NFL Nation: John McKay

HOUSTON -- Right now the Texans' Gary Kubiak has a 61-62 career record as a head coach. He is in his eighth season with Houston, having been hired in 2006.

Kubiak
Team owner Bob McNair has shown patience with Kubiak, who's had two 6-10 seasons -- his first year with the team and his fifth. Until this year, when the Texans embarked on a franchise-record losing streak that currently sits at nine, Kubiak had made steady improvement after the most recent 6-10 season.

This kind of patience doesn't exist anymore. It's been nearly two decades since the last example.

Thanks to Michael Bonzagni of ESPN Stats & Info for poring through the list of longest-tenured coaches for me. Of the 87 men who have at least eight years of experience as an NFL head coach, 24 have a career record under .500 -- including Kubiak.

Among those with at least eight years experience and a losing record, Kubiak is one of four who spent that whole time with one team. The other three all returned for a ninth year.

John McKay, whose Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14 in his first season, only coached the Bucs to three winning seasons. He had a losing record in his eighth year and went 6-10 in 1984, his final year coaching.

Bart Starr began coaching the Green Bay Packers in 1975 and went 4-10. He only coached two winning teams, one in the strike-shortened 1982 season. That was Starr's eighth season with the Packers and his team made the playoffs. After an 8-8 record in his ninth, he was fired.

Wayne Fontes had four winning seasons with the Detroit Lions from 1988-96. One came in 1995 when the Lions went 10-6 and made the playoffs but lost. Fontes led the Lions to the NFC Championship game in 1991, but his subpar seasons meant he was constantly on the hot seat.

Time running short for Greg Schiano?

October, 13, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- They cheered, ever so slightly, as running back Doug Martin and wide receiver Vincent Jackson walked off the field at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. They did the same as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy walked into the tunnel to the locker room.

And, then, there was coach Greg Schiano.

The venom directed at him by a large group of fans in the southeast corner of the stadium was loud. The language was so vicious, the only way to summarize it was that the crowd was telling Schiano he needs to go back to being a college coach.

[+] EnlargeGreg Schiano
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsGreg Schiano's Buccaneers have lost 10 of their past 11 games going back to last season.
"I didn't hear anything," Schiano said a few moments after his team lost, 31-20, to the Philadelphia Eagles.

It's a good thing Schiano has thick skin because patience is running thing among the fans. And it's time to start wondering whether ownership's patience is wearing thin as well.

The Bucs have lost their first five games of this season and 10 of 11 dating back to last year. There were no real signs of progress against the Eagles. In fact, you could make a case that the Bucs' revamped defensive secondary regressed. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon played well enough to lead the Bucs to a 17-14 halftime lead, but didn't do much of anything positive in the second half.

Glennon wasn't alone. Instead of blowing a late lead as they've done several times already this season, the Bucs took a shortcut and simply got blown out.

"We need to get it figured out quickly," Schiano said.

That's a huge understatement. On top of the losing, the Bucs seem to be in disarray in every way. Former franchise quarterback Josh Freeman was run out of town after a public feud with the team. According to a USA Today report, the NFL Players Association pointed to Schiano as the culprit for leaking a story that Freeman was in the league's drug program.

Then, there's the whole MRSA situation. Three players (guard Carl Nicks, kicker Lawrence Tynes and cornerback Johnthan Banks) have been diagnosed with MRSA since the preseason started. Nicks recovered enough to play in two games before he was diagnosed with a recurrence last week.

Has there ever been a crazier time for this franchise? The expansion days of John McKay come to mind. So do the Sam Wyche days and the final days of Raheem Morris.

But I'll make the case that what's happening now deserves more of a big top than anything in franchise history. Unlike McKay, Wyche and Morris, Schiano has plenty of talent with which to work. (The Bucs have eight guys who have been to the Pro Bowl.)

Unlike McKay, Wyche and Morris, circus acts weren't expected from Schiano. The guy came from Rutgers, where he had a reputation as a builder and disciplinarian.

Yet, even with all that discipline, the Bucs seem to be running amok. How does Schiano reverse the fortunes of this team?

"You stand to your convictions without being stubborn and you move forward," Schiano said. "We've got a good group of people in that locker room and coaches and they're going to stick together and we're going to get it turned. As long as you know that, you're going to do it."

The part about sticking to your convictions makes me think of that scene in "Hoosiers" when Gene Hackman's character, coach Norman Dale, says "My team is on the court" as a way of sending a message to his team. That stuff works in movies.

Real life can be another story. I'm not sure that continuing to play cornerback Darrelle Revis in zone coverage is going to lead to a turnaround for the Bucs.

The next three weeks or so are critical for Schiano and the Bucs. They play division rivals Atlanta and Carolina and travel to Seattle. An 0-8 start is looking possible.

Again, I have no idea if ownership is growing as impatient as the fans. But I do know that the Glazer family, which owns the team, does not like to be embarrassed.

