Originally created 12/16/03

McKay hired as Falcons GM



FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Rich McKay officially joined the Atlanta Falcons as president and general manager Monday morning.

The former Tampa Bay GM finally acknowledged difficulties with coach Jon Gruden that led to McKay's departure from the Buccaneers Thursday.

McKay agreed with Gruden's recent comments that both men respected each other's success, but the situation deteriorated to the extent last month that McKay asked Tampa Bay executive vice president Joel Glazer to release him from his contract.

McKay realized he and Gruden could not co-exist.

"What it mainly came down to was Jon's vision of the football team and how to build it - that was different from mine," McKay said. "No question about it, and I really became uncomfortable as to how do I compromise this and how do I make it work and how do we build a consensus? Because in the cap era, to the extent that you do make mistakes, you will pay the piper."

McKay didn't criticize Gruden's approach to grading personnel, but he wanted Glazer, whose father Malcolm owns the Bucs, to understand the situation was irreconcilable.

"You know, he worked for five different teams," McKay said. "He saw it done many different ways, but he was the head coach of the Raiders. He was there for four years and he saw them win with a formula that involved probably different approaches than we had taken in Tampa."

Though McKay declined to discuss certain players and prospects in Tampa Bay, he didn't dispute problems that arose with Gruden when the Bucs told star receiver Keyshawn Johnson to quit reporting to work last month. Other issues that caused problems between McKay and Gruden were different opinions on whether the club should sign former Oakland defensive tackle Darrell Russell, who later joined the Washington Redskins.

"It's not appropriate for the GM to constantly be the 'no' guy," McKay said. "It's just not appropriate. You don't win that way. And to me I felt like I was becoming a problem that way, and the stuff written about the boisterous exchanges - I've never had a boisterous exchange with anybody in my life, so that's not accurate.

"What it mainly came down to was Jon's vision of the football team and how to build it - that was different from mine. No question about it, and I really became uncomfortable as to how do I compromise this and how do I make it work and how do we build a consensus?"

McKay, 44, filled a position that was open since Arthur Blank closed on his $545 million purchase of the Falcons on Feb. 13, 2002. He interviewed McKay the next day, but Blank never made him an offer because the Glazers insisted on compensation.

Though McKay eventually signed a new six-year contract with Tampa Bay worth $2.4 million annually, the last two seasons were awkward. The Glazers had fired coach Tony Dungy against McKay's wishes following the 2001 season and then chose not to consult their GM as they searched for a replacement.

Bill Parcells accepted but later declined Tampa Bay's offer, and the Glazers failed to land former San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci despite offering control over player personnel. McKay favored hiring Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, but the Glazers disagreed.

The Bucs finally got their man in Gruden, but not before agreeing to give Oakland owner Al Davis $8 million in cash and four high draft picks. Blank hired McKay with the Glazers' assurance that they would seek nothing in return.

Once McKay officially left the Bucs last week, the Glazers gave him and Blank four days to consummate a deal.

"The discussion I had with Joel Glazer - I told him that we were shooting for noon today," Blank said. "That was the understanding."

On his first day on the job in Atlanta, McKay already was making plans for his return Saturday when the Falcons (3-11) visit the Bucs (7-7).

"Ill be laying low, but I look forward to it," McKay said. "I'm not really comfortable with the timing of this, because I'd love to have seen it at the end of the season, but based on the way that the National Football League is and the way it works sometimes, this is the way it works out. And the bottom line is it gives me the chance to get to know the football team and to work with the personnel people and to sit down and that will be very useful."

McKay's first priority will be to hire a replacement for head coach Dan Reeves, who was fired Wednesday. The new GM also plans to meet soon with interim head coach Wade Phillips as the Falcons seek to rebuild a defense that's ranked last in the NFL for most of the season.

McKay's history with Tampa Bay dates to 1976, when his father, John, became the franchise's first head coach. McKay, whose GM tenure began in 1995, did not attend the Bucs' 16-3 win Sunday over the Houston Texans.

Injured Falcons running back Warrick Dunn, a first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 1997, praised McKay's work in Tampa Bay.

"You don't always need superstars," Dunn said. "You need guys that are going to come in and be dependable, so he does a good job with that."