Up In The Air: “Air” McNair leaves the NFL, also leaving behind the Baltimore Ravens quarterback situation, once again – Up In The “Air”. The “Ironman” QB announced his decision to teammates at a packed meeting prior to the Ravens’ workouts Thursday morning. When he was traded from the Titans to the Ravens in the Summer of ’06, McNair was expected to fix Baltimore’s QB woes, but instead of leading the Ravens, he now leaves the team and it’s QB problems the same way, putting the situation back to where it was before he arrived on scene.
McNair spent 13 seasons in the NFL, and was named the co-Most Valuable Player with Peyton Manning in 2003.
Leaving Behind An Impressive Legacy: Drafted by the Tennessee Titans as the 3rd selection in the 1995 draft out of Division I-AA Alcorn State, McNair became a starter in his third season. He led the Titans to the Super Bowl XXXIV, where he led a comeback that fell one yard short of a game-tying touchdown as time expired in the St. Louis Rams’ 23-16 win.
McNair was known as “Air McNair” in college, where he set NCAA records in Alcorn State’s wide-open offense and won the 1994 Walter Payton Award as the best player in I-AA football. But he shed that nickname for a reputation for physical toughness in the NFL, where playing through injuries.
Over his 13-year career, McNair completed 2,733 of 4,544 passes for 31,304 yards and 174 touchdowns with 119 interceptions. He also carried for 3,590 rushing yards.
Ravens Draft Overlook: With this decision being made by McNair, you can expect Baltimore, owners of the 8th overall pick, to find a replacement via the Draft (April 26-27). The question now is whether they will address their long time need of a franchise QB in the 1st round with Boston College’s Matt Ryan or wait until the 2nd round to grab a multi-talented passer like Joe Flacco from Delaware. Plenty of speculation will build up from now up until Draft Day, and you have to wonder if Baltimore would even risk the chance of looking elsewhere, passing up Ryan, who will be waiting for his named to be announced with the 8th pick. The team does have two aging cornerbacks (Chris McAllister/Samari Rolle) and could take Tennessee State’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the most talented defensive back in the Draft. With that being the only other “major” need to fill, you have to expect Baltimore to travel Route Ryan.
Conclusion/Final Thoughts: As for McNair, his legacy will always be remembered for being the toughest QB ever to play the game (sorry Brett Favre), and it’s a great time for him step down. He was a true joy to watch and you know he’d be under center, calling the shots and taking snaps for his team every Sunday, giving it the best everydown. The Alcorn State record breaker was someone you could count on and now as he leaves the Ray Lewis-led Ravens, the signal caller position has now opened up, with the team likely to give former Heisman Trophy Winner Troy Smith and Kyle Boller first “dibs” to take over Air McNair’s job. Draft’s are very unpredictable and in a Draft that has Miami holding the top slot at #1, not even knowing who they will take (option: cheapest contract), you could make the case by saying Baltimore will have the most predictable pick, as they should be quickest team to hand in their card/selection to Commissioner Goodell when it’s their turn because Matt Ryan is the most ideal and likely replacement for the “tough as nails” McNair. Will the defensive-oriented Ravens pull a Miami and go for the “Best Athlete Available” in Rodgers-Cromartie or will they play it safe with Ryan, acquiring a QB that has the tools of McNair, resembling him in many different areas/traits. Ryan has the consistency, reliability, and talent needed as a playmaker to take the snaps for a team that has been looking for a QB since they first arrived in Baltimore.