Former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Sam Wyche died on Thursday after a brief battle with melanoma. He was 74.
Wyche died in Pickens, S.C., according to the Bengals. He had endured recurring battles with melanoma and urged Cincinnati fans in September to “wear sun tan lotion.”
“It was in his liver, and he just went really fast,” Wyche’s son, Zak, told WCPO.com in Cincinnati. “He was able to walk around Saturday with a walker, and then the next morning, he was unresponsive.”
Wyche also received a heart transplant in 2016.
Wyche was an innovative coach with the Bengals (1984-91) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1992-95). He coached the Bengals to the Super Bowl after the 1988 season, where they lost 20-16 to the San Francisco 49ers. That is the club’s most recent Super Bowl appearance.
“Sam was a wonderful guy,” Cincinnati owner 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.”
Wyche had an 84-107 record as an NFL coach. He was 61-66 with two playoff appearances for the Bengals and 23-41 with the Buccaneers. He served as a television analyst after his coaching career ended.
He is credited with first using the no-huddle offense, and he also was known for his wackiness and penchant for making controversial comments.
When fans were throwing snowballs on the field during a Bengals’ home game against the Seattle Seahawks in 1989, Wyche grabbed the public address announcer’s microphone and admonished the fans this way to encourage them to stop: “You don’t live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati.”
In 1990, he was fined $27,000 — the largest fine in NFL history at the time — for banning women media members from the locker room so his players could have privacy and comfort. The incident caused a national uproar.
“I will not allow women to walk in on 50 naked men,” Wyche said at the time.
Former Bengals star quarterback Ken Anderson, who finished his career during Wyche’s tenure, told Fox19 in Cincinnati that Wyche will always be remembered fondly in the city.
“He was a tremendous coach. We had two Super Bowl teams and he was the one that guided the ‘88 team to the Super Bowl,” Anderson said. “I think the things that he did, the excitement that he created, you look at the crowds we had at Riverfront Stadium and how loud it was and the passion, that was Sam.”
Prior to his coaching career, Wyche was an NFL quarterback for four teams between 1968-1976. Three of those seasons were with the Bengals (1968-70), where Wyche made all nine of his NFL starts and went 2-7.
He passed for 1,748 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions in his NFL career.
Wyche played college football at Furman from 1963-65.
For the past nine years, Wyche served as volunteer offensive coordinator for Pickens High School.
—Field Level Media