John McVay, who was fired as head coach of the New York Giants following the infamous November 1978 play known as ‘the fumble’ but later helped make the San Francisco, a five-time Super Bowl champion in 14 seasons, died Monday at his home in Granite Bay, Calif., northeast of Sacramento. He was 91 years old.
The 49ers announced his death. His grandson Sean McVay coaches the Los Angeles Rams.
McVay’s NFL head coaching career spanned two and a half years amid a string of losing seasons for the Giants. But despite all the frustration he faced in New York, he was recognized as an astute front office manager in San Francisco for nearly a quarter of a century. “I’ve had a lot of different titles,” he once said, “but I’ve operated as a general manager basically from day one.”
McVay went to the 49ers shortly after hiring Bill Walsh as head coach after going 2-14 in 1978. Walsh installed the West Coast offensive passing game that propelled San Francisco to three Super Bowl titles in the 1980s, and he had the final say in all major footballing decisions. But McVay was instrumental in draft selections, scouting, free agent signings and contract negotiations.
“I don’t know what I would have done without John McVay,” Walsh told David Harris in “The Genius” (2008), a biography of Walsh. “He was non-confrontational and non-abrasive in the extreme, never overshadowing anyone, but if he didn’t agree with me he would tell me right away. He was the cement that held the organization together since his arrival.
McVay continued to lead the 49ers front office under coach George Seifert, Walsh’s successor and former defensive coordinator, who took the team to two Super Bowl championships.
McVay was named the NFL Manager of the Year by The Sporting News for 1989, Seifert’s first season as head coach, when the 49ers staged a run for a second consecutive Super Bowl title.
The 49ers dynasty – they won the Super Bowl after the 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994 seasons – was rooted in the selection of Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana in the 1979 NFL Draft after having slipped on the third lap.
The strength and durability of Montana’s arms was considered questionable by many, but Walsh liked his potential.
“Bill said, ‘Can we check and see why Montana keeps going down? ‘” McVay told The Repository of Canton, Ohio newspaper in 2012. “I said to Bill, ‘Let me call one of the assistant coaches at Notre Dame. “”
He contacted Bill Gruden, who had been an assistant to McVay when he was head coach at the University of Dayton.
“I asked him, ‘Billy, what’s the story with Montana?’ recalls McVay. “Billy’s response was brief. ‘Just take it.’
Montana teamed up with Dwight Clark and later Jerry Rice, both wide receivers, and running back Roger Craig in the innovative West Coast offensive plan that propelled the 49ers to dominance.
McVay’s success in San Francisco came after what he once called “the most horrible play in Giants history.”
It happened at Giants Stadium on November 19, 1978, with the Giants leading the Philadelphia Eagles by 5 points in the final seconds.
McVay’s offensive coordinator Bob Gibson called a third down play, in which quarterback Joe Pisarcik had to get the ball to fullback Larry Csonka instead of dropping to one knee and allowing time to run out.
The exchange was botched. Eagles defensive back Herm Edwards, the future Jets coach, picked up the loose ball and ran it back 26 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
Gibson was fired the next day by Giants director of football operations Andy Robustelli, despite McVay’s objections. The Giants lost three of their remaining four games, finishing 6-10. Soon after, McVay was also fired, only to see his fortunes turn in San Francisco.
John Edward McVay was born on January 5, 1931 in Bellaire, Ohio, where he grew up.
As a center for the University of Miami football team in the early 1950s, he played under head coaches Woody Hayes and Ara Parseghian.
McVay coached high school football in Ohio, was an assistant coach at Michigan State, and was a head coach at Dayton for eight years. During this time, he became acquainted with Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the owner of the 49ers, who spent time in Dayton as part of his family’s commercial real estate properties.
McVay was also the head coach of the Memphis Southmen of the World Soccer League in 1974 and 1975, the league’s only two seasons.
Prior to the 1976 NFL season, then-Giants head coach Bill Arnsparger—a former teammate of McVay’s on Miami’s offensive line—hired him as an assistant coach. But when New York lost its first seven games, Arnsparger was fired and McVay succeeded him. He soon brought in Walsh to advise his assistants on offensive plans, while Walsh was head coach at Stanford.
But the Giants have always struggled under McVay. Three weeks after the ‘fumble’ humiliation (delighted Eagles fans called it ‘The Miracle in the Meadowlands’), a group of Giants fans flew a small plane over the Giants stadium with a banner : “15 years of lousy football – We’ve had enough. After the end of the season, McVay’s contract was not renewed. He walked away with an overall record of 14-23.
He retired from the 49ers front office in 1996, but had a second stint with the team from 1998 to 2004, brought back primarily to deal with salary cap issues.
His survivors include his wife, Susan Williams McVay; three sons, John, Jim and Tim McVay; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
McVay once remarked that when Walsh offered him a job with the 49ers, he flew to San Francisco “on the next plane,” and he often turned credit from the 49ers dynasty to Walsh. But at home, he also posted a picture of Walsh with the words, “You are the master.”
#John #McVay #key #figure #creating #49ers #dynasty #dies