The Bucs have been an embarrassment recently. If that doesn't change, the Glazers also might have some unkind words for Schiano.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 30, 2011
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:

High-powered offenses: Assuming the Saints play their starters, and they say they will, their game with the Panthers may look like a mismatch at first glance. But, look again. The Panthers are a much better team than they were earlier in the year. They’ve won four of their past five games and they’ve scored 164 points in that span. Since Week 12, only the Saints (189 points) and the Patriots (171) have scored more points. Carolina also has won three straight road games after snapping a 12-game road losing streak.

[+] EnlargeMatt Ryan
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMatt Ryan is 73 yards away from setting the Atlanta franchise record for passing yards in a season.
Bright spot: The Falcons can take a bit of good news out of Monday night’s loss to New Orleans. They’re very good at bouncing back from a loss. The Falcons have not lost back-to-back games since 2009.

Erasing Jeff George: Like the Saints, the Falcons also are saying they’ll play their starters. Let’s hope that’s true and let’s hope Matt Ryan at least plays long enough to throw for 73 yards. If he does, he’ll set the franchise record for passing yards in a season. The record is 4,143 yards and it was set by Jeff George in 1995. No team should have George at the top of its record book for 16 years.

Last dance? I don’t think the Bucs are literally playing for coach Raheem Morris’ job on Sunday in Atlanta. I suspect ownership already has made a decision and one game isn’t going to change it. There’s been some speculation Morris could stay if he replaces himself as defensive coordinator and makes a change at offensive coordinator. It’s possible, but I think it’s highly unlikely. The Bucs have crumbled during a nine-game slide. If this were Morris’ first or second year, he might stick. But this is his third year and, by that time, you should be seeing progress -- not major regression -- from a youth movement.

Stats are for losers: Let’s put Tampa Bay’s nine-game losing streak in perspective. It’s the longest active losing streak in the NFL. It’s Tampa Bay’s longest losing streak since losing 11 consecutive games between the 2008 and ’09 seasons. The last time the Bucs lost 10 straight in a single season was 1977, the franchise’s second season, when the Bucs lost their first 12 games. If the Bucs lose to the Falcons, Morris will join John McKay and Leeman Bennett as the only coaches in franchise history to have more than one 12-loss season.

Final Word: NFC South

December, 2, 2011
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 13:

[+] EnlargeLee Roy Selmon
Manny Rubio/US PresswireThe Bucs will wear throwback uniforms Sunday, hoping for results like the teams led by Lee Roy Selmon used to get.
Creamsicle time: The Buccaneers will be wearing their throwback uniforms against Carolina. Yeah, the orange and white uniforms are back. Might not be a bad thing, because at least in the days of Lee Roy Selmon and John McKay the Bucs actually were capable of playing very good defense. Tampa Bay has a (slightly) better record than Carolina, and the Bucs are playing at home. But I have a tough time seeing a Tampa Bay win, unless the defense suddenly starts making some tackles. Since Week 5, the Bucs have allowed an average of 30.6 points per game. Only the Colts (31.3) have allowed more. The Bucs also are allowing a league-worst 6.5 yards per play in that span.

Breaking in the rookie: After losing Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart to injuries, the Texans are expected to start rookie quarterback T.J. Yates against the Falcons. Good luck with that. Since 2002, the Falcons are 11-1 when facing a rookie quarterback. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the only team with a better record against rookie quarterbacks in that span is the Steelers (14-1).

Happy (almost) anniversary: Atlanta’s defense is coming up on what would be a very big milestone. The Falcons have not allowed an individual running back to rush for 100 yards in 14 straight games. The last time it happened was when Carolina’s Jonathan Stewart went over 100 yards on Dec. 12, 2010.

A tip for the Detroit defense: Hey, any defense going up against the Saints can use all the help it can get. If it’s third down, you might want to put some tight coverage on New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham. He’s caught 13 passes on third downs this season. All 13 have been turned into first downs.

Shades of 2009: I’ve said several times that the Saints of this year are starting to remind me of the Saints of 2009, who went on to win the Super Bowl. Here’s the latest example. A victory against the Lions would put the Saints at 6-0 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for only the second time in franchise history. The only other time that happened was 2009.

Remembering Lee Roy Selmon

September, 4, 2011
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Lee Roy SelmonMalcolm Emmons/US PresswireLee Roy Selmon was the first Tampa Bay Buccaneer elected to the Hall of Fame.
TAMPA, Fla. -- I remember precisely where I was the moment Lee Roy Selmon was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

I was standing outside a hotel ballroom in Miami in 1995. It was the day before the Super Bowl. A few minutes after the privileged voters inside the room had voted Selmon in, the door swung open. Out walked Tom McEwen, the legendary former sports editor of The Tampa Tribune.

"He’s in," McEwen said.

For the rest of that afternoon, evening, the media brunch and all during the Super Bowl, I kept seeing writers, league officials, former players and even Ferdie "The Fight Doctor" Pacheco coming up to McEwen and offering congratulations.

The response was the same every time.

[+] EnlargeLee Roy Selmon
Malcolm Emmons/US PresswireDefensive end Lee Roy Selmon was the first draft pick of the expansion Buccaneers and the top overall pick in 1976.
"Why are you congratulating me?" McEwen said. "Lee Roy’s the one who got into the Hall of Fame. He’s the one who played the game."

