GM Respect, Brewskie Rants & The Glazer Suite

March 22nd, 2017 columnist Ira Kaufman types his sage wisdom every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award-winning podcasts pop every Tuesday and Thursday. Of note, Ira will be peppering Bucs officials with questions next week at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.


All these years later, he remains a polarizing figure for many Buc fans.

Was Rich McKay the architect of Tampa Bay’s glory days — or was he was an overrated executive who turned traitor?

McKay is back in the news this week because the Falcons just gave him a five-year extension as team president and CEO. That’s a nice birthday present for McKay, who turned 58 earlier this month and has been cashing lucrative paychecks from Arthur Blank since 2004.

It’s hard to believe 14 years have passed since McKay left the Bucs, a franchise that hired his father, John McKay, as the club’s inaugural head coach. Rich McKay served as a Bucs ball boy and played quarterback for Jesuit High before heading off to Princeton and a planned career in law.

As GM of the Bucs in 1995, his first two draft picks were Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. That’s the greatest daily double in history for a first-time NFL GM, and he soon added Pro Bowlers like Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber and Warrick Dunn to the mix in later years.

After the Glazers purchased the team in 1995, McKay proved instrumental in the joint effort to build Raymond James Stadium and keep the Bucs from moving to Baltimore.

But by the end of the 2001 season, which concluded with another dreary playoff loss at Philadelphia, McKay’s clout was compromised during a coaching search to replace Tony Dungy.

Blasted By Gruden

When the Glazers left him out of the mix and struck a deal with Bill Parcells, McKay figured he was toast. When Parcells pulled out at the last minute. McKay touted Marvin Lewis as Dungy’s successor, but the Glazers rebuffed that choice and closed a deal with Al Davis for Jon Gruden.

During the 2002 championship season, cracks were formed between Gruden and McKay’s personnel staff. By the following year, those cracks widened and McKay decided it was time to leave.

Did he return overtures from Blank while he was still employed by the Bucs? Yes he did, and for that, some Buc fans will never forgive him.

But I was there in Phoenix at the NFL’s spring meetings when Gruden publicly disparaged McKay, less than two months after hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Gruden openly suggested McKay spent too much time in his role as a member of the Competition Committee and not enough effort toward his GM responsibilities.

Other NFL executives walking by in the Arizona resort heard Gruden’s rant, which may have been fueled by several brewskies. It was a shocking display of disrespect — and it was inevitable that McKay would hear about the unseemly display.

The Glazers were forced to choose between McKay and a coach who had just won them a Super Bowl.

Inside The Glazer Suite

McKay predictably lost the power struggle, replaced by Bruce Allen in 2004. We know how that one played out.

Initially hired as president and GM of the Falcons, McKay no longer has a primary role in football operations. He has been the point man for the construction of a new stadium to replace the Georgia Dome and Blank just rewarded him for a job well done.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will open this summer and play host to the 2018 college football championship game, the 2019 Super Bowl and the 2020 men’s Final Four in college basketball.

Not a shabby trifecta.

McKay may live in Atlanta, but he has family in Tampa Bay and still has a keen interest in the Bucs. When I asked him about working for the Glazers, he didn’t sound bitter about his controversial departure.

“They give you the resources to win, they support your decisions and they never stop asking questions,” McKay said. “I never had fear they would second-guess what we were doing, but they always want to understand the logic behind it.

“All you have to do is sit in the suite with them for one game and you’ll realize how much they want to win, but I never thought they were meddlesome. Challenging? Inquisitive? Yes, they are. Malcolm empowered his sons to run the business, but when there were big decisions to be made, he didn’t hesitate to weigh in.”

McKay’s tenure in Atlanta has been marred by one notable hiccup. In 2015, he was suspended from serving as Competition Committee chairman after the Falcons were found guilty of piping crowd noise into the Georgia Dome.

Although the league determined McKay was unaware of the violation, Blank allowed McKay to take the fall. So he played the good soldier and was reinstated five months later.

McKay had his faults as GM of the Bucs, but let’s not hear any further nonsense about crediting the Sapp and Brooks draft picks to former head coach Sam Wyche.

It was McKay who pulled the trigger for a pair of Hall of Famers whose names now hang in the Ring of Honor.

Maybe some day, McKay will join them.

17 Responses to “GM Respect, Brewskie Rants & The Glazer Suite”

  1. Miko Says:

    Totally agree! McKay should never have left this team. Gruden wanted total control. I always hope that McKay finds his way back home. Belongs in Tampa as a Buccaneer 🙂

  2. tmaxcon Says:

    Together with the overrated one dimensional coach dungy the duo fielded some of the most EMBARRASSING offenses the NFL has ever witnessed. Both dungy and McKay get far too much credit for a team that did not accomplish anything. Dungy and his career losing playoff record has no business in the hall of fame. Sam whyce built Dungy’s defense and Gruden finished the job.

  3. James Walker Says:

    Gruden will go in the ring before McKay.

  4. Cobraboy Says:

    Ira, you left out the part about his Atlanta QB being involved in dogfighting, and how abysmal the Falcons were for a while under his leadership.

    He was stipped of football operational duties and relegated to building the stadium. An important gig, no doubt, but Blank got him away from the football side of the business.

  5. Rod Munch Says:

    The results tell the story. Once Gruden wrestled control of the team away from McKay what did he do – how many playoff games did he win? He cut Lynch, he didn’t resign Sapp and he used the money to sign Charlie Garner, and over 30 oft injured running back, and a much of mid-30s offensive linemen. This was compounded by bad draft after bad draft. Gruden wanted to sign Andre Rison who couldn’t break a 5.0/40 and because McKay said no, that started the ball rolling. Gruden was awful with personell, and the draft, and was a mediocre offensive coach. The only thing Gruden did right while here was get out of the way and let Monte coach the defense.

