The high road: Former GM Rich McKay says he left on great terms
One of the subplots in Wednesday's press conference was the surprise appearance of former general manager Rich McKay, who has kept his distance from the Bucs since leaving the organization abruptly in 2004 to join the Falcons.
Though the event was meant to highlight the impending honor of McKay's late father John, who will be inducted in the Ring of Honor in December, you couldn't ignore the fact that Rich McKay had a very unceremonious end to what was otherwise a memorable stint in Tampa Bay.
To that end, McKay was asked about the irony of his appearance given the way left for a division opponent after a much-publicized rift with former coach Jon Gruden. But based on his response, McKay might as well have said, "What rift?"
"I couldn’t have left under better terms," McKay said. "I felt very comfortable with the timing of it, what was necessary for me, where I thought the Bucs were going to go. For me, I’m happy to be back."
Give McKay credit for not dampening the mood by recalling bitter memories. But the truth is, the widely-held belief is that McKay left largely because of a deteriorating relationship with Gruden, with whom he had an intense power struggle. And the truth is, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to support those beliefs, including a few off-the-cuff remarks from Gruden over the years that showed his contempt for McKay.
McKay was maligned by many fans for leaving so suddenly, for joining a division rival and for leaving the club in an undesirable salary-cap situation. But McKay should be credited for building the foundation of what became a Super Bowl-winning club, including leading the 1995 draft that netted Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.
McKay handled the 800-pound gorilla with grace on Wednesday, opting not to go there and leaving the past in the past. For that, he should be congratulated. Similarly, co-chairman Bryan Glazer should be credited for addressing McKay on Wednesday as one of the Bucs' own.
The bottom line here is that Rich McKay, regardless of his faults or missteps, was good for the Bucs. And maybe the best news is that after all this time, he remains a friend of the franchise.