Sam Wyche, former Cincinnati Bengals coach who reminded fans they 'don't live in Cleveland,' dies at 74

Sam Wyche of the Cincinnati Bengals stands on the sideline during a 1987 NFL game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

(CNN)Sam Wyche, the former NFL coach who helped popularize the no-huddle offense and brought the Cincinnati Bengals tantalizingly close to a Super Bowl win in the late 1980s, died Thursday, the league announced.

He was 74.
Wyche was head coach for the Bengals from 1984 to 1991, and for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1992 to 1995, compiling a regular-season record of 84-107.
      His most successful season as head coach came in the 1988 season, when his Bengals went 12-4 and made it to Super Bowl XXIII, where they lost 20-16 on a last-minute touchdown pass from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana.
        "Sam was a wonderful guy," Bengals President Mike Brown said Thursday. "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."
          Buccaneers owner Bryan Glazer also offered his condolences.
          "Sam's innovative approach to offense left a lasting mark on the game of football," Glazer said. "As our head coach in the early 1990s, Sam was instrumental in drafting cornerstone players such as John Lynch, Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, who were all key foundational parts of our eventual Super Bowl championship (in 2003)."

          He famously reminded Bengals fans that they 'don't live in Cleveland'

          Wyche's legacy in Cincinnati includes a famous on-the-fly remark that endeared him to Bengals fans and stoked the city's rivalry with Cleveland, home to the NFL's Browns.
          While the Bengals were playing the Seattle Seahawks in December 1989, fans in Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium were throwing snowballs at opposing players. Referees paused the game, and Wyche took an on-field microphone.
          First, he asked fans to point out any snowball throwers so they could be thrown out.
          Then he thundered, "You don't live in Cleveland. You live in Cincinnati!" before relinquishing the mic. The crowd roared.
          "I had no clue what I was going to do. This was not choreographed in any shape or form," Wyche recalled to "The Rich Eisen Show" in 2018.
          "And then I looked up at the owners box saying, 'I just lost or I just secured my job," he said. "And (Bengals owner) Paul Brown was knee-slapping laughing ... and I knew I was OK."

          He was an offensive innovator

          After attending Furman University in South Carolina, Wyche played sparingly for eight seasons in the NFL as a quarterback in the 1960s and 1970s, including three seasons for the Bengals.
          He joined the 49ers as an assistant coach in 1979, and was on staff for the team's first Super Bowl victory -- a 26-21 win over the Bengals in 1982.
          He was head coach at Indiana University in 1983, and he took the Bengals' head coaching position the next season.
          He is regarded as the first NFL coach to use the no-huddle offense throughout the game, rather than saving it for the final moments of each half.
          One of Wyche's more renowned players, former Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason, said on Twitter on Thursday that Wyche "was an innovator and took chances that no coach ever would.
            "He was an even better human being," Esiason wrote. "He loved his players and always kept it interesting. He taught me how to be a NFL QB. My heart breaks for his wife Jane his kids Zak and Kerry."
            Wyche also had been a volunteer coach at Pickens High School in South Carolina, where he lived, CNN affiliate WYFF reported.