That’s the first story I thought of when I heard Selmon had been hospitalized Friday after suffering a stroke. It kind of sums up the story of the first Buccaneer elected to the Hall of Fame and the first member of the team’s Ring of Honor.

He died Sunday at the age of 56.

A humble, exceedingly gracious man, Selmon never was one of those people who would go around seeking attention or adoration. He simply earned it by his play on the field and the way he carried himself off it -- during and long after his career ended in 1984.

McEwen, a powerful man, might have twisted some arms to get the votes. But Selmon was the one who did the grunt work. He was the one who beat double-teams and chased down quarterbacks every Sunday. He was the one who endured the 0-26 run the Bucs went on as a 1976 expansion team.

He was the one who made the Bucs seem like miracle workers (long before the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars entered the league under a different set of rules in 1995) when they reached the NFC Championship Game in the 1979 season.

Yeah, the 1979 team had some guys like Doug Williams and Jimmie Giles who made some big plays on offense. But John McKay’s first winning team won with defense and Selmon was the center of that.

Selmon still was the center of the team in subsequent years when Williams left and things went bad. He left the game after the 1984 season because of a bad back, but he remained the icon of all icons in Tampa Bay.

The Bucs were bad for the next decade, but fans and the team could always point to Selmon as a point of pride. He stuck around town and stayed active in the community. He eventually joined the staff at the University of South Florida and helped the college start its football program.

Selmon remained an ambassador for the Bucs as the late 1990s arrived and things got better. Even if you weren’t in Tampa Bay for Selmon’s playing days, you knew who he was. There’s a Tampa expressway named after him and I have to drive by one of the restaurants that bears his name to get just about anywhere.

I’ll think of him every time I go by that restaurant and I’ll have one lasting memory of the man. Last November, Selmon was a guest speaker at a luncheon to honor McEwen at Saint Leo University.

At one point, Selmon said he wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it hadn’t been for McEwen. No doubt, McEwen played a role. But, like McEwen said, Lee Roy was the one who got into the Hall of Fame and he was the one to play the game.

He played it with uncommon grace and dignity and he lived his life that same way. That’s why the legend of Lee Roy Selmon is going to keep lingering in Tampa Bay.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Of all the hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of moments Jimmie Giles could have picked as his favorite with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this one’s definitely not the cleanest. It also may surprise you a bit at first.

“Wrestling in the mud with (teammate) David Lewis,’’ Giles said Wednesday as the Bucs announced he will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at a Dec. 4 home game with Carolina.

[+] EnlargeJimmie Giles
Darryl Norenberg/US PresswireJimmie Giles compiled 4,300 receiving yards and 34 touchdowns in nine seasons in Tampa.
The wrestling session happened at the end of the 1979 season, a crucial one for the Buccaneers. Needing a win to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Bucs beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 3-0, in a torrential downpour.

The team that began as an expansion franchise in 1976 and started 0-26 would go on to stun everyone and reach the NFC Championship Game. It was a high-water mark for a franchise that soon would fall back to its losing ways. Giles was with the Bucs from 1978 until 1986 and, by that point, the Bucs were mired in something well below mediocrity.

They spent the latter half of the 1980s and the early and middle parts of the 1990s as a national joke. Actually, there were all sorts of jokes in those days.

“The sign on the ticket window was “Sorry, we’re open,’’ cracked long-time Tampa Bay radio personality Jack Harris, who was one of the guest speakers before Giles took the microphone.

But one of the best things the Bucs have done since starting the Ring of Honor two years ago is that they’ve embraced their past. It would be easy to try to forget it all and skip the whole era before coach Tony Dungy came along and changed the climate and the uniforms switched from orange and white to pewter and red.

That also would be a mistake because there were some good times and good players from those early years. Co-chairman Bryan Glazer made it a point to say the team’s present and future wouldn’t be possible without its past. He’s right.

Lee Roy Selmon and John McKay, the first two inductees, created some magical moments for a young franchise. So did Giles, who played tight end and went to four Pro Bowls while with the Bucs.

“It was Jimmie Giles and some others who helped turn this team around,’’ Harris said. “It was a great era.’’

But a short era. Sooner or later, the Bucs will open the floodgates for their Ring of Honor. That will start when Derrick Brooks goes in, which will clear the way for guys like Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber, Dungy and Jon Gruden.

It’s not quite time for that yet. Although there was a long dry spell between the 1979 team and the teams of the late 1990s, there are some other guys from those eras who deserve the honor. Guys like Ricky Bell, James Wilder, Paul Gruber and Hardy Nickerson should go in before the Bucs get to their more-recent past.

Then, there’s Doug Williams. He was the quarterback of the 1979 team and, by all rights, he should be going into the Ring of Honor before or with Giles. He’s not. That’s mostly Williams’ fault. He did some great things as a player and left Tampa Bay in a bitter salary dispute with former owner Hugh Culverhouse. Williams carried a grudge before finally returning to work in the team’s personnel department.

