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  • Bill Chastain

TOYS AND GAMES: John McKay Could Have Done Standup

John McKay knew his X’s and O’s.

John McKay John McKay at USC

In 16 seasons at as the head coach at Southern Cal, his Trojan teams went 127-40-8 and won four national titles. So it’s little wonder why he’s in the College Football Hall of Fame. However, McKay’s wit surpassed his coaching abilities. Particularly while serving as the first head coach of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As a sportswriter always mining for any pearls a player or coach might say, I appreciate McKay’s humor even more when looking in the rear-view mirror. Particularly given the more stilted responses and tired cliches from today’s NFL coaches.

Thus, here’s a collection of my favorites delivered by McKay:

On the execution of the Bucs’ offense: “I think it’s a good idea.”

On why coaching an expansion team is a religious experience: “You do a lot of praying, but most of the time the answer is `No.’ ”

Putting his team’s standing into proper perspective: “Three or four plane crashes and we’re in the playoffs.”

After yet another Bucs loss: “We didn’t tackle well today, but we made up for it by not blocking”.

When a reporter pointed out how experienced his team was: “If you have everyone back from a team that lost 10 games, experience isn’t too important.”

On fan mail he received as the Bucs’ coach: “It was about three-to-one that I was not an SOB. But there were a lot of ones.”

Kickers were a particularly tasty target for McKay’s barbs. Take Bill Capece, whose missed field goals proved to be the difference in a 1983 loss to the Packers. After the game, McKay noted: “Capece is kaput”.

Another placekicker, Pete Rajecki, said McKay made him nervous, which he cited as a contributing factor to his poor performance in camp. McKay’s response: “I don’t think he’s got much of a future here, because I plan on going to all the games.”

Finally, away from the football field McKay could be equally brilliant. Many of the golfers who once played with McKay at Palma Ceia Country Club still tell the story of how he topped a drive on No. 10, a short par 4. He followed up by hitting a fairway wood to where it rested in the shadow of the pin. After seeing the result, he deadpanned: “You don’t belong out here if you can’t hit that shot.”

John McKay truly was an original.

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