HEAD COACH JEFF FISHER
I appreciate you coming out on the short notice. Sometimes these circumstances leave little or no notice. I was called early this morning by Ozzie Newsome, who I am quite familiar with because we are on the competition committee. Ozzie wanted me to know that yesterday he had a conversation with Steve [McNair] and Steve had indicated to him that his body wasn’t responding to him the way that he liked and he is going to walk away from this game. I think Ozzie told him to think about it for 24 hours and he did and Steve let Ozzie know this morning. So Ozzie called the organization out of respect for us because he understands the relationship that we had with Steve and we still maintain with Steve. I appreciate the Baltimore Ravens thinking of us in a timely fashion. It is hard to imagine 13 years ago I was down at Alcorn State University with Floyd Reese, Rich Snead and our offensive coordinator at the time, Jerry Rhome, watching Steve McNair’s workout and to watch him run around and throw the ball all over the field with a couple of dozen teams down there watching his workout. To think that now his career has come to a close. First of all I want to say right off the bat how fortunate I am and how proud I am to have been the head coach while Steve McNair was here. We have been through so much together and I have so many fond memories of him and we could talk about him for hours and hours. It is truly an honor to have been able to be the coach and watch Steve develop and come from where he was to where he was when he left over that period of time. Steve was the face of this franchise when we arrived here. I think in a lot of ways will always be one of the faces of this franchise. His development kind of paralleled the development of this club. We were 7-9, 7-9, 8-8 and as Steve improved into the 1999 season, the rest was obvious. He will always have a fond place in my heart. Our relationship is strong. He and I, as Mike [Heimerdinger] and Craig [Johnson] can tell you, we have been through a lot together. Again I am very, very happy for Steve and Michelle that he was able to walk away on his own terms, which is a rare thing to do in the National Football League, to walk away on your own terms and hold your head up and say, ‘I have had enough.’ This brings to closure a great career. It also brings to closure so many great memories here in town and in this building and on that field across the river. With that being said, I would like to open it to questions, and again, I want to keep these questions to Steve McNair because it is Steve McNair’s day. Even though he is not here, it is Steve McNair’s day.
(on his greatest memory of McNair)
Oh, boy. I have so many. There are different games. I will tell you this, probably it was his last year here. It was into November and I was over at Baptist Hospital because my son was over there having some work done. I was over there at seven o’clock in the morning and it was Tuesday and it was the players’ day off. I was sitting outside the recovery room just doing paperwork and getting ready for the next week’s game plan and I look up and Steve was walking. He walked across the doorway with Mechelle and he was barely walking. He had gone in on Tuesday morning for an epidermal injection in his low back just so he could practice that week so that he could play. I think it’s those kinds of stories that need to be recognized because of what he did to play week in and week out as his career moved on and progressed and how he overcame so many things from an injury standpoint. I can probably give you dozens of games in which he played in that I assure you no one else would have played in those games with the condition that he had and how he overcame those things and how important it was for him to play week in and week out. Probably one of the greatest memories, we were talking about this in the hall, was the game at Pittsburgh during the 2000 season. It was after the bye week. It was after Steve first injured his sternum. We were very fortunate to have a bye because there was no way he was going to be able to answer the bell. We went up to Pittsburgh and the question was not whether or not Steve was going to play in the game, it was whether or not he was going to be a two or a three. We elected to keep him as the second quarterback. I think we were five points down and we were inside two minutes and Neil [O’Donnell] got put to sleep out there. They were carrying Neil off the field and there was really no way that Steve was supposed to play or be able to play. I looked at him and he looked back at me and he winked. He grabbed the ball and threw it to Joey (Barranco) two or three times and put his helmet on and went out. I think he was four-for-four with a scramble for a first down. He hit Erron Kinney in the back of the end zone for a touchdown and the game was over. That was typical Steve. Remember that old movie Heaven Can Wait and Joe Pendleton comes out … that was Steve. There was no way that he was going to play but yet five plays later he won the game for us.
(on the defining moment when he knew McNair would be a special player)
It was probably his first preseason game. The Arizona Cardinals came to Houston. Buddy Ryan was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and you know Buddy does not care who is playing. All he’s going to do is make it hard on the quarterback. These were Steve’s first snaps and I think he fumbled the first snap. He came back and fumbled the second snap, picked the ball up and threw a slant for a first down. He pulled out of center early…I mean, anything bad that could happen did during the first six or eight plays. Buddy blitzed him and everything. I remember going up to him on the sideline and Steve was like, ‘I’m cool. I’m going to be alright.’ It didn’t phase him at all. It was at that moment we knew he was going to be special. As you all know, or I’ll remind you, he got to sit and watch Chis Chandler for two years. He got valuable experience his first two years. Each snap that he took was very important. The end of his rookie year he got to go up and play against Buffalo in the snow and start because we were eliminated. We knew at that time he was going to be special.
