John McKay, the Best Quipster of All-Time

The best quipster of all-time, Hall-of-Famer John McKay, winner of four NCs at USC and the first HC of Tampa Bay — losers of their first 26 games.

Dick Vermeil called McKay “Dial-a-Quote,” having faced him as a head coach of UCLA and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here are 28 of his best, in no order:

1. On Tampa Bay ending its 26-game losing streak: “Three or four plane crashes and we’re in the playoffs.”

2. On Bill Capece, who was waived in 1983 after missing a field goal and extra point: “Capece is kaput.”

3. On fan mail he received as a Tampa Bay coach: “It was about three-to-one that I was not an SOB. But there were a lot of ones.”

4. McKay was asked what he thought of Tampa Bay’s execution after yet another loss and he famously said, “I’m in favor of it.”

5. “Emotion is highly overrated in football. My wife Corky is emotional as hell but can’t play football worth a damn.”

6. “Intensity is a lot of guys that run fast.”

7. “We’ve broken down the expansion teams and they’ve averaged winning 2.7 games their first year, which to me is rather difficult. I figured out the 2, but the .7 has got me wondering what the hell is going on.”

8. After a series of questionable calls helped Notre Dame tie No. 1 USC 21-21 in 1968, McKay was asked about the officiating. McKay answered, “I’m not surprised. The referee is a fine Catholic fellow by the name of Patrick Murphy.”

9. Asked if Lynn Cain of the Atlanta Falcons was ready to play against the Bucs: “Let me know if Cain is able.”

10. On the importance of an older quarterback’s mobility: “As a person gets older he doesn’t get faster. Our quarterback will run from fright or lack of protection.”

11. “Kickers are like horse manure. They’re all over the place.”

12. On the weaknesses of linebacker Hugh Green: ‘`He’s not twins.”

13. “We didn’t tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking.”

14. On how coaching an expansion team is a religious experience: “You do a lot of praying, but most of the time the answer is ‘no.'”

15. “It bothers me that they (the national media) have picked us to be the worst team in football. Because what they are doing now is challenging your physical and your mental capacity and my ability to coach you. Now, this hurts me. Second-worst team, I could stand it. But not the worst team.”

16. On his team’s blocking strategy: “Hold when you’re at home and don’t hold when you’re on the road.”

17. On O.J. Simpson carrying the ball 47 times in a USC game: “He doesn’t belong to a union. Anyway, the ball doesn’t weigh that much.”

18. Following a 51-0 loss to Notre Dame in 1966. “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?'”

19. On place kicker Pete Rajecki having a bad camp with the Bucs because McKay made him nervous: “I don’t think he’s got much of a future here, because I plan on going to all the games.”

20. “If you have everyone back from a team that lost 10 games, experience isn’t too important.”

21. On the Buccaneers poor special-teams play, “They were absolutely horrible and that’s the best thing I can say. Besides that they were bad. These people are not poorly paid you know.”

22. On the play of Joe Namath in the Jets’ 34-0 victory over Tampa Bay, “Namath is still Namath, but I must say that our guys were nice to him. I noticed when they knocked him down, they helped him to his feet. That was gentlemanly. I thought one stood around long enough to get his autograph.”

23. On how badly the Bucs looked in losing to the Steelers, 42-0, “There were times I felt like leaving the stadium and hitchhiking home.”

24. “If a contest had 97 prizes, the 98th would be a trip to Green Bay.”

25. On training camp: “It’s shattering when a player loses interest in camp. When you lose your desire to stand around and eat steaks, you lose everything.”

26. On opening days: “Opening games make me nervous. To tell the truth, I’d rather open with our second game.”

27. On the Bucs’ 42-0 loss to Pittsburgh on a very cold day: `”I remember in Pittsburgh we had no players and the ones we did have wanted to stay at the hotel by the fire. I was ticked because that’s where I wanted to stand.”

28. “I’ll probably take a little time off and go hide somewhere. We will be back. Maybe not this century, but we will be back and we will be a better football team.”

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Knighted Member

Just don’t ask any of McKay’s second and third string players what they thought of the little man. He had a public personality, but his true self on the field was pretty prickly.

Noble Member

As a player, even though you were recruited to come play USC football, you had to prove your worth to get any notice from coach McKay.


Oddly I don’t think these quips ever get old. Partially because McKay didn’t pull punches. He wasn’t always right on his play calling, but plays he called made sense. If his team made mistakes he didn’t make excuses.