Jamison Hensley of the Baltimore Sun polled 24 of the 44 Hall of Fame voters regarding the question of whether quarterback Steve McNair’s career merits a bronze bust in Canton.
Of the 24, 17 said no.
“I didn’t consider McNair a Hall of Fame candidate before he died and don’t consider him one now,” Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News told Hensley. “His numbers are nowhere close to being Hall of Fame-worthy.
Though we’re not sure that McNair’s statistics justify enshrinement, Domowitch is flat wrong to suggest that McNair’s numbers are “nowhere close.”
His numbers are similar to Kurt Warner’s, actually better in several respects.
And conventional wisdom is that Warner is a lot closer than “nowhere close” to getting in.
For his career, McNair threw 4,544 passes and completed 2,733 of them. Warner has thrown only 3,557, completing only 2,327.
Warner has generated 28,951 yards passing; McNair finished with 31,304.
Warner has 182 touchdown passes. McNair had 174.
But then there are the rushing numbers. Warner has plodded for a whopping (eye roll) 276 yards in his entire career, good for a 1.8-yard average. He has scored three touchdowns on the ground.
McNair, on the other hand, rushed for 3,590 yards — good for an impressive 5.4-yard rate.
And McNair scored 37 touchdowns with his legs.
Then there’s the reality that (as ESPN pointed out the other day) McNair is one of only three quarterbacks to throw for more than 30,000 yards and to rush for more than 3,500, joining Steve Young and Fran Tarkenton. (They both are in Canton.)
Of course, Warner is a two-time NFL MVP, and he has taken his team to the Super Bowl three times, winning once. McNair had only one trip to the Super Bowl.
But shouldn’t consideration also be given to what the men had to work with? In St. Louis, Warner had Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. In Arizona, he has Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.
In Tennessee and Baltimore, McNair had Derrick Mason and a revolving door of mediocrity.
And what about toughness? The first phase of Warner’s career disintegrated into plenty of time on the bench because his head and/or his hand couldn’t handle some of the big hits he started to take. McNair took big hits constantly, and we never saw his performances dip because of it.
That said, we’re not sure whether McNair ultimately should get in. The passing numbers aren’t good enough; we’ve made that case previously regarding Warner’s stats. But the underrated rushing totals get McNair a heckuvalot closer than Domowitch’s “nowhere close” assessment.
Besides, let’s not forget that the process is inherently subjective, with individual sports journalists “making the case,” lawyer-style, for every candidate — and individual sports journalists casting votes as to whether each guy gets in. There’s a chance that, when McNair is first eligible for discussion, the stew of emotions and considerations could prompt the humans who’ll decide the matter to regard McNair based on a blend of very good statistics, a high degree of likeability, and a tragic end to his life that more than outweighs any flaws he had. (That stuff at the end isn’t supposed to count, and we’d believe that it doesn’t if robots and computers did the voting.)
As Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune told Hensley, “If you base it on production and achievement alone, it might be
difficult to make a case for McNair being a Hall of Famer. But if you consider the intangibles he brought to his teams, he becomes a more legitimate candidate.”
And we agree. Time will tell as to whether Steve McNair gets in. But he definitely is a legitimate candidate, and anyone who thinks he doesn’t even merit serious consideration shouldn’t hold one of the 44 votes.