You can not think of the early days of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers without a vivid image of head coach John McKay owning the sideline. He was the OG. His leadership, his knowledge, and most importantly, his sense of humor steered the Buccaneer ship through some turbulent waters those early years. Today, July 5th would have been McKay’s 96th birthday. His coaching style, sense of humor, player relationships, all put him right up there as a man for the ages. Although McKay retired from coaching in 1984 and passed away in June of 2001, his coaching philosophy set the tone for the Buccaneers those early years.
After the 0-26 start, then the ascension to the top in ’79 with the worst-to-first squad, there were quite a few ups and downs for those early Buccaneer teams. There was a lot about McKay’s coaching style that would not fly in today professional sports landscape. McKay was noted for using the press to criticize players. Once, when fans booed quarterback Steve Spurrier during the expansion season, McKay would call them idiots. He would also apply the term idiot to reporters and opposing players who criticized the team. But for a young man who loved nothing more on this planet than the Bucs, he just seemed like a protective parent.
John McKay would also use his sense of humor with a sledgehammer-like aloofness. Once when asked about his team’s execution, McKay would answer “I’m in favor of it.” He would also drop a beauty like; “we didn’t tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking.” These were some dark times here in Tampa Bay. Elated to have professional football, but staring at an 0-26 start, the quips that coach McKay could drop were gold. Once, when speaking about emotion, he would state that emotion is overrated in football. My wife Corky is emotional as hell but can’t play football worth a damn. His game was good.
So, we continue marching toward the 2019 season. A new coaching staff, a new philosophy. In some ways, a new head coach that might remind some of the Buccaneers first. Camp starts three weeks from today, then the season shortly thereafter. But for July 5th, let us remember the OG, John McKay. In his orange windbreaker, his signature Buccaneer hat. His salty yet sweet demeanor. A coach for the ages and a piece of our Buccaneers past.