(on McNair being accountable and never making excuses)
I think that goes into a lot of the competitor that he was and the leader he was that he sometimes didn’t get credit for, except everybody in this building knew what he was like. He was going to take the blame for it if we lost and put it all on himself. The same thing Jeff just said is the same reason he answered the bell. I can think of three other times I didn’t think he was ever going to play and he still came out and played pretty good for us and won games. But his accountability, his leadership – all the things that Steve did in this building, you always appreciated it. He would take the hit for it when things didn’t always go right. I’m not sure he always got the credit he deserved, too, when things went well.
(on his most memorable McNair moment)
Mine is the playoff game against Pittsburgh here at home when he dislocated his finger. We thought Neil (O’Donnell) was going to get ready to go and I looked down and his finger was sticking straight sideways. I said, ‘Can you take a snap?’ He said, ‘I will.’ I looked at him like he was crazy and went and got Neil. The next thing I feel a tap on my shoulder and he says, ‘Give me the play.’ He went back in after a play, took us down and that’s when Joe (Nedney) kicked the field goal in the playoff game. When I saw his finger, I was almost getting sick to my stomach, much less getting him to answer the bell.
(on his most memorable McNair moment)
My most memorable moment with Steve would have to be back in the 2002 season when we went to Giants Stadium to play the Giants and we had come back from a long ways away. My pressure is in the pregame, Jeff (Fisher) always goes to the pregame, I would go watch Steve warm up. I would go back in and Jeff would say, ‘Okay Craig, what does he look like?’ I mean, I get hit with it every week. This game, he came in and said, ‘Okay Craig, what’s he look like?’ ‘Not like much.’ He usually has this little routine he goes through before the game. He went out and took two throws, three throws and turned back in. Knowing he had not taken any snaps that week I said, ‘This doesn’t look good,’ so I told Jeff, ‘I don’t think it’s going to happen.’ So I guess that shows me I wouldn’t be e very good guy in Vegas because he certainly went back out and threw for over 300 yards and had the quarterback sneak to tie the game and then we went down and won in overtime and that really helped us that year. It’s just memories like that he did over and over again. He’s obviously the most unique person I’ve ever been around.
(on McNair’s stats)
You know, I think it’s important to point out, within this organization, he threw for over 27,000 yards. I think he had 156 touchdown passes. He had 36 touchdowns himself and he is the fifth-leading rusher in franchise history. That’s significant. Those numbers are very impressive.
(on if he has talked to McNair today)
I have not, no. I’ve seen him twice in the last month and didn’t know this was coming. He said he was feeling pretty good, but sometimes that’s how these decisions are arrived at. You just take time. They may have had an OTA today and may have just felt it was time to do it.
(on McNair’s toughness)
It’s the way he’s always been. That’s the way he’s wired. He’s a tough guy. He’s a quiet guy. He’s very, very competitive and he’s very, very talented. We have talked about the potential baseball career that he passed up and the different things he can do. Bruce Matthews was famous here for all of these little games that the guys play. They didn’t let Steve play because Steve would step in and win them all. That’s how Steve was. You have to be a tough guy in this league. I’d say 50 percent of the guys want people to know it. He didn’t. He just was as a result of the fact that he could answer each week.
(on if there will be a place for McNair in the organization down the road)
We’re going to kind of let this thing play out and see. I know people will ask, ‘Can you retire the jersey.’ We haven’t even talked to Steve. There will be some good things ahead as far as Steve is concerned here in this organization.
(on what McNair means to this city)
I think he means an awful lot. I think he set a great example. He’s done some terrific things here in the community. He’s been a great example for the youngsters here that were growing up and I’d like to think that he’ll be no different than some of the other guys that have already retired and those guys that will retire in the future that were great examples both on and off the field.
(on if McNair will make the Hall of Fame)
He would get my vote. I’m going to tell you what now, anybody that knows him or got to share those experiences that we got to share with him would see him as a first-time ballot guy. I know those things are complicated and political and all of that, but to do what he did year after year at the level in which he did, it’s very impressive. I remember being asked in 1999 as we started the playoff run, ‘Is Steve McNair right now a top three quarterback in the league?’ And that was a hard question for me to answer at that point because there were some good quarterbacks in the league. My response was, ‘He may or may not be, but what I do know is that he is one of the top three football players in the league at that time.’ And that’s what I think he will go down as in history as being a great football player and teammate.
Transcript courtsey of the Tennessee Titans