Things were good for a few years, but Williams left after the 2010 draft. Williams and general manager Mark Dominik weren’t getting along. Since his departure, Williams has taken some public shots at the Bucs. He’s not going to get into the Ring of Honor as long as that’s going on.

As Giles talked, I think there might have been a subtle message to Williams. Giles was talking about how the Bucs of long ago went through some tough times and weren’t beloved. Giles said that things change with time and that no one should succumb to bitterness.

That’s an excellent point. The Bucs are going out of their way to reach out to their former players. Let the water flow under the bridge.

The Bucs and their former players need to stay above the bridge -- above the pettiness.

Remembering Jimmie Giles

July, 13, 2011
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TAMPA, Fla. -- I’m getting ready to head out to One Buccaneer Place for the news conference to formally announce Jimmie Giles into the team’s Ring of Honor.

The Bucs did a first-class job of making the announcement of John McKay last year and Lee Roy Selmon the year before that. I’m sure they’ll do right by Giles, but I’m more curious to see this announcement than I was the first two.

That’s largely because I knew just about everything about Selmon and McKay. Selmon was Tampa Bay’s first draft pick, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a staple in the community and I sometimes eat at his restaurants. McKay was Tampa Bay’s colorful first coach and was famous before that as an outstanding college coach at Southern California. He stayed in Tampa Bay after he was done coaching and sometimes stopped by to watch practice back in the mid-1990s when his son, Rich, was general manager and I was covering the Bucs on a daily basis.

[+] EnlargeJimmie Giles
AP Photo/Sal VederJimmie Giles was on the 1979 Buccaneers team that went to the NFC Championship Game.
But Giles is a little different. I don’t know nearly as much about him. I remember him a little as a player, but I arrived in the Tampa Bay area for college just as Giles was wrapping up his time with the Bucs. Growing up in Pennsylvania, not many Tampa Bay games were televised locally unless the Bucs happened to be playing the Giants, Eagles or Jets.

Giles also spent time with the Oilers, Lions and Eagles, but the best part of his career came with Tampa Bay. He was with the Bucs from 1978 until 1986 and made four Pro Bowls during that time. He was part of the 1979 team that made an unlikely run to the NFC Championship Game.

In 13 NFL seasons, Giles had 350 catches for 5,084 yards and 41 touchdowns. Those aren’t huge numbers for a tight end. But you have to remember Giles was playing in an era when tight ends primarily were used as blockers. Giles did have some big moments as a receiver and none was bigger than Oct. 20, 1985, against the Miami Dolphins. In that game, Giles caught four touchdown passes.

Buccaneers teammate Gerald Carter once was quoted as saying that Giles could have been "one of the best all-time tight ends, if they'd used him more".

But the Bucs used Giles enough that he was one of their best players from an early history that wasn’t always pretty. He did enough to earn a spot in the Ring of Honor and a lasting legacy.

I’ll be back later with more on Giles.
What key event significantly changed the fortunes of the Buccaneers – for better or worse? Give us your take and we’ll give you our definitive moment on May 25.

Coming into the NFL as an expansion team in 1976, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a ridiculous number of games in very quick fashion. There was a brief flash after coach John McKay rode quarterback Doug Williams and defensive end Lee Roy Selmon all the way to the NFC Championship Game in the 1979 season. A few years later, Williams was gone after a salary dispute and the Bucs were maybe even worse than before.

Following Williams’ departure, they went through more than a decade of being the NFL’s biggest embarrassment. Former owner Hugh Culverhouse led the team through one bumbling step after another.

Things didn’t start to change until the Glazer family bought the team, Tony Dungy was hired as coach and Raymond James Stadium opened. Even then, the Bucs were good, but not quite good enough. That led to Dungy’s demise and the arrival of coach Jon Gruden, who won a Super Bowl in his first season. The Bucs haven’t won big since, but they seem to be a franchise on the rise with coach Raheem Morris and quarterback Josh Freeman.

If you vote Other, give us your suggestion in the comments area below.
TAMPA, Fla. -- I ran into Falcons team president Rich McKay in the Atlanta locker room after Sunday’s game.

His father, John McKay was inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor at halftime of the game. Rich spoke on behalf of the McKay family and about 20 members of the 1976 expansion team stood behind him.

But Rich McKay told me about another event the Bucs put on Saturday night that didn’t get publicized. The Bucs brought the McKay family (Rich was Tampa Bay’s general manager in the 1990s until 2003) and the players from the 1976 team together for a dinner at One Buccaneer Place on Saturday night. Rich McKay said the event was filled with stories about his father and the team’s early years and the closeness the initial players shared still was evident.

But there were some other guests at the event. The Bucs also had their current players spend some time socializing with the 1976 team members.

Best Buccaneers Team Ever: 2002

June, 28, 2010
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Notable players: LB Derrick Brooks, DT Warren Sapp, S John Lynch, CB Ronde Barber, QB Brad Johnson, WR Keyshawn Johnson, FB Mike Alstott.

