Rich McKay, here speaking with head trainer Todd Toriscelli, has dealt extensively with player safety issues during his time on the competition committee
(contributed by Rich McKay, General Manager)
In 1994 Commissioner Paul Tagliabue called upon me to serve on the National Football League Competition Committee. Although I really didn't know much about the Committee at that time, I understood the Committee's charter to be the preservation and improvement of the League's high standards for the game of football.
Since I began working in the football business, I have found that a considerable amount of time is spent on issues not directly related to the game itself. So when presented with the opportunity to serve on a committee truly dedicated to the good of the game, I was not only honored but eager to get started.
The Committee is usually comprised of seven (7) persons consisting of two (2) owners, two (2) coaches and three (3) general managers. The Committee is co-chaired by two (2) individuals, usually a head coach and a general manager. Additionally, the Coaches Sub-Committee is represented by its chairman; however this individual does not have a vote on Competition Committee issues.
At this time, I serve as Committee Co-Chairman along with Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings. Current Committee members include Mike Brown (Owner, Cincinnati Bengals), Jerry Jones (Owner, Dallas Cowboys), Jeff Fisher (Head Coach, Tennessee Titans), Bob Ferguson (General Manager, Arizona Cardinals) and Bill Polian (President, Indianapolis Colts). Our own Tony Dungy presently presides as Chairman of the Coaches Sub-Committee.
The benefit of being on the Committee is derived from the interaction with distinguished, experienced members of our League in discussing various aspects of the game. I have been privileged to serve on the Committee with the likes of Don Shula, George Young, Marty Schottenheimer and Mike Holmgren, not to mention those on the Committee today. My involvement has been a valuable learning experience for me and one that has enhanced my understanding of and appreciation for our game.
The Competition Committee focuses primarily on playing rules, player safety and personnel rules for the NFL. Each winter we begin our off-season with meetings in Indianapolis when clubs convene for the annual NFL Combine.
We usually meet for a few days in Indianapolis with input from a sub-committee of coaches and, additionally, contribution from the National Football League Players Association. The objective of our Indianapolis meetings is to set an agenda for subsequent Committee meetings to be held in early March, leading up to the spring NFL Owners' Meeting where actual proposals are voted upon.
At the conclusion of each year, as the Committee Co-Chairman, I normally prepare a Competition Committee Survey for all clubs in which I solicit areas that clubs would like the Committee to investigate for potential rule changes. The survey also solicits comments about prior year rule changes, player safety concerns and personnel issues. The survey results serve as the basis for our initial agenda for Committee meetings as well as our eventual presentation for the Owners' Meeting.
Competition Committee meetings usually consist of round table discussions concerning each individual issue at hand, extensive videotape review involving players safety and rule enforcement and, then, a vote on various proposals that may be presented during the off-season. It's a very tedious process and one in which you seek to build a consensus concerning the Committee's views on the outstanding issues.
The Committee has had some busy years, with the most active probably being 1995. That year, we dealt with numerous player safety issues as well as several issues meant to improve offensive production. The initial meetings in 1995 spanned the entire allotment of two (2) weeks, as we required considerable input from coaches not only on the Committee but also around the League. We wanted to ensure that any proposed rule changes could in fact be enforced and, further, would be effective in accomplishing the goals set by the Committee.
The most controversial rule discussed within the Competition Committee during my tenure unquestionably has been "Instant Replay". Every year since I've been a member, we have voted against Instant Replay until its re-institution in a revised format for the 1999 season.
The Instant Replay rule presently in place is a product of the extensive deliberation process described above. It took us a number of years of discussion between coaches, the Committee and others within the League to craft a rule that could deal with the various concerns for pace of play, length of game and validity of the replay system itself and, at the same time, create a rule that could correct the obvious wrong on a 'pivotal' play in the game. There was a lot of give-and-take in the actual preparation of the Instant Replay system we have today. Even with this give and take, it was a very difficult rule to get passed through the membership (with such passage requiring a three-quarter approval by the Member Clubs).
Into the future, the Committee will continue to focus on the issues described above with a continued emphasis on player safety. I wish I could say that Instant Replay is behind us; however, it is a rule that we have passed on a year-to-year basis and, therefore, will continue to be an annual topic of debate for the Competition Committee and the membership in general. Hopefully, it is a rule that we can have a long-term vote on this year to decide whether it will be in our game on a semi-permanent basis as opposed to one under consideration each year.
In closing, I would like to mention that every year the Committee spends at least one (1) day discussing the merits of all the suggestions submitted by fans and/or media through the League Office. Accordingly, to those of you who feel like you can contribute to the game, be assured that the National Football League and its Competition Committee welcome your input.