"The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have flourished under the leadership of general manager Rich McKay," said executive vice president Bryan Glazer. "We are extremely excited about the unlimited possibilities that exist for the future of our franchise with Rich McKay as our general manager and Jon Gruden as our head coach."
He might have flirted with the idea of leaving Tampa Bay, but McKay, who has been with the team since 1992 and their general manager since 1995, made it no secret that he wanted to stay with the Buccaneers all along.
"I consider this, and I hate to say this, kind of my franchise," said McKay. "I consider it my life in this franchise, so the commitment for two, four or six years, I'm willing to make it. The conversations we had last night that made me feel comfortable was an explanation by both sides by me and by them exactly what we were thinking because there was a lot written and a lot said and a discussion on how we were going to go forward. Basically the decisions were we are going to go forward just the way we had gone in the past. We were going to operate the same. My duties, our responsibilities, everything remains the same. We didn't change anything. I'm pretty comfortable with that. I think it worked pretty well."
By retaining McKay, the Bucs will now focus on filling the rest of their coaching staff, free agency and the draft.
McKay is regarded as one of the league's best capalogists, and they will certainly need his help in trimming the $9.4 million off of the team's salary cap since the Buccaneers are currently exceeding the cap by that amount.
The Glazers relationship with McKay was apparently damaged when the team's owners rejected McKay's plan to hire former Baltimore and now Washington defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis on Feb. 8.
After the Lewis debacle, the Glazers reportedly carried on the search for a new head coach without McKay, but the Bucs general manager insisted he had never offered Lewis the job and indicated he was never completely out of the picture in terms of the search for a coach.
"I think even those involved in the situation, including Marvin, would say that he was never offered the job," said McKay. "I never offered him the job. I certainly thought it was his job to have, pending meeting the owners, sitting down with the owners. I was surprised that they decided that they wanted to keep looking, no question. It wasn't something where I felt like I didn't have the authority."
During Oakland ‘s press conference to announce the trade between the Raiders and Buccaneers on Feb. 18, Oakland owner Al Davis said he had been informed that McKay had been fired. McKay obviously begged to differ on Wednesday.
"I wasn't very happy about that," said McKay. "He (Al Davis) was entitled to his opinion, but I don't think he was right."
McKay originally contacted Davis about acquiring Gruden during the week of Super Bowl XXXVI, but he felt Oakland's owner was not going to realistically work with the Buccaneers to make the deal work out. According to McKay, that was why he refocused the search for a coach on Lewis.
"It always takes in a deal two to tango," said McKay. "So, was I willing to make a deal to try to get Jon? Absolutely. What that deal was going to look like we were still trying to negotiate towards. When you negotiate something, you get a feel as to whether you think you can make this deal. I never got the impression in dealing with Mr. Davis that we were going to make that deal. The compensation wasn't that far away, but I just never got the impression that the deal was going to get finalized, and that's why I felt like, and told the Glazers, 'you know what, we may come to him, but we've got to move on'. Time is starting to run against us. Let's move on and start going down the rest of the list, which was six or seven guys that needed to be interviewed and we needed to get going."
Shortly after the Glazers undermined McKay's decision to hire Lewis, Tampa Bay's general manager interviewed with Atlanta for their vacant general manager position. Reports surfaced that suggested the Falcons had to compensate the Buccaneers with draft picks in exchange for his services, but McKay insisted he only interviewed for the job so he could secure other employment if San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci was hired as Tampa Bay's new head coach and general manager.
"Well, what happened in that process is one of the coaches that was going to potentially be hired here was going to require that he get a title that was going to have initials that may title has traditionally had," said McKay. "So, I said to the Glazers I thought in preparation for that one thing I would like to do is at least, because there was one job that was being talked about as being open, I would like the opportunity to go talk to them, and they said that was fine, which I did."
In the end, the Glazers landed the coach they wanted, and also kept McKay, who they feel is the best general manager in the league. At the end of the day, the two sides were willing to settle whatever differences they may have had and moved forward.
"Well, if in six years we are going to have one disagreement over a football decision based on other owners in the league, I'm pretty happy," said McKay.
Although McKay has never liked the idea of parting ways with draft picks, he feels a No.1 and No. 2 draft pick in 2002, a No. 1 pick in 2003 and a No. 2 draft pick in 2004 are a small price to pay for a coach like Gruden.
Jon Gruden's our football coach," said McKay. "Am I concerned (about losing draft picks)? No, I'm not concerned. We took a short-term hit, because the media was swirling. I think we recovered very well."
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