As everyone looks back on what I believe was one of the greatest quarterbacks to never win a Super Bowl, I looked back on how I saw Steve McNair.
In order for you to really understand me is to be in my shoes. As a young black boy in 1995, I grew up only seeing only three starting quarterbacks who were black. Rodney Peete, Randell Cunningham and Warren Moon. That’s it, no one else. Kordell Stewart was never really a quarterback to me. And as far as I knew their was no one else. It’s almost discouraging as a little kid to see that.
When Steve McNair rolled into Houston it was different. My dad made a whole lot of noise about him, mainly because the Redskins overlooked him. He had Peete’s size, Cunningham’s quickness and Moon’s arm. “Air” McNair was all I knew about him as a rookie. I was still as a teenager a big time Cowboys fan, but I kept a eye on him.
Every year he got better and better. McNair turned into a pro-bowler over night and became a well known player. Then when the Rams played the Titans in the Super Bowl I was glued to the TV. Not since Doug Williams has a team won a Super Bowl with a black starting QB. The game he played was one of the best performances I have ever seen in football. But he didn’t stop at the Super Bowl, every year he gave people a reason to respect him and fear him. As a Titan and as a Raven, he remained one of my favorite players.
Now I’m not calling him my hero or anything like that. But I would be lying if I didn’t dream about him being in Silver and Blue. McNair was so bad, kids in my neighborhood wanted to be like McNair, more then Cunningham, more then Moon. Then on top of that, he came out of a historical black college and made it in the NFL. No switching of his position, no stand in during the 4th quarter. He got a chance and ran with it. He fell in the small group of players who came out of the SWAC or MEAC and tore up the field.
Today, Jackson, Garrard, Young, Freeman, Leftwich, McNabb, Campbell, and Russell are all starting black quarterbacks. McNabb plays the same way as McNair; Campbell and Russell were mentored by McNair. While McNabb was accused of not being a stereotypical black quarterback, McNair never gave the critics a reason to question his game. That’s why I loved him.
Now will McNair be in the Hall of Fame one day? I hope so, along with Moon, Cunningham and if he has the numbers for it Doug Williams. Not only did they lay the blueprint out to be a black man in today’s game, but they also showed others how to be a great quarterback.
R.I.P. Steve “Air” McNair 1973-2009