Although John McKay never found sustained success at the NFL level, he had a great run at USC from 1960 to 1975, generating a record of 133-43-8. He also had a great run of memorable quotes during his nine years in Tampa Bay, where he rebounded from an 0-26 start to the franchise to finish 44-88-1.
A new generation of football fans became introduced to McKay on Sunday night, in an unconventional way. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, after his team blew a big lead against Florida State and then won by three in overtime, paid clumsy homage to McKay.
“You know, I’m in favor of execution,” Kelly said. “Maybe our entire team needs to be executed after tonight. I mean, we just didn’t execute very well.”
He butchered the execution of the execution joke.
After one of those 88 losses in Tampa, McKay was asked, “What do you think of your team’s execution?”
“I’m in favor of it,” McKay replied.
Most of those who remember the McKay quote recognized the backward reference by Kelly. Those who didn’t know about McKay’s quote were stunned by it, rightfully so. Any joke that starts with “I’m in favor of execution” is destined to go over like Jerry Seinfeld saying, “What’s the deal with cancer?”
McKay had plenty of other good lines. The “execution” line was the best. In large part because he wasn’t the one to say the word “execution.”