[+] EnlargeJon Gruden
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe Bucs sent two first-round picks and two second-round picks, plus $8 million, to the Raiders for Jon Gruden.
Analysis: In the first year of the NFC South’s existence, the Glazer family, which owns the Buccaneers, pulled one of the boldest moves in sports history. The Glazers fired coach Tony Dungy, who was beloved by players and fans and the only coach in franchise history to have any extended success.

They thought they had Bill Parcells lined up as the replacement, but Parcells backed out of the deal. That led to desperate measures as the Glazers overstepped general manager Rich McKay, who wanted to hire Marvin Lewis, and worked out a rare trade for a coach. They shipped four draft picks and $8 million in cash to Oakland for Jon Gruden.

Gruden came in and did what Dungy couldn’t -- he won a Super Bowl. Still relying heavily on a defense built by Dungy and coordinator Monte Kiffin, Gruden was able to infuse a little bit of offense into the Buccaneers.

With Brad Johnson at quarterback and Brooks, Lynch, Sapp and Barber all in their prime on defense, the Bucs were pretty much dominant as they went 12-4 and became the first NFC South champions.

In the irony of all ironies, Gruden wound up facing the Raiders, then coached by Bill Callahan, in the Super Bowl. Although the Raiders had the league’s No. 1 offense, Gruden outdid his former team and the Buccaneers won 48-21.

Most impressive win: A 26-14 victory in Week 3 in which the Bucs intercepted St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner four times.

Research room: Tampa Bay’s defense held opposing quarterbacks to a 48.4 passer rating for the season.

Honorable mention

1997: This was not the best Tampa Bay team ever, but it might have been the most important in franchise history. In Dungy’s second season, the Bucs went 10-6 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1982. That raised expectations and changed the entire football climate in Tampa Bay.

1979: The Bucs were formed in 1976 under some harsh expansion rules and lost their first 26 games. But with Doug Williams and Lee Roy Selmon leading the way, John McKay took this team to the NFC Championship Game in only its fourth season.

1999: This might have been the Tampa Bay defense at its absolute best. With rookie quarterback Shaun King, the Bucs still managed to go 11-5. The Bucs lost the NFC Championship Game, 11-6, to St. Louis in a game that involved a controversial non-catch by receiver Bert Emanuel.

Buccaneers embrace McKay legacy

June, 16, 2010
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TAMPA, Fla. -- As ceremonial press conferences go, what I just saw was as good as it gets.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially announced former coach John McKay will be the next inductee into the team’s Ring of Honor. For a franchise that has a history of not always doing things the right way, this one was spectacularly graceful.

[+] EnlargeJohn McKay
George Rose/Getty ImagesJohn McKay coached the Bucs from 1976 to 1984.
Some of that might have been because of the subject matter and the people involved. Start with Lee Roy Selmon, the first member of the Ring of Honor.

“I really believe [McKay] should have been in last year,’’ Selmon said.

Buccaneer history might not always be pretty, but Selmon is Mr. Buccaneer and he and McKay, who passed away in 2001, are the only two people who could have brought together the collection of folks who showed up at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday.

At the end of his coaching tenure, Tampa Bay fans were screaming, “Throw McKay in Tampa Bay’’, but it became obvious Wednesday the man built a pretty impressive bridge across areas where there were some choppy waters.

That brings us to the next speaker. It was Rich McKay, the coach’s son. Rich was the general manager of the Buccaneers in the 1990s and, along with coach Tony Dungy, turned the franchise from hapless to respectable and helped bring a new stadium.

A few years later, Rich McKay lost a power struggle with coach Jon Gruden. He ended up going to the Atlanta Falcons where he’s now the team president.

Prior to Wednesday, Rich McKay never had been in the new One Buccaneer Place. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a palace under any circumstances and light years from the team’s initial facility. With current general manager Mark Dominik standing against a wall, co-chairman Bryan Glazer introduced Rich McKay as “our friend."

Yes, the president of the Atlanta Falcons is a friend of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rich McKay walked onto stage carrying a fedora Tampa Bay hat like his dad used to wear, and talked all about the early years of the Buccaneers. There was no hint at bitterness about his own departure, just glowing terms about his father, who Rich repeatedly referred to as “the coach."

Rich McKay, who came into Tampa’s Jesuit High School as a senior and grabbed the starting quarterback job away from would-have-been legend Jeff Bender, talked about the Bucs winning their first game on Dec. 11, 1977, and how a crowd showed up at the airport. He talked extensively about the 1979 season in which the Buccaneers went to the NFC Championship Game.

With former John McKay assistant Wayne Fontes, McKay’s daughter Terri and legendary Tampa restaurant owner and family friend Malio Iavarone sitting in the front row, Rich McKay said that season might have been the most gratifying of any for his father, who built a dynasty at the University of Southern California.

“I can assure you he was as proud or prouder of the ’79 team than any national championship team,’’ Rich McKay said.

