Saying goodbye to Mac9


Three writers, three similar but different perspectives.  Unlike Drexel, I never met Steve McNair in person.  Unlike Andrew, actually getting to see Steve (or, for that matter, the rest of his teammates) play was a rare experience-living outside the Nashville area, in NFC markets, and without Sunday Ticket, the Titans actually being on TV was a pleasant but disappointingly irregular event.  No, on Sunday afternoons I tended to be glued to the computer, listening to Mike Keith and Pat Ryan or later Frank Wycheck on Titans Radio.

It’s a different way to consume games, especially in this more visual age, and I know I missed out on some of the experience-the Giants game was still exciting, yes, but it was just one more comeback among many.

And that’s the thing-there were those comebacks.  The one that stands out the most for me is not that Giants game, but the second game Andrew mentioned, the win against the Steelers in 2000.  A bruised sternum against the Chiefs had put Steve on the bench for most of the game, but Neil O’Donnell had been shaken up and his team was trailing late.  Neil kind of struggled that day, completing less than half of his passes and throwing three interceptions. No worries for Steve, though, as he contributed a scramble and three completions on three attempts, the last an 18 yarder to rookie Erron Kinney, the ex-Gator’s first NFL TD catch.  Nice job, kid.

That’s really Steve McNair’s career to me in a nutshell-he played, even when hurt, because his team needed his abilities and his leadership, and he was a football player, and that’s the kind of thing football players did.  When Fisher spoke at the presser on Monday about seeing Steve with a walker, that’s what he was talking about-Steve’s team needed him, so he did what he needed to do for them.

And that guy who caught the TD pass-the rookie third round pick.  Take a look at who Steve’s pass catchers were.  I loved Derrick Mason, who turned himself into a pretty danged good NFL player, but how many of those guys were really among the league’s best players when it came to catching the ball?  After Mason, the tops in receiving yards were Frank Wycheck, who the Titans picked up as waiver wire fodder, Drew Bennett, an undrafted free agent college quarterback, Chris Sanders, a pure deep threat and nobody’s idea of a good NFL wideout, and Kevin Dyson, forever “the guy drafted before Randy Moss”.

But, you know, I never heard Steve talk about that, or how the Titans needed to get a decent wideout, or how if only Carl Pickens and Yancey Thigpen had been there they would’ve won the Super Bowl.  No, Steve McNair played with the teammates he had, not the teammates he might have liked to have, and he learned to win games and excel with them.

Over the next days, weeks, and possibly months, we’ll learn more about the exact circumstances of Steve’s death, and what his life has been like since he retired from the NFL.  I’ll read these stories, as I do pretty much everything about the Titans, but I’m not going to be writing any stories here about them.  If you want to know why, you can ask Brad Hopkins.  We like to conflate great athletic skill with great personal virtue, but there’s no such connection.  Hopkins, and Fisher, asked that we should celebrate Steve McNair the football player, and that’s what I’m going to do.

I’ll be back in a day or two with a look at what made Steve such a special QB with an in-depth look at one of his more memorable victories-the playoff win against the Steelers.


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