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Jim McMahon

James Robert "Jim" McMahon (born August 21, 1959 in Jersey City, New Jersey) is a former American football player, playing collegiately at Brigham Young University and later in the professional ranks with the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.


Brigham Young University

It was a game in 1980 that first put McMahon in the national spotlight. As a junior at BYU during the 1980 season, McMahon ran up gaudy statistics that were derided by critics as coming against weak opposition. But in the Holiday Bowl that December, McMahon led the Cougars back from a 45-25 deficit in the final 4:07 to stun Southern Methodist University, 46-45. The performance put him on the map, and in the following season (1981), McMahon again put up stellar numbers. In his last game as a Cougar, McMahon passed for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns to lead BYU over Washington State in the 1981 Holiday Bowl. His spectacular 1981 season was recognized when he won the first annual Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award. His career totals were 9,536 passing yards and 84 touchdown passes (not including bowl games). He left college with 70 NCAA records (and tied for one other). His spectacular statistics caught the attention of the Chicago Bears, who selected McMahon in the first round (fifth pick overall) of the 1982 NFL Draft.

Chicago Bears

McMahon, thrilled to be "released" from what he considered an oppressive culture in Utah, strolled into his first public function with the Bears holding a cold beer in his hand. New head coach Mike Ditka and team founder and owner George Halas were unimpressed. Ever the free spirit, McMahon was to find the atmosphere in Chicago almost as stifling as that at Brigham Young, and he would lock horns with Ditka, his coaches and teammates, and journalists routinely during his career with the Bears.

McMahon won the Bears' starting quarterback job as a rookie and was named to several All-Rookie teams when he nearly led the team to the playoffs, despite the NFL only playing two games before a players' strike that cancelled nearly half the season. McMahon quickly displayed a natural ability to read defenses and an athletic versatility that surprised many. He established himself as the best play-action passer in the game with his nonchalant fake handoffs and coolness in the pocket. Despite having only average arm strength, his situational awareness and superior acting skills made him a fearsome play-action passer.

McMahon also made a case for being the best rollout passer at that time. He explained that coaching in his youth had taught him to square his shoulders to the direction he wanted to throw the football, and he was thus able to execute passes with tight spirals and a high degree of accuracy when running to either his left or his right. The Bears finished the strike-shortened season at 3-6, but due to an expanded playoff format and conference-wide seeding the Bears missed a playoff berth by only one victory. McMahon was named NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year, losing the league-wide honor to Marcus Allen, who was playing for the Los Angeles Raiders at that time.

In 1983 McMahon continued to improve as a passer and as a field general. He made a habit of changing the play both in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage, a practice which frustrated Ditka but usually led to success. His knowledge of the game and an instinctive, intuitive grasp of in-game situations were significant. He became a frequent scorer in goal line situations, after the dying Halas instructed Ditka to make the quarterback sneak a bigger part of the Bears' offense. He also began to catch touchdown passes on option plays, and was the emergency punter. Chicago finished the season at 8-8, missing the division title and a playoff berth by one victory again.

In 1984 the Bears broke through, reaching the conference finals before losing to the San Francisco 49ers. McMahon started the season strongly, though nursing minor injuries like those that would plague him throughout his career. In a violent game against the Los Angeles Raiders in Chicago, McMahon sustained a season-ending injury when he was brutally tackled by two Los Angeles defenders. He suffered bruised ribs and a lacerated kidney on the play, but limped to the huddle and breathlessly called the next play, despite difficulty breathing and increasing pain. The players could barely hear him in the huddle, and when McMahon attempted an audible at the line of scrimmage the Bears receivers were unable to hear his call. McMahon was on the verge of collapsing on the field, clutching his flank and rasping in his attempts to convey his situation. Offensive linemen helped McMahon stand and leave the field. McMahon went to the locker room, and reported urine that "looked like grape juice."


In 1985, the Bears won their first 12 games and finished 15-1 for the season. McMahon became a media darling, not only for his outstanding play on the field, but also for his personality. He appeared in a rap record made by the team, "The Super Bowl Shuffle," in which he proclaimed "I'm the punky QB known as McMahon." He ended the season with a strong performance in Super Bowl XX, which the Bears won 46-10 over the New England Patriots. In that game, McMahon became the first quarterback in the history of the Super Bowl to rush for two touchdowns. McMahon earned a spot in the Pro Bowl. He was a point of controversy in New Orleans at the Super Bowl when he "mooned" journalists who were inquiring as to the status of a minor injury to his buttocks. McMahon was notorious for head-first baseball-style slides when running the football, despite being coached to slide feet-first to protect his body. In the playoffs, McMahon heeded this coaching advice and was speared by a defender's helmet squarely in his buttocks, causing a painful deep bruise for which McMahon sought acupuncture treatment.

In an early-season Thursday night game at Minnesota, McMahon was slated to back up Steve Fuller, as McMahon had missed practice time earlier in the week due to a neck injury that required an overnight hospital stay. Midway into the third quarter, the Vikings held a 17-9 lead. McMahon lobbied to get into the game until well into the third quarter. Once finally on the field, his first play was an opportunistic 70 yard touchdown pass to Willie Gault. His very next offensive play was a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dennis McKinnon, making him 2-2 for 95 yards and two major scores. He followed up with another successful offensive drive, including a crucual third and short sneak to set up another 43-yard touchdown pass to McKinnon. The Bears led 30-17 and went on to win the game 33-24.