The Bucs officially will induct John McKay into the Ring of Honor Dec. 5. They’ll wear their 1976 throwback uniforms for that game. It will be against the Atlanta Falcons. A perfect fit for the McKay family and the McKay legacy.
Tony DungyJamie Squire/AllsportTony Dungy's influence on the Buccaneers can still be felt today -- almost nine years after he coached his final game for Tampa Bay.
In the end, I went with my gut. My heart and head, too. In the end, I went with Tony Dungy.

Yes, I’m going to go ahead and declare Dungy the greatest coach in NFC South history. Let me make it clear, I came real close to going with New Orleans’ Sean Payton. I agonized over this one for days and I don’t think going with either one would have been a wrong decision.

But I know going with Dungy is right. I looked at win-loss records, Super Bowl titles and all that stuff. But I’m not really a numbers’ guy. I like to look at the big picture and have some flexibility outside the lines. That’s why, even though I gave some thought to guys like Jon Gruden, John Fox, Dan Reeves, Jim Mora, John McKay and Ray Perkins (well, not really on Perkins), I knew right away they belonged a little further down my list.

This was a two-man race between Dungy and Payton. In a lot of ways, they’re the same guy. Cover your eyes toward times, dates and places and Dungy and Payton did basically the same thing.

They came into franchises that were beyond destitute. They built winning teams, shaped character, pulled communities together and completely changed the way their franchises were viewed from up close and afar.

When it came right down to it, I guess the main reason I’m giving Dungy the slightest of edges over Payton might not even be fair. It’s mainly because Payton is still coaching and Dungy’s legacy in Tampa Bay already has plenty of angle and distance. In fact, there probably is way too much distance and angle between where the Bucs are at right now and where they were under Dungy.

Payton
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesBy the end of his career, Sean Payton will probably top this list.
Payton probably can put himself as the undisputed winner of this argument with another Super Bowl title or even a couple more playoff years. But, for the moment at least, I’m going with Dungy.

Yeah, Dungy never won a Super Bowl until he got to Indianapolis (and that factored into my thought process). Dungy did set the table for Gruden, but he did so much more than that. He came into a franchise that hadn’t had a winning season in a generation, was beyond dysfunctional and was on the verge of moving to Cleveland, Sacramento, Orlando or anywhere that would give the Bucs a new stadium.

The Bucs stayed in Tampa Bay. They started winning games with Dungy. They got a sparkling new stadium built and, for the first time in franchise history, made it fashionable for people to go to games on Sundays.

That trend has lasted and the Bucs have sold out every game since the opening of Raymond James Stadium. That streak probably is going to come to an end this season, unless Raheem Morris suddenly becomes the second coming of Dungy.

The Saints and New Orleans are as high as a franchise can be right now and fans should be grateful they’re watching history in the making. That’s why I’m going with Dungy because I see fans in Tampa who remember how it used to be. They remember how it was when Dungy coached the Bucs. They don’t even remember what it was like before him, even though the team is playing like that again.

Beyond Dungy and Payton, my list of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFC South goes like this:

3. John Fox, Carolina Panthers. Yep, I did it. I picked Fox over a guy who won a Super Bowl (Gruden). If I wanted a guy to come in and draw up one offensive play, it would be Gruden. If I wanted a guy to come in and provide consistent excellence for a franchise, well, let's just say I already have three guys ahead of him. I’ll explain what I view as the downside of Gruden in a minute, but, first, let’s talk about the virtues of Fox.

He’s the only head coach who has been with a single NFC South team for the entire existence of the NFC South. If Fox could have put together back-to-back winning seasons once or twice, he might even be higher on my list. But Fox has kept the Panthers at least respectable for the entire time he’s been in Carolina and that’s a pretty big accomplishment these days. Fox cleaned up George Seifert’s 1-15 mess and had Carolina in a Super Bowl two seasons later. When Fox is at the top of his game, he’s as good as any coach in the league.

4. Jim Mora, New Orleans Saints. I’m doing it again. I’m looking at the big picture. Remember what I said about Dungy and Payton about how they changed the climate of their franchises? Well, Mora did the same thing in New Orleans in the 1980s. He came out of the United States Football League and made the Saints respectable -- something they never had been before.

5. Jon Gruden, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All right, Gruden won a Super Bowl and you can never take that away from him. He put Tampa Bay over the top after Dungy couldn’t. He won a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson as his quarterback and no true superstars on offense. I’m not going to say Dungy or defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin deserve the credit for that Super Bowl. Gruden deserves the credit. But what did Gruden really do beyond that? He was supposed to be an offensive guru, but he never could find a franchise quarterback or anyone to truly build his offense around. General manager Bruce Allen made some questionable personnel moves, but Gruden was heavily involved in each one. In the big picture, Gruden deserves credit for the Bucs winning the Super Bowl. He also deserves credit for them being where they are right now.

6. Dan Reeves, Atlanta Falcons. There was a part of me that wanted to put Reeves ahead of Gruden for this simple fact: He reached a Super Bowl with Chris Chandler as his quarterback. What Reeves and the Falcons did in the 1998 season came before the official birth of the NFC South, but they won 14 games and were spectacular. If Reeves could have followed up that season with something better than the 5-11 and 4-12 years that followed, he might have been much higher on this list.
Tony DungyJamie Squire/AllsportTony Dungy's influence on the Buccaneers can still be felt today -- almost nine years after he coached his final game for Tampa Bay.
In the end, I went with my gut. My heart and head, too. In the end, I went with Tony Dungy.

