Rich McKay Deserves To Be In The Ring Of Honor


*Opinion Editorial

So, I’m just looking at who’s in the Bucs’ Ring of Honor and thinking about who should be next.

Ronde Barber and Simeon Rice? Absolutely. It would help both of their cases for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They’re slam dunks for the Ring of Honor, and should get in whenever the Bucs make those decisions over the next few months.

But there are no limits on how many people can get into the Ring of Honor in a given year. It could be those two, but I think there’s a third guy that deserves to be in. Maybe this year or maybe they wait until next year, just to spread things out.

But I’m talking about Rich McKay. I truly believe he deserves the honor. Again, Barber and Rice are automatic choices. But let’s not forget McKay.

Has anyone ever done more to stabilize a joke of a franchise than McKay? Maybe Tony Dungy. But no one beyond that.

McKay became general manager in 1994, when the Bucs were the laughingstock of the NFL.  The Bucs were about to go through a major transition after the death of owner Hugh Culverhouse,and a desperate search for a new home and a new owner.

McKay made his first noise in 1995. While working with Sam Wyche, who wasn’t all that stable, McKay drafted Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks with his first two picks (with plenty of help from personnel gurus Jerry Angelo and Tim Ruskell). McKay is the only general manager in history to have his first two picks make the Hall of Fame. He later drafted guys like Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott, but he did so much more than that. McKay was the calmest and most well-balanced person the Bucs ever had in a position of power.

TAMPA, FL: Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In 1996, McKay was placed in charge of the decision to replace Sam Wyche with a new coach. He did his due diligence and went out and picked Dungy, who was somewhat of a no-name. But the Glazer family, who had just bought the team, agreed with the move.

In hindsight, Dungy and McKay stabilized a franchise that had never been stable before.  Dungy, who is in the Ring of Honor, deserves much of the credit. But fans tend to forget about McKay, who was a jack of all trades. In those days, no one had final power. McKay was a consensus builder. If McKay and Dungy  (and Angelo and Ruskell) couldn’t agree on a player, they simply moved on to the next player.

In the early days of the Glazer regime, there was a ton of talk about a new stadium in Tampa Bay. If not there, places like Cleveland, Sacramento, Orlando and others were mentioned and the Glazers gladly would have made the move if there was something better out there. The Glazers went into hiding in those days, and put McKay out there as the frontman – something that went totally beyond his general manager duties. He was the one who faced the cameras every time there was talk about a move.

Hillsborough County taxpayers deserve most of the credit for getting Raymond James Stadium built, but McKay deserves just as much credit. While he was trying to build a solid team for the first time in a long time, he also helped get a – TREMENDOUS – stadium built.

TAMPA, FL: Photo by Steve Ribbe/Staff Tribune from Eagle 8

The Bucs were consistently good through the Dungy/McKay years. But they couldn’t quite get over the hump with Dungy – something the Glazers desperately wanted.

The Glazers stepped over McKay’s head – as he wanted to hire Marvin Lewis to replace Dungy – in 2002 and instead traded for coach Jon Gruden. McKay and Gruden clashed immediately. They won the Super Bowl in their only full year together. People said Gruden won the Super Bowl with Dungy’s team. There’s no doubt that there’s truth to that, but you can also argue Gruden won the Super Bowl with McKay’s team. Give Gruden his credit because he ACTUALLY did win the Super Bowl. But McKay built the roster.

McKay left the Bucs in December of 2003. Undoubtedly a mistake, but the Glazers sided with Gruden over McKay. There was a ton of bitterness as McKay left to become general manager of the Atlanta Falcons. He later would become team president and CEO for the Falcons, and has done quite well for himself.

However, the breakup with the Bucs was bitter on both sides. McKay came back to the sparkling new One Buc Place, he helped build, when his father was introduced into the Bucs Ring of Honor in 2010.

At the time, McKay said and did all the right things and so did the Glazers. But both parties have a tremendous amount of pride. And I’m not sure either party can really swallow that pride.

That said, both sides need to get over it. McKay was a big part of the best stretch of football the Bucs ever had.

He deserves to be in The Ring of Honor. Now.