The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced on Wednesday that former head coach John McKay would be the newest addition to the team's Ring of Honor. The Bucs will honor McKay on December 5th when Tampa Bay hosts the Atlanta Falcons. The Buccaneers will wear their throwback orange uniforms in that game. The McKay family was well represented at One Buc Place including son Rich McKay, the former Bucs general manager.
"We're here today to pay tribute to a founding member of the Buccaneer family," said Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer. "As you all know last year we established the Buccaneers Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. Its purpose is to recognize the individuals who have made the significant contributions to the history of this franchise.
"We are pleased to announce that this year's inductee and Tampa Bay icon and the only NFL head coach that Lee Roy Selmon ever knew, the late great John McKay."
McKay was the Buccaneers head coach for nine seasons (1976-1984) and compiled a record of 44-88-1. The Bucs started out 0-26 before winning the final two games of the franchise's second season in 1977. In year three McKay's Bucs went 5-11 before breaking out with a 10-6 record in 1979 a post-season run. Former Buccaneers general manager Rich McKay was honored to accept the induction into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor on behalf of his deceased father.
"My father loved the Tampa Bay area and relished the opportunity to help build the Buccaneers," Rich McKay said. "He would have been very pleased to see what has become of this franchise and would have been humbled by this tremendous honor. Our entire family is appreciative of the Buccaneers organization for recognizing my father's contributions and forever ensuring his place in the team's history."
In 1979 Tampa Bay won the NFC Central Division and beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs. The Bucs lost 9-0 at home to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game. For that season defensive end Lee Roy Selmon was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Last season the Bucs introduced the Ring of Honor with the franchise's lone Hall-of-Famer Selmon as the first player to be enshrined. On the same day, Tampa Bay honored the 1979 team and wore their 1976 uniforms. The Bucs defeated the Green Bay Packers 38-28 in quarterback Josh Freeman's first pro start in that game.
"First, I'd like to share my experience with the Ring of Honor," said Selmon. "The Ring of Honor is so special to me because it is created by your own for your own. This is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer recognition, and it is done by the people that know you the best, the people that have had a relationship with you over a long, long period of time. To me that sets it apart from any recognition that I've ever received in my entire life. To this day it is very hard to put into words about how it makes me feel. I can say it makes me feel very humble, very grateful, and those are the feelings I still have.
"We're here to celebrate coach McKay. I admire coach McKay, and loved him cause he is a great man. He had great vision, and he took on a big challenge. When I think about coach McKay and what it must have been like for he and his staff, and family to move from California. But I am so glad that he did because he did a marvelous job, and he made a big impact on this community, and made a big impact on so many people's lives. But I can only speak for myself and the impact he's had on my life, not only as a coach but as a person as well. He cared about us, and how we conducted ourselves as players. How we grew up as men off the field and as citizens in this great community."
Selmon said he was very grateful to McKay for drafting him out of Oklahoma and later in the draft for selecting his brother Dewey. They played six years together in the NFL. Lee Roy Selmon said McKay did a great job of guiding the players through the difficult stretch in the first two years before the team got their first win. By setting out improvement as the goal over wins and losses, McKay was able to keep the team together. Selmon felt that McKay was also a revolutionary coach because McKay was the first coach to make the 3-4 defense work at the NFL level.
"He was a man's coach. He came in and said I'm going to build it with young people and I'm going to build it with a 3-4 defense," said Selmon. "The old school in the NFL at that time said that could not happen. You can't run the 3-4 defense in the NFL. That didn't change his mind. We stuck with it, and we built a 3-4 defense. We ended up playing it pretty well. The next thing you know a whole lot of other teams are running that same defense, so I admire him for how he stuck to his guns and did not change what he thought would be successful in the NFL. His reputation speaks for itself. He molded us, and had us one game out of the Super Bowl in 1979. We reached the playoffs the earliest that any team had done it in the history of the NFL."
McKay led Tampa Bay to consecutive playoff berths in 1981 and 1982. The team won a division championship for the second time in franchise history in 1981, and won a wild card in 1982. Both seasons ended in playoff loses to the Dallas Cowboys. Rich McKay addressed his father's famous knack for using one-liners in the media.
"The wit - and the way he used it in my mind - was used as a defense mechanism," McKay said. "It was a mechanism that was used to distract you and take you from the heart of the target - which was the team that didn't play very well or the quarterback didn't play very well or whoever didn't play very well - and put it back on him and make the story the next day about him, and I think he did a very good job with it."
Rich McKay said that while his father was known for his quick wit with the media, he was not that way at home with his family. On Wednesday, he shared some insight into the private life of John McKay and what he was like as a father.
"The coach's number one trait was his intelligence," Rich McKay said of his father's home life. "He was a very smart guy. He was a very well read guy. He was up to date on politics. He had a position. He wasn't going to lean left. He was certainly going to lean right. He had his position and you were not allowed to discuss the other position. The wit - the one-liners - that wasn't really him. He was a reader and a quiet guy. ... The best thing that he was to us as kids is that he was inclusive. We were always included. That was really special and it wasn't because he was funny. He was a smart guy. He always had a good perspective."
Rich McKay became the team's general manager in 1994 and stayed with Tampa Bay until 2003. McKay helped lead the Buccaneers revival that culminated in a Super Bowl Championship for the 2002 season. McKay is currently the president of the Atlanta Falcons, and will be present for his father's induction into the Buccaneers Ring-of-Honor. For McKay, it was his first time inside the new One Buccaneer Place, which opened in August 2006. He said that it was not awkward being back in Tampa Bay and spending time with the Glazers even though they parted ways midway through the 2003 season.
"I think Bryan would echo this - I couldn't have left under better terms," McKay said. "The timing of it and what was necessary for me and what I felt the Bucs were and where they were going to go. For me, I'm happy to be back. I'm happy to see the facility. I remember negotiating it in the deal and I was always looking forward to seeing it built. I think Seattle, Atlanta where we are and I think here - are three of the best facilities in football. I'm looking forward to walking around it. It's just a little different [from the old One Buc Place]."
When asked how his father would react to the news that he was to be inducted into the Buccaneers Hall of Fame if he were still alive, McKay said that he would be proud, yet uncomfortable with all of the attention that came with such an honor and celebration. Selmon shared the same reaction and said he felt that John McKay should have been the first to go into the Ring of Honor.
"I was there when he did the College Football Hall of Fame," Rich McKay said. "He was humbly short and wanted to get off the stage. I don't think he was real comfortable. I think what he would be most proud of was that a community in which it was a struggle those first two years - and he was to a certain extent vilified - that he was able to get it turned and be a part of it. I think that is what he would most be proud of. That's the thing that I'm really proud of for him. I know at some points there were times he could have walked away and said, ‘This was a little harder than we thought and that this was going to take a little longer than we thought. I can always go back and coach somewhere else.' He wanted to finish the task. I think that he would take great pride in the fact that he did get the team turned around. I think he would really enjoy the fact that in Tampa his legacy is a positive one because he really had to work hard to get it to that position."
Prior to being hired by Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse, John McKay was the head coach at USC. He led the Trojans to four national championships before making the jump to the NFL. McKay died in 2001 at the age of 77.
"John's legacy will forever be felt in Tampa. He led this franchise from the very beginning and, along with Lee Roy Selmon, set the standard for what it means to be a Buccaneer," said Glazer. "John's wisdom for both football and life, combined with his wit, truly made him an individual anyone would be lucky to encounter."