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Friday Out-Takes: Steve McNair: Titan

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Steve McNair: Titan

Tough. Trailblazer. Athletic. Leader. Talented. Competitor. Strong-Armed. Warrior. Young. Gone.

Words fall woefully short when it comes to the shocking, tragic news about 3-time Pro Bowl quarterback STEVE MCNAIR, who died on the 4th of July. From a world class college career at ALCORN STATE – a school he put on the map with his collegiate success and what would follow in the pros – through his productive, gutty years in Houston, Tennessee and Baltimore, the oft-injured (but somehow always playing anyway) McNair made his mark on the NFL, inside and out. His name quickly became synonymous with toughness, resilience and the ability to squeeze every ounce of talent and want-to out of a pro athlete's body, will and spirit. (Managing to live with having thrown for 6,000 yards and 53 TDs only to finish third in the Heisman trophy voting to RASHAAN SALAAM and KI-JANA CARTER was itself a feat of Herculean fortitude.)

As Out-Takes sits here in the afterglow of fireworks, stunned by the news and reflective to a fault, it's hard not to go all high school sentimental about how appropriate it is, on a literal, visceral level, that the team McNair was most closely associated with is called the Titans. The 2003 NFL Co-MVP was, to shift from sentimental to blunt, one big freakin' dude – with out-sized athleticism, to boot. He was that rare quarterback pass-rushers felt ambivalent about meeting up with – one who gave as good as he got; who made throws with linebackers in his face and linemen on his back. His meteoric rise from obscurity and Division I-AA to third overall pick in the NFL draft to All-Pro QB was, well…"Titan" sums it up pretty well. (Even if he was drafted as an Oiler.)

"He always left everything on the field" is too often thrown too casually around, but there are few football players, or athletes for that matter, who better embody that adage than McNair. Sure, there's KELLEN WINSLOW and his mythic, courageous post-season performance in Miami (yes, Charger fans, we know, he also blocked a FG – run along now) and one can point to many others (FAVRE on MNF after his Dad died, WILLIS REED limping from the locker room, SCHILLING in a bloody sock, to name a few). But let there be no doubt – McNair's in the conversation, too.

Whether in leading his team to within one-yard of beating (okay, tying, but still) "Stock Boy" Warner's barnstorming Rams, or in 2003's epic regular season battle in Foxboro (seven lead-changes, 360 yards passing and two rushing TDs) or in the Divisional playoff game there later that season – a last-ditch Hail Mary into field goal range that fell to the turf on a cold winter's night – the guy stood in, took hits, made plays (with arm and legs), and never made you wonder if he could've done more. And as truly heart-wrenching as his death is at the just-getting-started age of 36, perhaps that fact can be of solace to someone, and a lesson to us all. He did his best with the time and tools he had. Not a bad epitaph. Just a bad end.

RIP, Titan. (Screw it. "High school sentimental" will have to do.)

Fingers Crossed in Chi-Town

Word out of the windy city has it that BRETT BASANEZ has been passed by CALEB HANIE in what could become a critical area of team depth. Now, we know what you're thinking: "THE Brett Basanez and THE Caleb Hanie?!" Yep, two QBs only a mother could love and/or have heard of. These no-names back up the luck-pushing, trash-talking, ass-jacking signal-caller JAY "Sorry, Wrigley, I Don't Sign for Bleacher Bums" CUTLER. And if there's anything to Karma, that news must have Bears fans shaking, despite layer upon layer of polish sausage and deep-fried what-have-you warming whatever belly-fat all non-Obama Chicagoans are born with. (NOTE: This last bit is based purely on conjecture and tired, old George Wendt-guest-starring SNL skits.)

So let's get this straight: The Bears front office dealt TWO #1s (plus the steady KYLE ORTON) to Denver for a talented, 8 game-winning malcontent with a big arm, a bigger mouth and the biggest ego, and the only clipboard-holders loitering by the Gatorade have 11 career pass attempts between them? Seriously? Management sure as heck better throw the vet minimum at some free agent Frerotte-or-other because, if not, that's a pretty short-sighted gamble. Oh, and one more thing – Jay, meet us in the next paragraph…

You're no longer throwing to BRANDON "I Hate This [Bleepin'] City" MARSHALL and EDDIE ROYAL, whose mother is busy cross-stitching his personal mantra ("Where'd everybody go?") onto a brand new weeping pillow. Instead, your lyin' eyes'll be scanning secondaries for a receiver corps composed of a converted defensive back/kick returner in DEVIN HESTER and, otherwise, a group of players who might as well be VINCE VAUGHN and THE CUSACK FAMILY.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, and all that, but don't Bears fans deserve better? Doesn't the haul sent to Denver constitute a massive investment and doesn't that kind of investment demand pragmatic protection of some kind? (We call this "The Madoff Axiom.") Cutler may be a bit of a frat-boy numbskull, but he's YOUR frat-boy numbskull, Chi-town, and the rest of us, Karma included, will be watching.

Blooper Reel

~ When will the NFL realize that they'd make a lot more money if they offered a game-by-game, $5 PAY-PER-VIEW OPTION for football fans around the country? Shelling out a fiver every now and then would be a no-brainer for Out-Takes, who splits time between L.A. and New York, neither of which is in New England. (You're welcome, geographically challenged readers in, we suspect, Mississippi and/or Alabama.)

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION #1: When will Out-Takes realize that there's little chance the league office bean-counters haven't already done a thorough cost-benefit analysis of this scenario and determined that they make more by forcing displaced homers to buy the entire NFL package?

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION #2: When will the NFL realize that Fantasy Football is now so popular that plenty of folks will still buy the package, if for no other reason than a masochistic urge to watch their #2 RB mess everything up by scoring a last-minute TD against their #1 TEAM D?

~ Famed Arthroscopic Surgeon DR. JAMES ANDREWS is the team doctor for a pair of college football teams. The teams? ALABAMA and AUBURN. (We assume he's got an assistant whose sole duty is to ensure he's got on the appropriate University bling when making house calls.)

~ Are we the only ones who stole a quick glance at a recent headline - "JP Losman Leaning Toward UFL" - and had our minds do one of those mental gymnastics shortcuts to absorb it as the inaccurate, albeit more sensible, "JP Losman Leaning Toward Awful?" Speaking of the UFL...

~ Anyone else psyched for this league if it turns out to be a genuine feeder/farm league for the NFL? If one of these USFL/Arena/XFL-come-latelies can at long last set up a system both useful to and supplemental for the National Football League, consider our interest piqued.

And finally...

~ One last word on this week's tragedy. A recent discussion on Patriots.com's radio program PFW IN PROGRESS went a bit off-track (an occupational hazard for that show that's both common and a big part of its appeal) with the topic pulling into the following station: What might you have if you combined the skill-sets of TOM BRADY and MICHAEL VICK?

Obviously that kind of loopy hypothetical has no true "right" answer. And to point to Steve McNair might seem too convenient by half and, on the whole, not entirely apt. After all, those three QBs vary widely, and not just in the "67% of them never abused animals" sense. But if you had to pick a guy who most accurately answered that theoretical scenario, you could do a lot worse than STEVE MCNAIR (with apologies to another QB STEVE, name of YOUNG). Just sayin'.

John Cockrell is a screenwriter, whose other work has run the gamut from "Sesame Street Parents Magazine" to Playboy TV's "The Weekend Flash." (He figures everything else is pretty much in-between.)"

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