In a game against the Green Bay Packers, McMahon sustained a season ending injury when defensive lineman Charles Martin grabbed him from behind and body-slammed him to the ground on his previously injured shoulder (long after McMahon had passed the ball and officials had turned their attention downfield). Martin was ejected from the game and suspended for two games. Many think the injury to McMahon was the reason the Bears were unable to defend their 1985 Super Bowl title. He battled injuries for the rest of his career although at one point between the 1984 and 1987 seasons, he won 22 consecutive regular-season starts.

San Diego

After a falling out with Head Coach Mike Ditka, McMahon was traded. He started 12 games for a dreadful 6-10 Chargers team in 1989. He went 4-8 in the games he started, though the team lost 4 of those games by a combined 11 points in spite of his spotty play at times. He only had 4 games over 200 yds, but had 389 yds against the Houston Oilers in a Week 2 loss. He also had a falling out with team players, management and Coach Dan Henning in his year with San Diego with his lackluster play and ego. He was benched for the final four games and finshed the year with 2,132 yds, 10 TDs and 10 INTs. He was released and moved on to backup Randall Cunningham on the Philadelphia Eagles in 1990.

Later career

He managed two more full seasons as a starter, in 1991 (with the Philadelphia Eagles) and 1993 (with the Minnesota Vikings), then spent three more years as a backup. He retired following the 1996 season, in which he won a second Super Bowl ring with the Green Bay Packers This would be the second time McMahon won a Super Bowl at the New England Patriots expense, incidentally at the same location of the Louisiana Superdome. When it was time for the Super Bowl Champs to visit the White House, McMahon wore his Chicago Bears #9 jersey, which did not go over too well with Green Bay Packer fans. McMahon would later explain that the reason behind this was that the Bears never got to go to the White House after they won Super Bowl XX, due to the event being canceled after the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion that happened two days later.

After retirement

Since retiring from football in 1997, he has worked as a restaurant owner and motivational speaker. He was also pulled over in Florida for drunk driving in 2003. Upon being pulled over, McMahon allegedly got out of his car and said to the police, "I'm too drunk, you got me."

In December 2006, McMahon went to Iraq with the USO to visit American forces in the field.

McMahon has been married to Nancy Daines since 1982. They have four children and reside in Northfield, Illinois. His children's names are Ashley, Sean, Alexis, and Zach. All of his kids but one have graduated from Glenbrook North High School. Zach, his youngest son, plays football and baseball for Glenbrook North.


Throughout his career McMahon was known for both on and off field antics. Most famously his wearing of headbands while on the sidelines, one such led to his being fined by then NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle as it had an un-authorized corporate logo on it. The next week his headband simply said "Rozelle". Reportedly before Super Bowl XX hundreds of fans mailed McMahon headbands in hopes he would wear them during the game and Pete Rozelle gave him a stern warning not to wear anything "unacceptable", in response McMahon decided to help bring attention to Juvenile Diabetes by wearing a headband simply stating "JDF Cure" before switching to one stating "POW-MIA" and finally one with the word "Pluto", the nickname of a friend of his stricken with a brain tumor.

He is also known for his trademark sunglasses, which he wears for medical reasons. At the age of six, while trying to untie a knot in a toy gun holster with a fork, he accidentally severed the retina in his right eye when the fork slipped. While his vision was saved, the accident left that eye extremely sensitive to light. On the field, he was among the first to wear a helmet fitted with a tinted plastic visor covering the eyes, leading to nicknames like "Darth Vader" and "Black Sunshine."

McMahon would occasionally play with gloves, and urged former Carolina Panthers QB David Carr to wear gloves.

Personal life

His father was Catholic and his mother Mormon; he was raised Roman Catholic, but attended BYU.

Career stats

Year Team G Passing
Yards Pct. TD Int. Sacks-Lost Pass
1982 Chicago 8 210-120 1,501 .571 9 7 27-196 79.9
1983 Chicago 14 295-175 2,184 .593 12 13 42-266 77.6
1984 Chicago 9 143-85 1,146 .594 8 2 10-48 97.8
1985 Chicago 13 313-178 2,392 .569 15 11 26-125 82.6
1986 Chicago 6 150-77 995 .513 5 8 6-40 61.4
1987 Chicago 7 210-125 1,639 .595 12 8 22-136 87.4
1988 Chicago 9 192-114 1,346 .594 6 7 13-79 76.0
1989 San Diego 12 318-176 2,132 .553 10 10 28-167 73.5
1990 Philadelphia 5 9-6 63 .667 0 0 1-7 86.8
1991 Philadelphia 12 311-187 2,239 .601 12 11 21-128 80.3
1992 Philadelphia 4 43-22 279 .512 1 2 4-25 60.1
1993 Minnesota 12 331-200 1,968 .604 9 8 23-104 76.2
1994 Arizona 3 43-23 219 .535 1 3 3-23 46.6
1995 Green Bay 1 1-1 6 1.00 0 0 0-0 91.7
1996 Green Bay 5 4-3 39 .750 0 0 0-0 105.2
Totals 120 2,573-1,492 18,148 .580 100 90 226-1,344 78.2
Playoff Totals 8 82-155 1,112 .643 5 4 n/a-n/a 76.1


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