July 4, 2009. It was a very slow news day, until the middle of the afternoon.
That’s when reports emerged that former Titans and Ravens quarterback Steve McNair, the 2003 NFL co-MVP with Peyton Manning, had been found dead at the age of 36.
McNair was shot, execution style. Police concluded that the killer was a 20-year-old girl who had purchased the gun two days earlier from a convicted felon. She then turned the gun on herself.
It didn’t add up then, and it still doesn’t add up today.
And it doesn’t change the fact that McNair was indeed killed, and that his family has been dealing with the aftermath of his passing for four years now.
McNair became legendary for his ability to play through injuries, and to play well in the process. He led the Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV, nearly forcing overtime against the Rams with a furious late-game drive that fell inches short of the goal line.
His divorce from the Titans was an ugly one. Frozen out of the facility in 2006 due to a huge cap number the team didn’t want to carry if McNair suffered a season-ending injury while lifting weights, McNair filed a grievance in order to force the team’s hand. He won, and the Titans traded him to the Ravens.
McNair started 16 games in 2006, leading the Ravens to the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. He played one more season with the Ravens. In 2008, they drafted Joe Flacco.
Regardless of whether McNair ever lands in Canton (and he likely won’t), he deserves to be remembered as one of the great quarterbacks of his time, who provided leadership through toughness and grit and determination.