Yes, I’m going to go ahead and declare Dungy the greatest coach in NFC South history. (For background purposes, here's how all this started and some of the ground rules we laid out. And here are some of your opinions on the topic.)

Let me make it clear, I came real close to going with New Orleans’ Sean Payton. I agonized over this one for days and I don’t think going with either one would have been a wrong decision.

But I know going with Dungy is right. I looked at win-loss records, Super Bowl titles and all that stuff. But I’m not really a numbers’ guy. I like to look at the big picture and have some flexibility outside the lines. That’s why, even though I gave some thought to guys like Jon Gruden, John Fox, Dan Reeves, Jim Mora, John McKay and Ray Perkins (well, not really on Perkins), I knew right away they belonged a little further down my list.

This was a two-man race between Dungy and Payton. In a lot of ways, they’re the same guy. Cover your eyes toward times, dates and places and Dungy and Payton did basically the same thing.

They came into franchises that were beyond destitute. They built winning teams, shaped character, pulled communities together and completely changed the way their franchises were viewed from up close and afar.

When it came right down to it, I guess the main reason I’m giving Dungy the slightest of edges over Payton might not even be fair. It’s mainly because Payton is still coaching and Dungy’s legacy in Tampa Bay already has plenty of angle and distance. In fact, there probably is way too much distance and angle between where the Bucs are at right now and where they were under Dungy.

Payton
Doug Benc/Getty ImagesBy the end of his career, Sean Payton will probably top this list.
Payton probably can put himself as the undisputed winner of this argument with another Super Bowl title or even a couple more playoff years. But, for the moment at least, I’m going with Dungy.

Yeah, Dungy never won a Super Bowl until he got to Indianapolis (and that factored into my thought process). Dungy did set the table for Gruden, but he did so much more than that. He came into a franchise that hadn’t had a winning season in a generation, was beyond dysfunctional and was on the verge of moving to Cleveland, Sacramento, Orlando or anywhere that would give the Bucs a new stadium.

The Bucs stayed in Tampa Bay. They started winning games with Dungy. They got a sparkling new stadium built and, for the first time in franchise history, made it fashionable for people to go to games on Sundays.

That trend has lasted and the Bucs have sold out every game since the opening of Raymond James Stadium. That streak probably is going to come to an end this season, unless Raheem Morris suddenly becomes the second coming of Dungy.

The Saints and New Orleans are as high as a franchise can be right now and fans should be grateful they’re watching history in the making. That’s why I’m going with Dungy because I see fans in Tampa who remember how it used to be. They remember how it was when Dungy coached the Bucs. They don’t even remember what it was like before him, even though the team is playing like that again.

Beyond Dungy and Payton, my list of the greatest coaches in the history of the NFC South goes like this:

3. John Fox, Carolina Panthers. Yep, I did it. I picked Fox over a guy who won a Super Bowl (Gruden). If I wanted a guy to come in and draw up one offensive play, it would be Gruden. If I wanted a guy to come in and provide consistent excellence for a franchise, well, let's just say I already have three guys ahead of him. I’ll explain what I view as the downside of Gruden in a minute, but, first, let’s talk about the virtues of Fox.

He’s the only head coach who has been with a single NFC South team for the entire existence of the NFC South. If Fox could have put together back-to-back winning seasons once or twice, he might even be higher on my list. But Fox has kept the Panthers at least respectable for the entire time he’s been in Carolina and that’s a pretty big accomplishment these days. Fox cleaned up George Seifert’s 1-15 mess and had Carolina in a Super Bowl two seasons later. When Fox is at the top of his game, he’s as good as any coach in the league.

4. Jim Mora, New Orleans Saints. I’m doing it again. I’m looking at the big picture. Remember what I said about Dungy and Payton about how they changed the climate of their franchises? Well, Mora did the same thing in New Orleans in the 1980s. He came out of the United States Football League and made the Saints respectable -- something they never had been before.

5. Jon Gruden, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All right, Gruden won a Super Bowl and you can never take that away from him. He put Tampa Bay over the top after Dungy couldn’t. He won a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson as his quarterback and no true superstars on offense. I’m not going to say Dungy or defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin deserve the credit for that Super Bowl. Gruden deserves the credit. But what did Gruden really do beyond that? He was supposed to be an offensive guru, but he never could find a franchise quarterback or anyone to truly build his offense around. General manager Bruce Allen made some questionable personnel moves, but Gruden was heavily involved in each one. In the big picture, Gruden deserves credit for the Bucs winning the Super Bowl. He also deserves credit for them being where they are right now.

