- Jc Shurburtt
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Known as one of the most innovative coaches to stalk an NFL sideline, Sam Wyche was the first coach to implement the no-huddle offense as a standard method of attack, rather than at the end of a half. The Atlanta native will coach the Black squad in the third annual Under Armour All-American game on Jan. 2 (11 a.m., ESPN).
In 1988, Wyche led the Cincinnati Bengals to the team's second Super Bowl appearance, a 20-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII. That season, Cincinnati led the league in total offense.
The run to the Super Bowl was the culmination of a five-year run for the no-huddle attack in Cincinnati. The idea was hatched in 1984 -- Wyche's first year in Cincinnati -- at training camp.
During 11-on-11, the offense was faced with third-and-8 and the coaching staff whistled for nickel personnel.
"I looked over at my defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau [currently with the Pittsburgh Steelers] and saw him take out his two slow interior defensive linemen and replace them with quicker guys. He took out his big, slow middle linebacker and replaced him with a defensive back. Everybody knew we were going to have to pass and we spent 30 seconds back there caucusing, while they were changing personnel."
The next day, Wyche decided his offense simply should not huddle in that situation.
"We ended up with defenses having 13 guys on the field, we ended up with a lot of coaches saying that's not fair," Wyche said. "The other team can't get its signals in, they can't substitute in certain situations and guys get tired. All of the advantages are with the offense."
The attack was controversial during the first five years and it came to a head during the 1988 AFC Championship Game against the Bills. Buffalo head coach Marv Levy made a statement during the week leading up to the game that he may have his players fake injury to slow down the attack. As a result, the NFL outlawed the no-huddle for that game.
"We got word from the NBC producers that were doing the game that the commissioner [Pete Rozelle] had instructed the officials to penalize us 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct whenever we ran [the no-huddle offense] because they didn't want to make a mockery of the game."
The Bengals won the game 21-10, and the league reinstated the offense. Ironically, Levy (who coached in last year's Under Armour All-American game) and the Bills switched to a no-huddle attack.
Currently, Wyche is looking forward to coaching a loaded roster during the Under Armour All-American game.
"The talent level is going to be so good on both sides [the Black and White teams]," Wyche said. "I am used to working with the high school age group [he is a volunteer assistant coach for Pickens (S.C.) High, where he currently resides]. But no one high school will have this amount of talent."
Wyche is most looking forward to seeing how the players in this year's game perform in the future.
"The interesting part of all of this is after the game," he said. "Watching to see how these guys do as collegians."
Alabama commit and quarterback Phillip Sims (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith) is looking forward to working with Wyche and the other coaches.
"I am very excited," he said. "I am a Bengals fan, so it makes it even better."
After being forced out of Cincinnati in 1991, Wyche headed to Tampa, where he coached the Buccaneers from 1992-95. Following his stint with the Bucs, Wyche was a television and radio analyst for nearly a decade before coaching quarterbacks for the Bills in 2004 and '05.
Most recently, Wyche embarked on a political career. He currently serves on the Pickens County Council and considered running on the Republican ticket for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina's 3rd Congressional District. While that idea is not completely off the table, Wyche has decided against running for now.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the innovators of the no-huddle offense, Sam Wyche, will coach in the Under Armour All-American game, writes JC Shurburtt.