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Jim McMahon

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Subject: 1985 Chicago Bears season, List of Chicago Bears starting quarterbacks, Super Bowl XX, List of Minnesota Vikings starting quarterbacks, Jim Harbaugh
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Jim McMahon

Jim McMahon
Jim McMahon at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts in 1988.
No. 9
Position: Quarterback
Personal information
Date of birth: (1959-08-21) August 21, 1959
Place of birth: Jersey City, New Jersey
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 195 lb (88 kg)
Career information
High school: Roy (UT)
College: Brigham Young
NFL draft: 1982 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards



Career NFL statistics
Games Played: 119
Games Started: 97
TDsINT: 100–90
Yards: 18,148
QB Rating: 78.2
Stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

James Robert "Jim" McMahon, Jr. (born August 21, 1959) is a former American football player. He played college football at Brigham Young University, where he was a two-time All-American (1980, 1981) and later in the professional ranks with the Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, and Green Bay Packers.


  • Early years 1
  • College career 2
  • Professional career 3
    • Chicago Bears 3.1
      • 1985 3.1.1
      • 1986–1988 3.1.2
    • San Diego Chargers 3.2
    • Later career 3.3
  • Post-retirement 4
    • Legal and financial trouble 4.1
    • Concussions 4.2
    • Other activities 4.3
  • Playing style 5
  • Career stats 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • External links 9

Early years

McMahon was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, and moved with his family to San Jose, California when he was three. He played high school football his freshman and sophomore years at Andrew Hill High School in San Jose and played his junior and senior years at Roy High School in Roy, Utah, graduating in 1977.[1]

College career

McMahon mainly served as BYU's punter during his freshman season (1977), but he played enough at quarterback to throw his first-ever collegiate touchdown pass against UTEP. He continued as the Cougars' punter as the 1978 season began, but when Marc Wilson was injured in the third game of the season (against Colorado State), McMahon became the starting quarterback. McMahon led BYU to victory against CSU, accounting for 112 passing yards, 80 rushing yards, and two touchdowns. He was named Chevrolet Player of the Game and WAC Player of the Week for his performance. McMahon and Wilson shared quarterback duties for the rest of the season; McMahon played well enough to earn All-WAC honors and Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America. The best game of his sophomore year was against Wyoming: he passed for 317 yards and rushed for 49 more yards, earning another WAC Player of the Week award.

McMahon had suffered an knee injury towards the end of the 1978 season and BYU coaches chose to redshirt him the following season. McMahon watched from the sidelines as Wilson set nine NCAA records and tied two others. Wilson became the first BYU player to earn consensus First Team All-American honors, and he finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting.

With Wilson graduated and in the NFL, McMahon beat out Royce Bybee to claim the starting quarterback position. BYU lost the first game of the season (25–21 against New Mexico), but won 11 straight games after that to claim the WAC championship. McMahon set 32 NCAA records, including single-season records for yards of total offense (4,627), passing yards (4,571), touchdown passes (47), and passing efficiency (176.9). His best game was against Utah State; he completed 21 of 33 passes for 485 yards and six touchdowns, and added two rushing touchdowns. That performance earned him Sports Illustrated's National Player of the Week award. McMahon's season statistics might have been even better, but he spent significant time on the sidelines because the Cougars won many games by wide margins. Although he started all 12 regular season games, he only finished three of them.

BYU led the nation in passing offense, total offense, and scoring offense during the regular season. McMahon earned numerous awards for his individual accomplishments, being named WAC Player of the Year, unanimous First Team All-WAC, Utah Sportsman of the Year, and Deseret News Athlete of the Year. He was named to four All-America teams and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting.

In the 1980 Holiday Bowl, the Cougars faced an SMU team led by star running backs Craig James and Eric Dickerson, and the Mustangs built a 45–25 lead over BYU with just four minutes left in the game. As Cougar fans headed for the exits, McMahon screamed that the game was not over yet. He guided BYU's offense to three quick touchdowns, including a 41-yard Hail Mary pass to Clay Brown to win the game.[2] as time expired. It is regarded as one of the greatest comebacks in college football history;[3] BYU fans refer to it as the "Miracle Bowl".

In McMahon's senior season (1981), despite missing two games due to injuries, he passed for 3,555 yards and 30 touchdowns in the regular season, again leading BYU to a WAC championship. For his efforts, he was named WAC Player of the Year and unanimous First Team All-WAC. On a national level, he was named Davey O'Brien Trophy and the Sammy Baugh Award, and he shared the Pigskin Club NCAA Offensive Player of the Year award with USC's Marcus Allen. He earned Sports Illustrated's Player of the Week award after his performance against Colorado State, in which he tied a school record with 7 touchdown passes.

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 career totals were 9,536 passing yards and 84 touchdown passes (not including bowl games). McMahon left college with 70 NCAA records[2] and tied for one other. He entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.[4] In September 2010, McMahon announced he would complete his coursework at BYU, which would qualify him for induction into the Brigham Young University Athletics Hall of Fame. On October 2, 2014, after completing his degree in communications, McMahon was inducted into the BYU Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the 2014 class.[5] BYU honored McMahon by retiring his No. 9 jersey during a halftime ceremony at the BYU vs. Utah State football game on Friday, October 3, 2014.[6]

Professional career

Chicago Bears

The George Halas. McMahon was to find the atmosphere in Chicago almost as challenging as that at Brigham Young, and he would lock horns with Ditka, his coaches and teammates, and journalists routinely during his seven years 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.