6. Dan Reeves, Atlanta Falcons. There was a part of me that wanted to put Reeves ahead of Gruden for this simple fact: He reached a Super Bowl with Chris Chandler as his quarterback. What Reeves and the Falcons did in the 1998 season came before the official birth of the NFC South, but they won 14 games and were spectacular. If Reeves could have followed up that season with something better than the 5-11 and 4-12 years that followed, he might have been much higher on this list.
 
  Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
  The Buccaneers plan to bring rookie quarterback Josh Freeman along slowly.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rolled out their history Friday morning. Hopefully, they were taking notes and thinking of Josh Freeman.

He's their future and maybe even their present. Keep that in mind as we recap the show the Bucs put on in their auditorium at the sparkling palace that is One Buccaneer Place.

It was short and sweet -- a press conference to announce that the Bucs would wear their orange jerseys from 1976 as part of a throwback promotion for the Nov. 8 game against Green Bay. They had current players Antonio Bryant, Gaines Adams, Barrett Ruud and Earnest Graham walk out on stage as models. They also showed a video of the early years of the Bucs. Understandably, it was very brief.

But there was one shining moment in the video. It came as No. 12 flashed by a couple of times.

That's Doug Williams, the only true franchise quarterback in Bucs history. Let's remember that because it relates directly to Freeman.

A lot of people prefer to forget the early Bucs years, when the team lost its first 26 games and was headquartered at a bunker right off an airport runway. So why bring out the orange and white -- even as a ceremonial gesture -- when the pewter has worked pretty well the last dozen years?

"The answer is simple,'' Bucs co-chairman Ed Glazer said. "This is our history. This is where it all started.''

Truly, it started in 1978 when the Bucs drafted Williams out of Grambling in the first round. Former owner Hugh Culverhouse told Williams he'd have to start off as a backup and earn his job as he handed the quarterback a contract that was below standards even at the time.

Then, coach John McKay turned around and handed Williams the starting job. Throwing Williams to the wolves worked. The Bucs came darn close to getting to the Super Bowl the next season.

 
  Takashi Makita/NFL/Getty Images
  Quarterback Doug Williams started immediately for the Buccaneers. The franchise might do well to follow the same blueprint with Josh Freeman.

That's the lesson. You don't have to coddle a franchise quarterback.

Even though the Bucs have talked a lot about bringing Freeman along slowly, maybe that's not a formula for success. Stick with the history here. Coddling didn't work the other two times the Bucs thought they were getting a franchise quarterback.

Say what you want about Vinny Testaverde and Trent Dilfer. They both did some good things later in their careers. But neither turned out to be the savior the Bucs thought they were getting when the quarterbacks were drafted.

In 1987, Ray Perkins drafted Testaverde with the top overall pick and elected to sit him behind Steve DeBerg. In 1994, Sam Wyche selected Dilfer and followed a plan to play him behind Craig Erickson. What did the Bucs get from going with DeBerg and Erickson when it was common knowledge that they were only there for the short term?

Only a bunch of losses. It's nice to think long term and believe that a quarterback can gain more by sitting safely on the bench. But I'm not sure Testaverde and Dilfer benefitted from that and I know the Bucs didn't.

That's all part of what Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik need to decide as they ponder the plan for Freeman over the next few weeks. They've got Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich as alternatives.

Both have some experience. Both have some skills. But is McCown any different from Erickson? Is Leftwich any different than DeBerg?

No, they all are -- and were -- just "guys."

Morris and Dominik just invested $26 million (maybe as much as $36 million) in Freeman because they believe he's more than a "guy." Freeman was looking awfully good by the end of June workouts and he stuck around One Buc Place for much of the time his teammates were off.

"I'm going to try to give them every reason I can to start me," Freeman said as he checked into camp Friday morning.

That is going to be up to Freeman as the Bucs begin practice Saturday morning. Although the decision to draft Freeman was booed by Bucs' fans in April, there are some reasons to believe he can succeed -- and do so quickly.

He has the arm and the size and he seems to have the charisma of a franchise quarterback. He may be a little unpolished after coming out of Kansas State a year early. But there are general managers and coaches around the league who will tell you they thought more highly of Freeman than they did of Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez, the first two quarterbacks taken in this year's draft.

Morris, who spent a year coaching at Kansas State, and Dominik fall firmly into that category. They traded up a few spots to grab Freeman at No. 18 because they believed someone else would beat them to the punch.

So why turn around and sit him?

Especially when you've got a good offensive line, solid running backs in Derrick Ward and Graham, and targets like Bryant and Kellen Winslow. Perkins and Wyche didn't have luxuries like that when they sat Testaverde and Dilfer. Heck, McKay didn't have an offense like that (although the Bucs were pretty good on defense) when he tossed Williams out there and it worked.

If Freeman shows much of anything in camp and the preseason, just start him.

There's a school of thought among some fans that the Bucs will open with McCown or Leftwich. Maybe they go about halfway through the season and then hand it off to Freeman. It makes plenty of sense because they play an Oct. 25 game in London against the Patriots. After that, they have a bye week followed by the unfreezing of the Creamsicles against Green Bay.

You just might see Freeman making his starting debut in orange and white. Then again, why not Week 1 against Dallas in pewter and red?

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