The Quarterback I Never Had

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Steve McNair was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1995 after the worst season since 1982, and the 2-14 record was the worst that I had experienced as a fan. As a kid who was born in Houston, despite also being a fan of the more successful Houston Rockets and the Houston Astros, the Oilers were always my first love. Being a fan of the Oilers built character, or at least that is how I look at it now. Before that losing season every season that I can remember before that the Oilers finished with a winning record and made the playoffs, but every season the oilers lost in the playoffs. In fact not only did the Oilers lose in the playoffs, they lost in heartbreaking fashion.

In 1991 the Oilers lost to the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Playoff game, and were the victims of a John Elway comeback which has become known as the Drive II. Then in 1993 the Oilers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Playoff game after winning eleven consecutive games to end the season; losing to Joe Montana who found new life on a new team. The most heartbreaking loss of all of course was the lost to the Buffalo Bills in the 1992 Divisional Playoff game; this game was the greatest comeback in NFL history.

When McNair was drafted in 1995 it gave Oilers fans new hope; but that hope was gone after the 1995 season when owner Bud Adams broke the promise he had made only a year earlier and announced that the team would be moving to Tennessee. The franchised was moved by Adams after the 1996 season, during which the Oilers regularly played for less than 20,000 in the Astrodome. The fans still wanted to support the Oilers; however, they did not want Adams to make a profit after breaking a promise to keep the team in Houston.

More Below the Fold…When the Oilers left I was without a football team. I refused to root for the Tennessee Oilers (and then later the Tennessee Titans) and there was no way that I would become a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. I tried rooting for the New Orleans Saints since they where the geographically closest team, but I just never developed the same passion for the Saints that I had for the Oilers. Eventually Houston would be given a new franchise, the Houston Texans, but there would not be any early successes in the way the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Carolina Panthers experienced.

Even though I was never a fan of the Tennessee Titans, and even rooted against them, I was still always very admiring of Steve McNair. That admiration would only grow over the years, as he developed into one of the arguably toughest players in the league. There were many times throughout the years that I would think that I was missing out on a quarterback that should have been playing for my team. I never felt this more than on January 30, 2000, when the Tennessee Titans played the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV. Even though I did not particularly like the Rams I rooted for them, only because if Tennessee won it would be as if a Super Bowl victory was taken away from me, and every other Houston Oiler fan. Steve McNair was a yard away from victory, and I was a yard away from anguish.

However, what may end up being one of his most important legacies is being a black quarterback, and being the bridge from quarterbacks like Doug Williams and Warren Moon to quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb and Vince Young. McNair is also the last quarterback from a historically black college to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Martin Johnson from the Root wrote in an article this week:

By the time McNair retired last summer, there was no longer a question of whether a black man could be a successful NFL quarterback, the question was: Could he be as successful as Steve McNair?

Whatever disappointment I have experience from losing a football team, and a quarterback, it is nothing compared to the anguish that McNair's children, family, and teammates are feeling. We are all hoping that we will be granted another music city miracle, and wake up and find that this has all just been a terrible dream. The impact has been easy to see from Titan's head coach Jeff Fisher's heartfelt reaction at the press conference, to former Titan Derrick Mason's thoughts on his teammate, to the private thoughts his family must have during this difficult process. While Steve McNair is the quarterback I never had, he is the father and son that a family no long has.

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to the Left of College Station


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