By Bill Foley
John McKay might not be the best football coach in history, but he was the best interview.
McKay had a great college coaching career before taking over the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976. At USC, McKay posted 127-40-8 record over 16 seasons. He led the Trojans to eight Rose Bowls, winning five. His teams won four national titles.
His best work, though, was in the postgame interviews.
This is how he explained his team’s blocking strategy: “Hold when you are home and don’t hold when you are on the road.”
Here’s some more gems from McKay:
“We didn’t tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking.”
“I told my team it doesn’t matter … there are 750 million people in China who don’t even know this game was played. The next day, a guy called me from China and asked, ‘What happened, Coach?’”
“It does not take a rocket scientist to coach a professional football team, but, of course, I was one of the few who happened to be a rocket scientist.”
When he took over in Tampa, McKay knew he wasn’t going to pile up the wins right away.
“We’ve broken down the expansion teams and they’ve averaged winning 2.7 games their first year, which to me is rather difficult,” he said. “I figured out the 2, but the .7 has got me wondering what the hell is going on.”
Tampa Bay went 0-14 in 1976 and 2-12 in 1977. After Tampa ended its 26-game losing streak, McKay said, “Three or four plane crashes and we’re in the playoffs.”
McKay told the press that he had a “five-year plan” to get the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl.
How did he come up with five years?
“I had a five year contract,” he said. “If I had a three-year contract, I would have had a three-year plan. So that’s how smart I was.”
That’s why you never give a head coach a contract longer than four years in the NFL.
Yet, here we are four decades after McKay’s brilliant words, and the Raiders gave Jon Gruden a 10-year contract worth about $100 million. That, by the way, is a guaranteed contract.
So, Gruden can take his sweet time in dismantling and rebuilding the Raiders. That his why he gave away Kahlil Mack. That is why he traded Amari Cooper. That is why he cut Bruce Irvin.
That is why you better believe Derek Carr will be long gone by the time the Raiders play in that new stadium in Las Vegas.
The problem with Gruden is that he appears to be falling way behind pace in his 10-year plan, and Raiders fans have suffered long enough. They are some of the most passionate — and scary — fans on the planet, and they are out of patience following the 1-7 start.
Plus, they are probably seeing that Gruden might not be the man for the job in the first place. He was only hired because he was entertaining (to some) as the color man on Monday Night Football.
Oh, he looked like he knew what he was doing when he held his pre-draft “Gruden’s QB Camp” on ESPN, but, really, we’ve never seen Gruden actually take a young quarterback and make him good, let alone great. Rich Gannon, who almost went the Super Bowl with the Raiders, was in his 12th season when Gruden got him.
Sure, Gruden won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay in 2002, a year after the Raiders fired him the first time. But he won with the Tony Dungy-built team full of future Hall of Famer defenders.
Lefty Rundle, who has fallen off the grid since the Red Sox curb stomped the Dodgers in the World Series, had a great line about Gruden’s Super Bowl Bucs.
“Anybody could have won with that team,” Lefty said. “Except Tony Dungy.”
In Tampa, it was all down hill for Gruden after winning the championship with someone else’s team. By 2008, every Tampa Bay fan around thought it was time for Chucky to head to Monday Night Football for good.
Two years ago, the Raiders were 12-4. They could have been a Super Bowl team if Carr didn’t suffer an injury late in the season. Last year, Oakland was 6-10, but Raiders fans still had hope for a quick turnaround with Chucky 2.0.
They should have read the fine print on his 10-year contract.
Now, the Raiders are a disaster, and their only hope comes from a bunch of first-round draft picks in the hands of a coach who hasn’t really shown he knows how to use them.
At least McKay gave Bucs fans some entertainment after his loses. Like the time when a reporter asked him what he thought about his team’s execution. To that, the coach replied, “I’m in favor of it.”
Now, that is a line Raiders fans can certainly relate to.
Speaking of execution, last week I went 9-4 straight up and 8-5 against the spread. That brings me to 80-54 on the season, 59-74-1 against Vegas.
Sure, my record isn’t quite John McKay at USC. But it isn’t Jon Gruden, either.
Following are my Week 10 picks. The lines are from ESPN, Jon Gruden’s past and future employer.
Carolina (plus 4) at Pittsburgh
Finally, a Thursday night game worth watching. Carolina is looking good, but I’m going back to my Thursday night home-team theory.
Steelers by 6
Detroit (plus 6.5) at Chicago
The Lions have won nine out of their last 10 games against Chicago, and most of them have been close.
So how do you justify that line?
Bears by just 1
New Orleans (minus 5.5) at Cincinnati
Andy Dalton can’t get a break. First he loses Tyler Eifert, and then he loses A.J. Green. And now, Drew Brees is coming to town.
Saints by 9
Atlanta (minus 4) at Cleveland
The Falcons have a new toy thanks to, you guessed it, Jon Gruden.
Falcons by 14
New England (minus 6.5) at Tennessee
Don’t bet against Tom Brady and the Patriots in November. Or October or December, for that matter.
Patriots by 12
Jacksonville (plus 3) at Indianapolis
The Jags are in a tail spin while Andrew Luck is finally looking like a quarterback who doesn’t go snowboarding.
Colts by 8
Arizona (plus 16.5) at Kansas City
This line is way too low. Lock this one up.
Chiefs by 38
Buffalo (plus 6.5) at New York Jets
Sam Darnold is likely out with an injury, meaning there is absolutely no reason to watch this upset.
Bills by 2
Washington (plus 3) at Tampa Bay
Injuries are catching up with the Redskins.
Bucs by 1
Los Angeles Chargers (minus 9.5) at Oakland
Only 9.5?! Seriously?
Chargers by 40
Miami (plus 9.5) at Green Bay
Darnold’s four picks gave the Dolphins a 13-6 win Sunday in Miami.
Aaron Rodgers won’t give the ball away like the Jets rookie. His running backs, on the other hand …
Packers by just 3
Seattle (plus 9.5) at Los Angeles Rams
That line is too big for Russell Wilson.
Rams by 4
Dallas (plus 7) at Philadelphia
Troy Aikman let the Cowboys have it following their embarrassing Monday Night loss.
The former South America’s Team quarterback called the Cowboys “dysfunctional” and suggested a “complete overhaul of the entire organization.”
See, Troy Aikman gets it. Jerry Jones, though, never will.
Eagles by 15
New York Giants (plus 3) at San Francisco
Just when it looked like we’d have another Monday night without football, along came Nick Mullens to give us a reason to tune in.
Mullens, who erased Brett Favre off the record book at Southern Miss, had the best debut by a starting quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger last week with three touchdowns and a 151.9 quarterback rating.
Also, Mullens wore No. 44 at Southern Miss, and that is cool.
Before we fit him for a gold jacket, however, just remember one thing. He was playing Jon Gruden’s Raiders.
49ers by 7
Resting: Broncos, Vikings, Ravens, Texans