,590 yards and 37 TD and had 41% of his rushes end up in first downs. He led to the acceptance and embracing of scramblers like Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick in an era of big, slow QBs with big arms. He was a great person, donating tons of money to charities, and starting the Steve McNair foundation. He opened a restaurant in Nashville, and had a Ray Lewis-type impact on that city. The Titans fans loved him, we loved him in Baltimore, and it’s a shame that he’s gone.

A first ballot hall-of-famer, a guy who will be talked about for a while, and a guy who had a noticeable impact on quarterbacks. His achievements at Alcorn is stuff of legends, and his career will be talked about for a long time. His death made me feel as crappy as I did the day I found out Nick Adenhart was dead. I love being a blogger, especially for my favorite team, but things like this are the worst to write about. When someone like Steve McNair dies, it’s not just an athlete, it’s a great person and a guy who really, really didn’t deserve it. He did so much for so many, and now he deserves our respect.

Good night, and happy 4th of July.

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