Past Is Present In McKay's Thoughts
As a proud general manager stood in the Bucs locker room, a Super Bowl cap sitting atop a thinning scalp, all the memories came flooding back to Rich McKay. They came in orange waves. ``This is a special day because of all the people that helped make this happen,'' he said after the Bucs became NFL champions by trouncing the Raiders 48-21 in Sunday's Super Bowl. ``This is for [former personnel director] Jerry Angelo, [former coaches] Tony Dungy and Herm Edwards, and players like Martin Mayhew and Brad Culpepper. And it's so great for the Tampa Bay area and our fans, who have hung in through all the tough times.''
And there were many. When McKay became GM in 1995, he opened a dynamic new era by drafting Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. He hired Tony Dungy in 1996, and a year later Tampa Bay earned its first playoff berth since 1982. ``We always thought we could win a championship with a dominant defense,'' McKay said, ``but the problem was we hit a little wall offensively. When Jon Gruden came in, he improved the offense and re-energized our defense. Today, we did it the way you always want to win - with balance.''
Bucs ownership took turns saluting the franchise's chief football executive. ``Our draft over the years with Rich at the controls is the reason we're standing here with a Vince Lombardi Trophy,'' Executive Vice President Bryan Glazer said.
His brother, Joel, offered more plaudits, accompanied by a regret. ``It's been an unbelievable job by Rich McKay,'' he said. ``He's been such a very big part of our success. This is a man who has seen it all with this franchise, and he deserves a championship so much. I only wish his father was around to see us become Super Bowl champs.''
McKay's father, John, served as Tampa Bay's inaugural coach. The Bucs lost their first 26 games, with Rich McKay often serving as ball boy for all those disappointing days at Tampa Stadium. ``I will always have great memories as a kid of my dad winning a national championship at Southern Cal, but this feeling is incredible,'' McKay said. ``It's the greatest day of my professional career.''
McKay said he was most proud of turning around the reputation of a franchise that once served as nightly fodder for jokes by Johnny Carson. ``What I tried to do from the start was bring a soundness to an organization that was unsound,'' he said. ``I wanted to do things the right way, and I think if you ask around the league, you'll find that people think of us as a classy franchise. That means a lot to me.''