NASHVILLE – Eddie George and Steve McNair. Steve McNair and Eddie George.
Think of the Tennessee Titans, and two of their all-time greats come to mind because of their success on the field, their toughness and grit – and the impact they’ve made in the city of Nashville and beyond.
Now, the Tennessee legends will be honored by the team, and ownership, by having the jersey numbers 9 and 27 retired.
McNair’s No. 9 jersey and George’s No. 27 jersey will be retired in a halftime ceremony during Sunday’s home opener against the Indianapolis Colts, Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk announced in June. Former teammates will serve as the Honorary 12th Titans for the contest. Taj George, Eddie’s wife, will perform the National Anthem prior to the game.
“Steve and Eddie will be forever linked as two of the driving forces for our team in the late 90’s and early 2000’s,” Strunk said. “They were the heart and soul of the team and each made the other a better player and ultimately led to a great deal of team success. Their statistics will forever live in our record books, but their play and sacrifice is what our fans will always remember. For that and all that they have done for our team, the number 9 and 27 will be retired with the all-time franchise greats.”
In the history of the Oilers/Titans franchise, only six players have had the distinction of having their jersey number retired – Jim Norton (No.43), Elvin Bethea (No.65), Earl Campbell (No.34), Mike Munchak (No.63) Bruce Matthews (No.74) and Warren Moon (No.1).
During the NFL Draft, George wore McNair’s No.9 to honor him.
On Sunday, they’ll be honored together.
“To have it retired with my partner in crime, Steve McNair, it means a lot,” George said. “We were always linked at the hip during our playing careers. We’ve been through a lot of wars together both on and off the football field. To go down this day, to have our jerseys retired on the same day is huge for us.
“It has to be with Steve. 2 plus 7 equals 9. … It is totally appropriate to see us go in together.”
During the duo’s time together (1996–2003), the team’s 80-48 record (.625) ranked third in the NFL behind only the Green Bay Packers’ 88-40 record (.688) and the Denver Broncos’ 83-45 (.648) mark. Together they experienced four total playoff appearances (1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003), two division titles (2000 and 2002), two AFC Championship games (1999 and 2002) and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIV.
McNair was the third overall draft pick in 1995 by the Houston Oilers, and he made the No.9 a special one during his career. McNair played from 1995-2005 with the Oilers/Titans before playing his final two NFL seasons (2006-2007) with the Baltimore Ravens. In 11 seasons with the Titans, McNair set team records and accumulated the most wins of any quarterback in Titans/Oilers history.
McNair, who led Tennessee’s famous drive that ended up a yard short of forcing overtime in Super Bowl XXXIV, also made a big impact in the Nashville community through the Steve McNair Foundation. He was selected as the 2005 Titans Walter Payton Award Winner, given to the team’s Community Man of the Year. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, and he was co-MVP of the NFL with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in 2003.
McNair finished his career with 31,304 yards passing and 174 touchdowns. As a member of the Titans, he was credited with 20 game-winning drives in the regular season and postseason, finishing second all-time behind Moon (23).
McNair was tragically killed in Nashville on July 4, 2009, but his memory remains alive around the team, and in the city.
“Retiring his jersey is a really big deal for us,” Mechelle McNair said in a statement. “It is a tangible reminder for me and the boys to know that No.9 will forever be held in the highest regard in the Titans nation.”
A first-round pick (14th overall) by the Houston Oilers in the 1996 NFL Draft, Eddie George became only the second NFL running back to rush for 10,000 yards, while never missing a start, as Tennessee’s starter through 2003. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
A first-round pick by the Titans in 1996, George made the No. 27 legendary in Tennessee.
George is the Titans/Oilers record holder for career rushing yards (10,009), ahead of Hall of Famer Earl Campbell (9,407). He finished his career with 10,441 yards. George is the only running back in NFL history to record 300 or more carries for eight consecutive seasons. He is the organization’s all-time scrimmage yards leader (12,153).
During his playing days in Tennessee (1996-2003), George never missed a game – a span of 128 starts. He was a 1,000-yard rusher seven times, and a four-time Pro Bowler. George racked up 36 100-yard games, and the Titans recorded a 30-6 record in those games.
George’s finest season came in 2000, when he rushed for 1,509 yards, scored 16 total touchdowns, and six 100-yard performances for the 13-3 Titans. Playing alongside McNair, George helped the Titans reach the playoffs four times in his eight years in Nashville, including a Super Bowl, and two AFC title games. George went over 1,300 yards in a season four times, and he racked up 12,668 all-purpose yards in his career.
George averaged 1,160 rushing yards per season during his nine-year NFL career. Among all players who have played six seasons, only six averaged more rushing yards per season: Barry Sanders (1,527), Jim Brown (1,368), Payton (1,287), Martin (1,282), LaDainian Tomlinson (1,244) and Emmitt Smith (1,224). George, Tomlinson and Eric Dickerson are the only three NFL running backs to rush for 1,200 or more yards in each of their first five NFL seasons.
Earlier, McNair and George were inducted into the Titans/Oilers Hall of Fame.
“This is a big moment for me personally because I love these guys, and I know my dad loved these guys, and he will be so happy and proud,” Strunk said. “This is the highest honor that we can bestow on a Titans player, and both of them are deserving for their significant contributions to our franchise. Steve and Eddie’s accomplishments are on par with the NFL’s best players in history, and amongst the greatest of all Titans.”