General Manager Rich McKay (left) has helped build Malcolm Glazer's Buccaneers into a powerhouse
It's the week of the NFL's Annual Meeting and two weeks before the league draft. As general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in this critical time, Rich McKay finds his planner to be pretty much full. People that have recently found their way onto McKay's schedule, and vice versa, include all 31 league owners, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Buccaneer Head Coach Tony Dungy, Minnesota Head Coach Dennis Green…and you.
That last, surprising addition to the schedule comes courtesy of Buccaneers.com and the ongoing 'Your Turn' interview series. After previously sitting down with Dungy and new Offensive Coordinator Les Steckel, Buccaneers.com captured a moment of McKay's time on Friday to get his replies to questions submitted directly by Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans.
The 'Your Turn' series takes a week to gather questions from Buccaneers.com users, then sits down with the featured guest to get in-depth answers to 20 of them. McKay, the primary architect of a Buccaneer team that has risen into prime Super Bowl contention, answered a series of questions that, with the draft just around the corner, are uppermost on fans' minds right now. Though he steered clear of revealing exactly who Tampa Bay would select on the weekend of April 15-16, he did offer thoughtful responses on such issues as whether the team was considering an effort to trade up and draft Florida State WR Peter Warrick, how large of a role a player's character plays in draft-day decisions and how close the team tries to stick to a predetermined draft plan.
Other questions answered by McKay included…
…what is his position on realignment?
"Good question," said McKay. "The natural inclination is to say 'Why don't we have state rivalries; why don't we make geographical divisions.' I'm not sure that's the way the league leans, though, because this is the National Football League, and the word 'national' should be emphasized, because we're a league that has national attention and national telecasts. So it's hard to just create regional games and regional divisions. I think that there will be an element of regional aspects to the divisions, but I don't think they'll be totally regional-driven. I think also you won't see a lot of teams switching from the AFC to the NFC and vice versa. I think there will be minimal changes. Accordingly, I think it will be hard for us to get into the AFC, where Miami and, I think, Jacksonville will remain. I think we will get some regional games, because I think we will get some division opponents such as Atlanta, maybe New Orleans, maybe Carolina. I don't look for us, though, to go to the AFC based on what I've heard."
…how has he been influenced by his father, former Buccaneers Head Coach John McKay?
"I've asked him for advice many times," said Rich McKay. "How has he influenced me? Very simply this: his approach to football was pretty conservative...play defense, play ball-control, try to focus on being a defensive, aggressive, tough-minded football team. I think that's kind of carried over to my view in hiring Tony and going the way we've gone. We've tried to emphasize defense, tried to emphasize conservative football as opposed to the wide-open brand of football that others do. As far as seeking advice, I seek advice from him all the time, talk to him all the time about things. He's the ultimate dad, though. In fact, I talked to Wade Phillips the other day, whose father, Bum was a coach in the league…exactly the same experience as I have. That is, you ask his advice, you ask him how he would do something, he gives you his answer. You don't agree with it, you give him your version, and he immediately says 'I think you're exactly right and I support you one hundred percent.' So it's kind of the 'good dad' theory…he'll give you support when you need it."
…should a team be constructed primarily through the draft or free agency?
"It's not even an issue – the draft is the way to build a team," said McKay. "The problem with free agency is very simple: it's too expensive. If you're going to try to build your team through free agency, you're going to end up with a bottom half of the roster that's not very good. You might be able to get a top half of the roster. You might be able to go out and buy five, six starters, even, and load up your salary cap, but the bottom half of your roster is not going to be very good. Where are you going to see that? Two places: you're going to see it in special teams and you're going to see it in depth. So, if you have an injury or two, you're going to be in trouble. And, the guys running down on your kick teams are not going to get it done. So, to us, we've always said build with the draft. Use free agency as a complement; don't use free agency to make your football team."
…and much more!
Buccaneers.com is just getting started with Your Turn. A regular feature, Your Turn will periodically feature a new, prominent guest, and will ask the users to supply the questions. The next guest on Your Turn will be Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin. Users may begin submitting questions for Kiffin immediately using the Your Turn console on the home page.