Is McNair worthy of Canton? I'm not a Hall of Fame voter, but if I were, my own debate wouldn't last long. McNair certainly produced greatness at times during his 13-year NFL career, but he came nowhere near sustaining it from start to finish.
He was one of the league's preeminent gamers, a real warrior in terms of answering the bell on Sundays. He commanded the respect of almost everyone league-wide, and competed as fiercely as anyone. But while he was undoubtedly one of the game's best quarterbacks for a time, his brilliance spanned a relatively short time.
I would make the case that from 1999 to 2003, the year he shared the MVP honor with Colts quarterback
After being drafted No. 3 overall by Houston in 1995, McNair largely sat and watched
Just three times in McNair's 13 seasons he threw for at least 20 touchdowns. Only twice in full seasons did he compile a passer rating of 90.0 or higher. But with McNair, the numbers never told the full story. To me, his greatest legacy will always be his uncanny ability to miss practice all week due to injury, and still perform -- often heroically -- on game day. In his MVP season of 2003, McNair barely stepped on the practice field due to an assortment of maladies. But he somehow toughed out 14 starts that season, leading the Titans to a 12-4 record and a first-round playoff win at Baltimore.
But McNair's body began to truly betray him after that memorable season, and just once in his last four NFL seasons did he start all 16 games, that being in 2006, when the defensive-led Ravens went 13-3 but lost to the eventual champion Colts at home in the divisional round. No matter what the Ravens said publicly this offseason, they were not fully counting on McNair to go the distance in 2008, and were as certain to draft a quarterback in either the first or second round next weekend as they are today.
Even though he last played for Tennessee in 2005, McNair remains beloved in Nashville and in the Titans organization, and no doubt he'll deservedly have his No. 9 retired by the team in the near future. But the truth of the matter is there were always those in the organization who felt McNair's era of dominance would be relatively short because he wasn't known for his commitment to the Titans offseason workout program, or seen as someone who would put in the long in-season hours that often come with preparing to play NFL quarterback on game day.
McNair got it done on game day in his prime, but at 35 I don't think he thought he could play it his way any more and succeed at the level he was accustomed to. Certainly not with energetic new Ravens head coach
I think McNair saw the writing on the wall to some degree and realized that his easy-does-it way of doing things wouldn't fly as well under Harbaugh as it had under
We knew that as a rookie NFL head coach, Harbaugh's biggest challenge in Baltimore would be to navigate a very veteran and quite divided locker room -- along the lines of offense versus defense -- that had grown set in its ways. And already there's some grumbling among old hands who don't think they're going to like Harbaugh's new get-tough approach. Players like
McNair likely thought he was too old, with too many body parts already sacrificed in NFL wars to last long with a new sheriff in town. So he did the old pros versus cons things in his head and came up with the audible that made the most sense to him. Time to walk away. Time to call it a career. It was a very good and at times great one, and not every No. 3 overall pick can make that claim. Even if it does fall short of Hall of Fame standards, there's no shame in that.
• Stuff I'm hearing as draft weekend approaches......
• When Miami football czar
• Baltimore personnel evaluators held a private workout of
• I'm still not certain if it'll be
• You could make a case that the most coveted player in the draft's top 10 might wind up being Southern Cal defensive tackle
• One scout I trust told me he thinks the first-round cornerbacks will come off the board in the following order: Troy's
• I love it when a story like the news of Kansas City shopping
• You get the feeling the Packers want to retire
• I wonder if Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would have generated the same amount of pre-draft buzz if his name were Dominique Rodgers?
• Wouldn't it be great if the Baltimore somehow wound up with North Carolina defensive tackle
• Somebody put me down for predicting that Delaware's
• I am so bored already with the
• For at least the 14th time,