Only July 4, 2009 the NFL lost one of the best quarterbacks it had seen in the last ten years. The tragic passing of Steve McNair has left the Titans organization, Tennesseans, the McNair family, and many other football fans devastated with the unfortunate and untimely death of Steve McNair.
At his memorial service, Eddie George former Titans running back, and teammate of McNair gave a beautiful speech. He even recited a poem he himself wrote for McNair.
But one thing George said stuck with me.
George said during his speech that someone asked him if he thought Steve would be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
I consider myself two things: A football fan, and a Titans fan. So as a result, my television is constantly on the NFL Network. And as NFL Total Access aired that sound byte, and replayed it again and again, I thought more and more.
Is McNair worthy of a bronze bust in the halls of Canton?
For those who disagree let's take a look at the most recent quarterbacks to be inducted.
Since 2004, five quarterbacks have been inducted. John Elway was the first.
In his sixteen year career Elway threw for 51,475 yards 300 Tds and 226 Ints. He also added another 3,407 yards and 33 Tds rushing. He finished his career with a 79.9 quarterback rating.
He led Denver to five Super Bowls and won two; at Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999, Elway was named Super Bowl MVP. He was also league MVP in 1987, was named to nine Pro Bowls and had 47 fourth quarter comebacks.
Following Elway, Dan Marino and Steve Young were enshrined.
Known as one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, Marino previously held most of the NFL passing records. He threw for 61,361 yards 420 Tds and 252 Ints. He finished his career with a 59.4 completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 86.4
His counterpart, Steve Young had a more than impressive career as well. 33,124 yards passing 232 Tds and 107 Ints.
A dual-threat quarterback, Young also ran for 4,239 yards and 43 Tds.
He set the record in 1994 when he posted a quarterback rating of 112.3. He also holds another record for six career passing titles, a record shared with the legendary gunslinger Sammy Baugh; another Hall of Fame quarterback.
Warren Moon and Troy Aikman were the most recent inductees, joining the Canton class of 2006.
Warren Moon has thrown for the most yards professionally than any other quarterback within the Hall of Fame.
During his time in the CFL, Moon threw for 21,228 yards. Then he joined the Houston Oilers in 1984 and began a career that would go through Minnesota, Seattle and Kansas City. But in the end, Moon threw for 49,325 yards 291 Tds and 233 Ints.
Troy Aikman, was the face of the Cowboys in the 90s.
If the Cowboys were America's Team, then he was America's Quarterback.
32,942 yards 165 Tds and 141 Ints placed Aikman in the Hall of Fame, along with his 61.4 completion percentage and 81.6 quarterback rating.
Oh, and his three Super Bowl victories.
He was the last quarterback inducted, which brings us to McNair, the Hall of Fame hopeful..
In thirteen years, the quarterback from Alcorn State threw for 31,304 yards 171 Tds and 119 Ints.
Another dual-threat quarterback he ran for 3,590 yards and 37 Tds. McNair also had a completion percentage of 60.1, a quarterback rating of 82.8 and 21 fourth quarter comeback wins.
In 1999, he took the Tennessee Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV, coming up a yard short against the Rams.
Though never making it back to the Super Bowl, Steve McNair led the team to the AFC Divisional Playoff game in 2000, The AFC Championship game in 2002 and the Divisional game again in 2003. That same year in '03 McNair was named Co-MVP, sharing the award with AFC South rival Peyton Manning. (Mcnair threw for 3,215 yds 24 Tds 7 Ints and had a quarterback rating of 100.4)
His numbers are impressive, but what McNair is admired for is his toughness. He played the entire 2000 season with a shoulder injury, missing only one game: The Pro Bowl.
The man was battered and bruised his entire career, and still continued to play, and play well. In his career as a Tennessee Oiler/Titan, Steve McNair played in 139 out of a possible 176 games.
But how do Steve's numbers compare to his Hall of Fame peers?
He's not the gunslinger that Elway, Marino or Moon were. (Although in 1997, McNair's 2,665 yards passing were the most by an Oilers quarterback since Moon.)
Unlike Marino and Moon though, McNair was a much more mobile quarterback. His 3,500 yards are more than double Moon's 1,700 and overshadow Marino's 87.
He's also run for more yards and more touchdowns than Elway.
Does that make him a better quarterback than Elway, Marino and Moon?
The Titans fan in me wants to say yes, but the football fan in me knows better.
No. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But, the man is worthy of a permanent home in Ohio.
His career passing yards rival those of Aikman and Young more than those of Marino, Elway and Moon.
32,924 for Aikman
33,124 for Young
31,304 for the late McNair.
He's thrown for more touchdowns than Aikman (171-165), and has fewer interceptions as well (119-141)
However his passing and rushing stats are not better than Young's.
Therefore, it seems his closest peer would be Aikman. But Aikman has three pieces of jewelry that McNair does not, which could serve as the reason why Aikman is in the Hall and McNair might be left out.
But before you write McNair off as unworthy of the Hall of Fame consider this:
John Elway had the combination of Rod Smith and Shannon Sharpe. It should be noted that some of Elway's best seasons statistically came after 1994, the year that Smith joined the Broncos.
Dan Marino had another tandem in "The Mark Brothers" (Mark Clayton and Mark Duper). Clayton provided the Dolphins with 7,983 yards and 81 Tds. Along with Duper who provided another 8,869 yards and 59 Tds.
Steve Young had a Hall of Fame wide receiver in Jerry Rice. 10,576 yards and 85 Tds. Not to mention another possible Hall of Fame wide receiver named Terrell Owens. Owens provided Young with 3,307 yards and 30 Tds in the four years they had together.
Warren Moon had the trio of Ernest Givins, Haywood Jeffires and Drew Hill. The three of them caught for a combined 20,890 yards and 159 Tds.
Troy Aikman to Michael Irvin. Does that sound familiar? 11,904 yards and 65 Tds put Michael Irvin in the Hall of Fame and Troy as well.
Steve Mcnair had the Frank Wycheck and Derrick Mason. A tight end in Wycheck who had 5,216 yards and 28 Tds. Derrick Mason who caught for 7,987 yards and 42 Tds. Those numbers are lackluster compared to the likes of superstars such as Rod Smith, Shannon Sharpe, Michael Irvin, and Mark Clayton.
With the exception of Moon each of these quarterbacks had a Hall of Fame caliber wide out to throw passes to. McNair did not. Yet his numbers are still comparable.
McNair had the likes of Kevin Dyson, Issac Byrd, Yancy Thigpen, Drew Bennett and Chris Sanders. None of those names stir up images of dominance, they were simply average receivers.
McNair did more with less. Only Derrick Mason and Wycheck were Pro Bowl wide receivers during McNair's tenure with the Titans. Yet, he continued to throw for 30,000+ yards, rush for 3,500 and score 200+ Tds in his career.
Not only did he do it without an outstanding talent at reciever, he did it injured most of the time.
Steve McNair is a rough and tumble player, a gritty player, a hard-nosed player and any other football adjective you can use to describe toughness.
Lately everyone has been saying,
"McNair played the game the way its supposed to be played"
I don't care much for that statement. Every player in the NFL plays the game the way its supposed to be played; and they play it to the best of their ability.
Steve McNair had incredible ability, desire, and heart.
His stats show that he was a good player; one of the greats.
Eddie George went on to answer the question, 'Will Steve go to the Hall of Fame?' with the response, "He's already there".
You will be hard pressed to find a player who was a better leader on and off the field than McNair or a player that played with more passion.
He's owed the Hall of Fame simply based on those characteristics, and on top of that the man has stats comparable to the best.