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.

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 title game 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.[7] 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.[8]

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. After an interception by Wilber Marshall on the Vikings ensuing possession, McMahon's very next offensive play was a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dennis McKinnon, making him 2–2 for 95 yards and two touchdowns. He followed up with another successful offensive drive, including a crucial 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.

McMahon was fined $5,000 for violating the league's dress code by wearing an Adidas headband.[9]


In a late-season game against the Green Bay Packers, nose tackle Charles Martin grabbed McMahon from behind and body-slammed him to the ground (after McMahon had passed the ball for an interception and officials had turned their attention downfield). The incident happened at least two seconds after the pass was thrown, and with McMahon well out of the play. McMahon landed full force on his previously-injured shoulder, a situation magnified by Soldier Field's artificial surface of the time. He briefly returned to the game, but it soon became apparent that he couldn't throw effectively, and he left the game for good in the third quarter. He didn't play again for the rest of the season. Despite strenuous protests from the Packers, Martin was ejected from the game and suspended for two games — the first multi-game suspension for an on-field incident in modern NFL history.

McMahon battled injuries for the rest of his career although at one point between the 1984 and 1987 seasons, he won 22 consecutive regular-season (25 including playoffs, & The Super Bowl) starts, the longest "regular season winning streak" by an NFL quarterback at the time, now held by Peyton Manning, who won 23 in 2009 (but lost a Super Bowl during his "winning streak").

In 1987 he came back from injury in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McMahon brought the Chicago Bears back in the first game following the 1987 NFL players strike to defeat the Buccaneers, 27–26. The Bears went on to an 11–4 record with many expecting McMahon to lead the Bears back to the Super Bowl — however as in 1986 they fell short against the Washington Redskins, this time 21–17 in the NFC divisional playoff game.

1988 saw McMahon return for the Bears with a much more serious attitude. His main offensive weapon in Walter Payton had retired and McMahon publicly expressed his desire to win a Super Bowl again. The Bears looked strong all season ending 1988 with a 12–4 record, again winning the NFC Central. They were many people's favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XXIII and after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, 20–12 in the 1988 NFC Divisional playoff game — otherwise known as the Fog Bowl, they faced the San Francisco 49ers in the bitter cold of Chicago's Soldier Field. In what many people thought could be McMahon's finest hour, it was his opposite number, Joe Montana who shined, as he led the 49ers to a 28–3 victory over the Bears as they went on to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 20–16 in the twenty-third Super Bowl.

After a falling out with Head Coach Mike Ditka, and to a larger extent team president Michael McCaskey, McMahon was traded to the San Diego Chargers. McMahon left the Bears while owning the team record with 46 wins, which is the most of any starting quarterback in franchise history.

San Diego Chargers

He started 12 games for the 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. He had only 4 games over 200 yards, but had 389 yards 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. He was benched for the final four games and finished the year with 2,132 yards, 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was released and moved on to back up Randall Cunningham on the Philadelphia Eagles in 1990.

Later career

After Cunningham suffered a season-ending injury in the 1991 opener, McMahon was named the starter. While the Eagles missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker, McMahon was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. After another year as Cunningham's backup, he moved to the Minnesota Vikings in 1993 as their starter and led them to the playoffs. He then spent his last three years as a backup. He also played for the Cleveland Browns in 1995, was cut during the pre-season, and then signed with the Green Bay Packers. He retired following the 1996 season, which finished with a Green Bay Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots in New Orleans, eleven years to the day of the Bears' Super Bowl victory over the Patriots in the same venue. When it was time for the Super Bowl Champs to visit the White House, McMahon wore his 1985 Chicago Bears #9 jersey, which did not go over too well with Green Bay Packer fans. McMahon later mentioned the Packers visit was supposed to be his second White House visit, the first being after his 1985-86 Chicago Bears, which won Super Bowl XX. However, the ramifications after STS-51-L, a Space Shuttle mission of the Challenger that exploded at 1:13 into the mission less than two days after Super Bowl XX, cancelled the Bears' official visit. Surviving members of that team would not make the official visit until 25 years later, in October 2011.[10]

McMahon being greeted by the Commanding Officer of the 15th MEU during his USO tour in Iraq in December 2006.


