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Jim McMahon

Jim McMahon at the Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts in 1988.
No. 9     
Personal information
Date of birth: August 21, 1959 (1959-08-21) (age 50)
Place of birth: Jersey City, New Jersey
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) Weight: 195 lb (88 kg)
Career information
College: Brigham Young
NFL Draft: 1982 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5
Debuted in 1982 for the Chicago Bears
Last played in 1996 for the Green Bay Packers
Career history
 As player:
*Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Stats at
College Football Hall of Fame

James Robert "Jim" McMahon, Jr. (born August 21, 1959 in Jersey City, New Jersey) is a former American football player. He played collegiately 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, and Green Bay Packers.


Early years

McMahon played high school football his freshman and sophomore years at Andrew Hill High School (San Jose, California) and played his junior and senior years at Roy High School (Roy, Utah). Jim's abilities were so evident that in his sophomore year, he was promoted to the varsity team, where he earned the starting position over a senior.

College career

McMahon mainly served as Brigham Young University's punter during his freshman season (1977), but he did play 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 starred as the starting quarterback. He led BYU to victory against CSU, accounting for 112 passing yards, 80 rushing yards, and 2 touchdowns along the way. 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 wanted to battle Wilson for the starting position the following season, but he suffered an off-season injury and BYU coaches chose to redshirt him in 1979. McMahon watched from the sidelines as Wilson played spectacular football, setting 9 NCAA records and tying two others. Wilson became the first BYU player to earn consensus First Team All-American honors, and he finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting.

As good as Wilson was, McMahon was better in 1980. With Wilson graduated and gone to 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 was spectacular: he 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 6 touchdowns, and he added 2 rushing touchdowns as well. That performance earned him Sports Illustrated's National Player of the Week award. McMahon's season statistics would 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.

With McMahon's leadership, BYU led the nation in passing offense, total offense, and scoring offense during the regular season. McMahon earned a bevy of awards for his individual accomplishments. He was 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.

McMahon's finest hour at BYU came in the 1980 Holiday Bowl. The Cougars faced a tough SMU team. Behind star running backs Craig James and Eric Dickerson, 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 wasn't over yet. He calmly guided BYU's offense to three quick touchdowns, including a 41-yard "Hail Mary" pass to Clay Brown to win the game as time expired. It is regarded as one of the greatest comebacks in college football history; BYU fans refer to it as the "Miracle Bowl."

McMahon's senior season (1981) was not as spectacular, but it was still terrific. 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 First-team All-American by five different organizations and finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting. He received the 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 a spectacular performance against Colorado State (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). He left college with 70 NCAA records (and tied for one other).

Professional career

Chicago Bears

McMahon's spectacular statistics in college caught the attention of the Chicago Bears, who selected McMahon in the first round (fifth pick overall) of the 1982 NFL Draft. 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.[citation needed]

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.[1] 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. [2] On Thursday of Super Bowl XX week, McMahon was wrongfully accused of "calling the women of New Orleans sluts and the men idiots" on an interview over Chicago's WLS Radio at a restaurant on Bourbon Street, but the interview never happened, and New Orleans Sportscaster Buddy Deliberto was suspended for starting that rumor on his 10pm sportscast the night before. McMahon was cleared of this charge by WLS Sportscaster Les Grobstein, who was supposed to be the person doing the interview. Hundreds of angry women showed up at the Bears hotel to protest until they were informed the whole thing was a hoax.

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 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.


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. 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 starts, the longest regular season winning streak by an NFL quarterback at the time, now held by Peyton Manning, who won 23 in 2009.

San Diego Chargers

After a falling out with Head Coach Mike Ditka, and to a larger extent team president Michael McCaskey, McMahon was traded. 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 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 finished 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 loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger.[3]

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

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."[4] As of 2009, McMahon serves as an endorser of a male enhancement product. [5]

In December 2006, McMahon went to Iraq with the USO to visit American forces in the field.[6]

McMahon has been married to Nancy Daines since 1982. They have four children and reside in Northbrook, Illinois. His children's names are Ashley, Sean, Alexis, and Zach. All of his kids have graduated from Glenbrook North High School.

During Super Bowl XLIV, McMahon joined other members of the 1985 Chicago Bears in resurrecting the Super Bowl Shuffle in a Boost Mobile commercial[7].

In 2010 became a part owner of the IFL's Chicago Slaughter


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 New York Giants QB David Carr to wear gloves.[8]

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


  1. ^ NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Edited by Randall Liu, p. 349, Workman Publishing, 2001, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2
  2. ^ 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 978-1582619774
  3. ^ How many '85 Bears played for Packers? - Chicago Bears
  4. ^ "McMahon 'wasted' while driving",, Accessed December 10, 2006
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Celebrities drop in to pay the 15th MEU a holiday visit". 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. 
  7. ^
  8. ^

External links

Preceded by
No One
Davey O'Brien Award winner
Succeeded by
Todd Blackledge
Preceded by
Barry Word
NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award
Succeeded by
Randall Cunningham
Preceded by
Vince Evans
Chicago Bears Starting Quarterbacks
Succeeded by
Mike Tomczak
Preceded by
Mark Malone
San Diego Chargers Starting Quarterbacks
Succeeded by
Billy Joe Tolliver
Preceded by
Randall Cunningham
Philadelphia Eagles Starting Quarterbacks
Succeeded by
Randall Cunningham
Preceded by
Rich Gannon
Minnesota Vikings Starting Quarterback
Succeeded by
Warren Moon
Preceded by
Steve Beuerlein
Arizona Cardinals Starting Quarterbacks
Succeeded by
Jay Schroeder

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