McNair: 'They ain't never played quarterback'

OWINGS MILLS -- After enduring a brutal beating from the Pittsburgh Steelers and being bashed by a growing crowd that's clamoring for Kyle Boller to unseat him, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Steve McNair erupted in a rare display of emotion. The four-time Pro Bowl quarterback's normally soft-spoken demeanor vanished for a few minutes Wednesday.

McNair expressed frustration at being scapegoated for the reeling Ravens' mounting problems.

It was the Mississippi native's most animated public moment since joining the team in a trade a year ago.

"Look what kind of career I've had, I don't let people tell me, outside this organization, I'm not capable of playing or I don't need to be playing," said McNair, who fumbled twice and was intercepted once in a 38-7 debacle of a loss Monday night to the Pittsburgh Steelers. "For what? They ain't never played the position of the quarterback. They never go through the things I go through, mentally and physically.

"How are you going to tell me I'm not able to play? I know what my body can do. My teammates know what my body can do and I know what I can do on the field."

Lately, though, McNair's body of work has been disturbing, raising more eyebrows than high-fives.

The 34-year-old former NFL Co-Most Valuable Player ranks among the statistically-worst quarterbacks in the league. His mediocre 75.8 passer rating places him behind such journeymen as Brian Griese, Joey Harrington and Damon Huard.

McNair's pair of touchdown passes are the only scores he has generated since Dec. 31, 2006. His eight giveaways this season, six fumbles with five lost and three interceptions, accounts for half the Ravens' turnovers.

And the statistics doesn't even come close to pointing out the video evidence of McNair's decline in terms of below-average arm strength, mobility and reaction time.

"You know, it's eleven guys, but the quarterback is always going to take the bulk off the blame," said McNair, who's averaging only 5.5 yards per pass attempt. "That's just how the nature of the game is. If you're doing good, the quarterback is the best. If you're doing bad, it's 'What's wrong with the quarterback?'

"I've been inside the league 13 years. What people say outside this organization doesn't bother me. What the paper writes doesn't bother me."

Regardless of McNair's obvious shortcomings, Ravens coach Brian Billick isn't giving up on him. Billick reaffirmed for the third consecutive day that McNair will remain the starter. It wasn't exactly an ironclad assertion that McNair is the permanent starter no matter what. It was more of an expression of hopeful confidence.

"I have every faith that Steve is going to play well," Billick said. "Like any player obviously, if any player gets into a difficulty, the next guy has to step up, but I don't anticipate that. I'm very confident where Steve is right now, physically, mentally, and I have every anticipation he's going to play well."

Billick, who rivals McNair as a popular target to attack on sports talk radio and Internet message boards, isn't quitting on himself as offensive coordinator, either.

When asked if he had considered removing himself as the play-caller as he did a year ago when he fired offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, Billick replied: "No, no. Assess it all the time, and I think we're proceeding down the right path."

As for McNair, he hasn't played well in a long time. Especially in big games.

In his past seven starts, McNair has two touchdowns and six interceptions with big-game meltdowns against the Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts with two critical interceptions in that AFC divisional playoff loss. Plus, he committed three fumbles with one interception in a season-opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

"It's been a bad first half of the year, so what," McNair said. "You've got another half, so you've got to get better."

The best recent game for McNair, who threw for 3,050 yards on 63.0 percent accuracy for 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last season, was last December against the Steelers. Playing in Pittsburgh, McNair completed 21 of 31 passes for 256 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

When asked if he was concerned that McNair is on such a pronounced downward spiral, Billick defended him again.

"The reference to a good game or bad game, when Steve has played, Steve has played well," Billick said. "When you go back and look at what we've done and what he did and what the numbers were, notwithstanding Monday night where not many of us played well, Steve was playing well. If that was getting a little of the rust off, so be it."

Despite having 29 days of down time to recuperate from back and groin injuries, McNair bumbled and fumbled Monday in a game the Ravens (4-4) had to have to reinsert themselves as a viable contender in the AFC North title race.

McNair set an NFL record for fewest passing yards (63) for a quarterback who had completed at least 13 passes. He had the second-fewest passing yards by a quarterback in franchise history behind Scott Mitchell's 48 yards in 1999 prior to being benched by Billick.

"It's not just Steve, you can't put it all on one person," wide receiver Derrick Mason said. "Obviously everything is going to be pointed at him because he's the quarterback. When we're doing great, the quarterback is praised.

"When we're doing badly, the quarterback is kind of the scapegoat. You can't make him the scapegoat."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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