Interview: Like his father, Rich McKay knows football

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LOS ANGELES, April 13, 2014 — The Atlanta Falcons CEO and President Rich McKay was born to be a football guy. His father is the late John McKay, a man whose coaching talents were outmatched only by his sense of humor. When asked about his team’s execution after a particularly poorly played game, the senior McKay replied, “I’m in favor of it.” What was no joke is that the senior McKay took a 0-26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers expansion team to the brink of a Super Bowl appearance in only four years.

Rich has his dad’s humor and football acumen. Rich McKay served as the Buccaneers General Manager when the team won its only Super Bowl after the 2002 season. When McKay took over, Tampa Bay was near the tail end of 15 straight losing seasons, the first 14 with double-digit losses. McKay hired coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, as well as standout players Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Ronde Barber, and Warren Sapp.

The Atlanta Falcons had gone four decades without consecutive winning seasons, but that changed with McKay as team president. With Mike Smith as coach, Atlanta in 2008 became a perennial Super Bowl contender with five straight winning seasons, two of them 13-win seasons.

His presence is also felt at the league level. McKay played an instrumental role in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement that preserved labor peace for a decade. McKay also co-chairs the powerful NFL Competition Committee with St. Louis Rams Coach Jeff Fisher.

Whenever there are rule changes to the game, McKay is the focus of attention. Next to Commissioner Roger Goodell, nobody is under more scrutiny in keeping the game of professional football safe while maintaining its entertainment level.

At the most recent NFL league meetings, an interview with Rich McKay took place. While McKay was very friendly about doing interviews, he began this interview with a joke that was not really a joke. “Don’t ask me anything about rules.” He was holding a press conference to discuss the changes, and did not want to repeat himself fifty million times.

When asked who his football heroes were, McKay started with the obvious and appropriate choice. His dad comes first and foremost, and McKay still refers to his late father as, “the coach.”

His next football hero was the late Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi. After all, the entire purpose of playing in the NFL is to win the Lombardi Trophy. In a quarterback-driven league, even Lombardi needed a leader. Packers signal-caller Bart Starr was McKay’s next hero.

Choosing his non-football heroes is where he differentiated himself from every other person alive on this planet. The first name he mentioned was radio shock jock Howard Stern. Smiling, McKay said, “got to have Howard.” Then came President Ronald Reagan. The NFL meetings were taking place in Orlando, which may or may not have been a reason why McKay’s next choice was the late Walt Disney. McKay then flashed his humor again and asked, “Now how is that for a list?”

When asked how he personally wanted to be remembered, he replied, “I would not want to be remembered at all.” McKay will most likely not get his wish. Sons of legends with Super Bowl trophies tend to be remembered.

McKay can be very genial and lighthearted, but he made it clear that success in the world of football is acquired the same way as success in other professions, “[If you] work hard, you will be successful.” Who could possibly disagree with a man influenced by John McKay, Howard Stern, Ronald Reagan, and Walt Disney?

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