Sam Wyche was one of a kind among NFL head coaches.
He led the Bengals to the Super Bowl in 1988 but perhaps is best known for taking the field microphone during a game against the Seahawks in 1989. With Bengals fans pelting the field with snowballs after an official’s call went against the home team, Wyche yelled over the PA system, “Will the next person that sees anybody throw anything onto the field, point them out, and get them out of here. You don’t live in Cleveland! You live in Cincinnati!”
The line is repeated often in Cincinnati.
Wyche died Thursday at his home in Pickens, South Carolina, after a short battle with metastatic melanoma, Peter King of NBC reports. Wyche was 74.
“Sam was a wonderful guy,” Bengals president Mike Brown said in a statement. “We got to know him as both a player and a coach. As our coach, he had great success and took us to the Super Bowl. He was friends with everyone here, both during his tenure as head coach and afterwards. We not only liked him, we admired him as a man. He had a great generosity of spirit and lived his life trying to help others. We express our condolences to Jane and his children Zak and Kerry.”
My first season covering the NFL came in Tampa in 1994, Wyche’s next-to-last season as an NFL head coach. The Buccaneers were one of the worst teams in the NFL when they hired Wyche in 1992, and they remained one of the worst teams in the NFL when they fired him after the 1995 season.
But the Bucs drafted John Lynch, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks while Wyche was with the team, so he hardly left the cupboard bare for Tony Dungy.
Wyche’s tenure at One Buc Place always was entertaining.
During the 1995 season, when it was obvious the Bucs, under new ownership, would hire a new coach, Wyche pulled a prank on his team. Jimmy Johnson, who had parted ways with the Cowboys after the 1993 season, showed up in Tampa for an NFL Films promo orchestrated by Wyche.
Unbeknownst to the players, personnel assistant John Idzik entered the locker room, interrupted Wyche and told the coach to bring his playbook. Johnson walked in wearing a Buccaneers jacket and began addressing the players as if he was their new coach.
Wyche coached the Bengals from 1984-1991, going 61-66. Their most recent postseason victory came with Wyche as their head coach.
He was 23-41 in four seasons with the Bucs.
Wyche also played seven seasons in the NFL, with Cincinnati, Washington, Detroit and St. Louis. He was on the Bengals’ inaugural team in 1968 and went 2-7 as a starting quarterback over three seasons in Cincinnati.