  6. iamabuc Says:

    ” Dungy and his career losing playoff record has no business in the hall of fame. Sam whyce built Dungy’s defense and Gruden finished the job.” Well said, tmaxcom…..I’ve been saying the same thing for years, and I got pissed off when he (Dungy) got selected to the HOF. There were guys more deserving that year.

  7. mike Says:

    Dungy is in the HOF because he is a very good coach and a HOF person and is in the media. His resume is not as good as gruden’s or many other coaches who aren’t in the hall. If TD could have put together a JV offense, we win three superBowls. By the time Gruden got here, we had 2 years with an open window and he got the job done. By 2004, we were in cap hell, thanks to mckay extending anyone with a pulse

  8. Walktheplank Says:

    Ask the players who was the best coach in bucs history and hof dungy will always be 1st. So far all the hof bucs have highly acknowledged tony, and barely thanked gruden.

  9. tmaxcon Says:

    Hall of fame is for the best of the best that nice guy crap is meaningless BS. Hall of fame is a less credible place with unqualified members

  10. tmaxcon Says:

    Dungy is third best coach and that’s being generous given the fact he failed to produce an offense and underachieving in playoffs.

    Results matter the legend of Dungy far surpassed he’s actual accomplishments long ago.

    McKay more division titles


  11. jthv Says:

    That damned Jason Licht lands 3 players on’s “All-under-25 team” in Winston, Evans and Marpet. One has to believe Kwon is close to making this team as well.

    Let’s fire his ass!!

  12. Joseph Mamma Says:

    McKay drafted two hall of famers and he wanted to hire Marvin Lewis. That’s about a wash in my mind.

  13. Rod Munch Says:

    LOL! Gruden being a better coach than Dungy is one of the dumbest things you’ll ever hear someone say. Gruden came in and was given one task – run the offense – that Glazers told him not to touch the defense, to let Monte run the defense – the same defense that Dungy and Monte built. So Gruden had one job, get some production out of the offense. With Alstott and Keyshawn, and a good Brad Johnson with an average offensive line, what did Gruden do? He hovered around 19th in the offensive rankings and the team won the Super Bowl with defense – the offense could have not scored a single point in that game and the Bucs still win it with the defense – and if the refs don’t give the Raiders a BS TD where the guy was out of bounds and Tupa isn’t being Tupa, it’s a blowout – IF the offense never scored.

    Gruden knew that he won with Dungy’s team which is why he wanted to dismantle it to PROVE that he, Gruden, was a better coach than Dungy. It’s why Gruden refused to use Alstott even though when he did he was still running everyone over – instead he wanted Mike Pittman,when he wasn’t beating women, to beat the back of the center since he constantly just ran into him. You had Gruden sending Keyshawn home when they still had a chance at the playoffs. You had Gruden throwing a massive hissy fit after McKay refused to sign Andre Rison and basically going to the Glazers to get McKay fired. You had Gruden then telling the Glazers he wanted to run the team his way and then going out and hiring Bruce Allen from the Raiders to be his puppet. Gruden then proceeded to dismantle the team that just won a SB in order to PROVE to everyone that HE could win, it wasn’t Dungy’s team, it was his brilliance – which of course has lead to the Bucs not winning a playoff game since that SB.

    Gruden isn’t a good coach, he’s a selfish me first guy who, when combined with one of the best DC’s in the history of the game, can get a team to 9-7 when he has the #1 defense in the NFL. Those that rewrite history, that don’t know what Dungy did, you’re either too young to know what Dungy did or you’ve been blinded by your fanboydom. In 2002 that Bucs team was going to win a SB no matter who the coach was, it could have been Steve Spurrier or even, God forbid, Greg Schiano – so long as Monte was left alone and the offense wasn’t turning over the ball 4 times a game, the Bucs were going to win the SB. That was one of the great all-time defense teams in the history of the league, and there’s plenty of evidence to support saying it’s THE best defensive team in the history of the league. So long as someone didn’t mess with the defense, which the Glazers wouldn’t allow, the team was going to win the SB, the defense was just that good.

  14. tmaxcon Says:

    Rod Munch

    Gruden was given one task at that was to clean up the mess Dungy made and win a damn super bowl. He accomplished his goal and Dungy failed in tampa. He and McKay did nothing but waste a great defense

  15. tmaxcon Says:

    Until Koetter hoists the lombardi with jameis a couple of times there is no debate who the greatest coach in bucs history is. It is the ONLY one who got the job done and that is Gruden the rest ALL FAILED!

  16. BigMacAttack Says:

    Good stuff Ira.

  17. yrbndr Says:

    This will be continued to be debated forever in Buc lore but tmaxcon is right in that with all the good coach Dungy brought it was his loyalty to a fault with insisting the offense stay so conservative wasted the peak years of the epic defense. It took Gruden’s energy and revamping the roster and offense to bring the trophy here. Gruden may have his warts but he did retool the roster to win that one year while unshackling the offense. Dungy as great as he is would not have won the Lombardi trophy here. His lack of offensive ingenuity cost the Bucs at least one super bowl with that memorable defense! I am so thankful for what Dungy brought us and this is not a slam on him. His offense and his unbridled loyalty to coaches cost us another trophy. Indianapolis was perfect for him as the offense was set and he didn’t meddle with it.