The NFL world was saddened to hear of the passing of Sam Wyche on Thursday at the age of 74. Whether as a player, coach, or broadcaster, Wyche was at the very precipice of the NFL’s offensive glory years. He always took his football seriously, but with a smile, friendliness, and at times, compulsiveness that would touch the world champion 49ers, take the Cincinnati Bengals to a Super Bowl, and see him steer the Buccaneers away from the desert of football folly and toward respectability. He was truly a hero and a mensch.
The OG Quarterback Whisperer
Wyche played QB for the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, and St. Louis Cardinals. But it was as QB coach with the 49ers, under Bill Walsh and his West Coast-style offense that Wyche first began to really shine. He was the coach always meeting with Walsh and Joe Montana as they would prepare to surgically carve up opposing defenses. Those same 49ers would beat the Wyche-coached Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. That 1988 Bengals team featured QB Boomer Esiason and the Icky Shuffle.
The Consummate Competitor
Wyche was the first coach to run the no-huddle offense at any time during the game. The up-tempo style of offense was something football fans had been used to only seeing in the closing minutes of a half. He was also known for his trickery by bringing extra players into the huddle and then having the extras run out at the last second. This made it nearly impossible for opposing teams to strategize by not allowing them to know what personnel was going to be on the field. This is illegal these days; penalized as an illegal substitution. But any competitive edge was just what Wyche was always looking for.
Wyche Goes On The Defensive
Coming off the Richard Williamson head coaching experiment of 1990, Wyche was a rock star. A huge splash of a hire, Wyche would start to turn around a franchise that has lost its way.
Because Wyche was known for his offensive prowess, it was at the time a little surprising that the defense is what he started to build. Drafting Santana Dotson his first year here. He would sign free agent Hardy Nickerson, draft 2019 Hall Of Fame finalist John Lynch in 1993, and in his last year as coach in Tampa Bay (1995), would draft Derrick Brook, Warren Sapp.
Wyche brought a swagger, a respectability to the Buccaneers. He had to know what he was up against here. But you would never have gotten that impression from the way he approached his job. He was the perfect man for the job at just the right time. He will always be remembered as one of the greatest coaches in Buccaneer history.
Passing on January 2nd, just three days shy of his 75th birthday, was too soon. The kid from Atlanta, Georgia led with confidence and coached with a swagger that carried his 6’4” frame with elegance and pride. An enthusiastic broadcaster of NFL games and an airplane pilot were just some of the other things he did with ease.
Whether he is playing or coaching now behind those pearly gates, one thing is for sure. The offense will most likely be running a no-huddle, and there’s probably too many personnel on the field.
RIP, Sam Wyche. Thank you kindly for all the memories.