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Once a Hatfield, McKay turns McCoy

The ex-Bucs GM ends a weird week rooting against his friends and former employers.

Published December 21, 2003

TAMPA - Rich McKay's plan was to drive to Saturday's game to watch his old team (the Bucs) play his new team (the Falcons).

The plan changed, like pretty much all of McKay's plans have changed this season.

"I took the team bus instead," McKay said.

That made it official. McKay is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons.

The bus got him to the game physically. Emotionally, this proved he arrived as a member of the Falcons: After spending nearly three decades around the Bucs, including the past nine as their general manager, McKay did something he never did before. He rooted for the Bucs to lose.

"It was bizarre to do that," McKay said. "My son, John, a couple of times went to cheer and then realized, "Oh,' It wasn't the right team. That was different. ... It was hard to watch and root against them."

His wife, Terrin, said the same thing.

"It was crazy rooting for the other team this time," she said.

If McKay had his way this game would've been played next year. Not five days after he left the Bucs to become general manager of the Falcons. He didn't know how to act. So he did his best to hide.

He camped out in the press box, said goodbye to a few Bucs employees he hadn't seen since leaving and never did make it to the field.

He watched as the Falcons rolled out to a 30-7 lead then figured it was "the McKay luck this season" when the Bucs looked like they had a chance to tie near the end.

"I've seen the (comebacks) before," McKay said. "I did not want to see it again."

(By the way: McKay swears he didn't give the Falcons coaching staff any inside dope on the Bucs. Not because he didn't want to, but simply because he isn't a coach and didn't want to meddle.)

When it was over, when the Falcons escaped with a victory, McKay could've gloated. Instead, as he always does, he took the high road.

He sympathized with the Bucs and their "disappointing" - McKay's word - season. He praised several Bucs, most notably Warren Sapp, whom he greeted while speaking to the media. And he even had kind words for the Glazer family, thanking the Bucs owners for doing what he called the right thing by letting him go to Atlanta without compensation.

"They could have," McKay said. "They had the right to, but after the relationship we've built up, it might not have been the right thing to do."

Though his smile showed he was happy about Saturday's outcome, he admitted he never will cut ties totally with the Bucs, at least not in his heart.

"But this is part of our business," McKay said about moving to a new team as so many players do these days. "It is what it is."

With this game out of the way, McKay can move forward. For him that means trying to build a contender in Atlanta. It will start with hiring a new coach for next season and adding players, perhaps even Sapp, to go along with his franchise-type quarterback, Michael Vick.

For McKay, it's all about looking forward and no longer looking back, especially now that Saturday is over.

"It was," McKay said, "the end of a very bizarre week."

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