Legal and financial trouble

Since retiring from football in 1997, he has worked as a restaurant owner and motivational speaker. He was apprehended 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."[11]

On April 9, 2012 it was reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, that McMahon was targeted by the feds for $104 million in bad loans made by the now closed, Chicago-based Broadway Bank, of which he was a member of the board. The FDIC wants to recover $104 million in loans made by the bank before it was shut down, according to the newspaper. In addition to McMahon, six other former Broadway Bank board members and two former bank executives have been targeted. It is said that McMahon has only approved one loan out of the 17 bad loans for a $28 million Miami beach condo project. The FDIC said the bank lost $19.5 million on the loan, according to the Sun-Times. McMahon said in a statement to the Sun-Times that the FDIC's claims are without merit and he expects to be vindicated. "I am proud to have served as an outside, independent director for a brief part of the bank's history," he wrote, according to the Sun-Times.[12]


In a November 6, 2010, interview, McMahon admitted to having memory problems due to injuries suffered on the football field. McMahon was quoted as saying, 'There are a lot of times when I walk into a room and forget why I walked in there.'[13] McMahon, along with six other retired professional football players, filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL in August 2011, citing the league's negligence and misconduct in its handling of concussion-related injuries; the suit followed lawsuits filed shortly before by 75 other NFL retirees making similar claims as well as asserting that the NFL knew about the dangers concussions posed to NFL athletes as far back as the 1920s and actively withheld the information from the affected and the general public until the summer of 2010. The August suit that McMahon joined seeks to expand the scope of the suit to potentially all NFL players who suffered game-related concussions or head injuries.[14]

He appeared in a Sports Illustrated cover article in September 2012 detailing his struggles.[15]

On September 27, 2012 it was reported that at age 53 McMahon had been diagnosed as being in the early stages of dementia.[16]

Other activities

In December 2006 McMahon went to USO to visit American forces in the field.[17]

During Super Bowl XLIV McMahon joined other members of the 1985 Chicago Bears in resurrecting the Super Bowl Shuffle in a Boost Mobile commercial.[18]

In 2010, McMahon became a part owner of the Indoor Football League's Chicago Slaughter. In November 2012, McMahon appeared on an episode of the sitcom The League called "The Tailgate."

Playing style

Throughout his career, McMahon was known for both on- and off-field antics. Most famously, his wearing of a headband while on the sidelines once led to him being fined by then NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle, as it had an unauthorized 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. 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 also is known for his trademark sunglasses, which he wears for medical reasons. At age six, while trying to untie a knot in a toy gun holster with a fork, he accidentally severed the cornea in his right eye when the fork slipped. While his vision was saved, the accident left that eye extremely sensitive to light.[19] 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 occasionally would play wearing gloves, and urged former NFL quarterback David Carr to also wear gloves.[20]

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 14 295-175 2,184 .593 12 13 42-266 77.6
1984 9 143-85 1,146 .594 8 2 10-48 97.8
1985 13 313-178 2,392 .569 15 11 26-125 82.6
1986 6 150-77 995 .513 5 8 6-40 61.4
1987 7 210-125 1,639 .595 12 8 22-136 87.4
1988 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 12 311-187 2,239 .601 12 11 21-128 80.3
1992 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 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 8 155-82 1,112 .643 5 4 n/a-n/a 76.1

See also


  1. ^ Carter, Bob (2007). "McMahon was a rebel without pause". ESPN Classic. Retrieved July 1, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Rock, Brad (2010-09-04). "Jim McMahon forever BYU's favorite rebel". Deseret News. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  3. ^ "SMU fell to BYU as quarterback Jim McMahon engineered what many dubbed 'the greatest comeback in college football bowl history'." Duffy, Patrick (narrator). "Pony Excess", 30 for 30. ESPN, 2010-11-11.
  4. ^ "Jim "Jimmy Mac" McMahon". College Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-09-04. 
  5. ^ "McMahon Inducted into BYU Hall of Fame". 
  6. ^ "McMahon’s BYU jersey to be retired Oct. 3". 
  7. ^ NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Edited by Randall Liu, p. 349, Workman Publishing, 2001, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2
  8. ^ In Life, First You Kick Ass: Reflections on the 1985 Bears and Wisdom from Da Coach, Mike Ditka with Rick Telander, Sports Publishing, 2005, ISBN 978-1-58261-977-4
  9. ^ "Chicago Bears' Jim McMahon was the Chad Ochocinco of his day". Chicago Tribune. November 15, 2009. 
  10. ^ How many '85 Bears played for Packers? - Chicago Bears
  11. ^ "McMahon 'wasted' while driving",, Accessed December 10, 2006
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ Mitchell, Fred; Kaplan, David (November 6, 2010). "Chicagotribune.Com". Chicago Tribune. 
  14. ^ Associated Press (19 August 2011). "Players accuse NFL of negligence". Retrieved 19 March 2012. 
  15. ^ Falcone, Nina (September 5, 2012). "Sports Illustrated features McMahon, reality of concussions". Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  16. ^ Hendrix, Maggie. "Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon says he wishes he had played baseball". Yahoo!. 
  17. ^ "Celebrities drop in to pay the 15th MEU a holiday visit". 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. 
  18. ^ Jon GreenbergColumnist, ESPNChicago.comFollowArchive (2010-01-15). "Chicago Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle" an enduring, endearing sports moment - ESPN Chicago". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  19. ^ America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions, "#2. 1985 Chicago Bears." Premiered on CBS, Feb. 3, 2007
  20. ^

External links

  • Career statistics and player information from • ESPN • Pro-Football-Reference
  • Jim McMahon at the College Football Hall of Fame
  • Official website
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