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Former Bengals- Bucs coach Sam Wyche died Thursday

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Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Colorful and offensively innovative former Bengals and Bucs coach Sam Wyche died Thursday after a brief bout with cancer at age 74.

Wyche is famously revered in Cincinnati for having lead the Bengals with quarterback Boomer Esiason and their no huddle attack, to the Superbowl in 1988. The Bengals came within an eyelash of upsetting the 49ers before Joe Montana lead the game-winning touchdown drive and hit John Taylor in the final seconds for a 20 – 16 win.

The irony of that loss was that Wyche was the quarterback coach for 49ers mastermind Bill Walsh for four seasons (1979-82) and helped develop Montana earlier in his career. He coached on the staff is San Francisco, when they won their first Super Bowl in 1981.

The following year after coming so close to the title, Wyche very famously took to the microphone during a Bengals home game, when fans began to throw snowballs and other debris on the field to tell them to stop.

And, he simultaneously poked fun at the rival Cleveland Browns and their fans, too. Re-live that moment here:

Wyche compiled only a 61 – 66 record in Cincinnati over eight seasons and was fired after a 3 – 13 season in 1991.

That’s when Wyche, known for his offensive innovations was quickly hired as the fifth ever coach by Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse for the 1992 season. The Buccaneers were a franchise mired in a losing skid of 9 consecutive 10-loss seasons.

Wyche did little to change that, as the Bucs finished 5 – 11, 5 – 11, and 6 – 10 in his first three seasons to extend the streak to an even dozen.

Tampa Bay had a monumental draft in April of 1995, where they acquired both Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, who turned the franchise into a Super Bowl winner and are both now in the Hall of Fame. The Buccaneers began that season 5 – 2.

Wyche very famously after the fifth win that year said in his postgame press conference to his media adversaries that they had to make sure that whatever bad they were going to say or write about the Buccaneers, that they had to get the record right of in his words:  “Five- DASH- Two.”

Unfortunately, for  Wyche, the humor and the short-lived fun of being three games above .500 unraveled as the Bucs lost seven of the next nine games to finish 7-9. And, Wyche was fired by the team’s new owners, the Glazer family, and replaced with Tony Dungy.

Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer reacted to the news of his former coach’s passing Thursday evening:

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Sam Wyche earlier today. Sam’s innovative approach to offense left a lasting mark on the game of football. 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. The Buccaneers organization sends its heartfelt condolences to his wife, Jane, and the entire Wyche family.”

Wyche did some commentary for CBS is NFL game coverage for a couple of years in the late 1990’s, but later had voice surgery that damaged one of his vocal cords and his ability to talk with anything other than a raspy voice. That was pretty much the end of his broadcasting career.

In the 2010s Wyche became in need of a heart transplant and received organ donation that came by he and his family’s admission within days of him probably dying in 2016.

Peter King of Pro Football Talk reported Thursday that Wyche was surrounded by his family at his home in Aiken, South Carolina, when he died from the complications with cancer.

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Bucs DE Barrett basked in first Pro Bowl appearance Wednesday

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the best pass-rushing season in Buccaneers history, potential free-agent defensive end Shaq Barrett was soaking things in Wednesday in Orlando.

That’s where the NFC and AFC top players have congregated for the 2020 Pro Bowl coming Sunday.

Barrett, who set the Buccaneers single-season sack record with 19.5 this past season, ended up being the lone Buccaneer able to play in the game. This, after receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have both had to bow out due to hamstring injuries.

Barrett got props on day one from one from Cardinals DE Chandler Jones, whom he battled for the sack title all the way down to the final Sunday of the season:

Barrett then got to hangout and sign autographs with the fans assembled at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. The sixth year player out of Colorado State, who was originally undrafted but signed with the Broncos in 2014, then told the media, he’s looking for a big-money free-agent deal. And, further, his preference is that he stays in Tampa Bay.

After all, Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectation in 2019, while playing for a modest one-year free agent deal and betting on himself to cash-in. And now, after his agent Drew Rosenhaus and Bucs GM Jason Licht are done, it appears he will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year just like the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The Bucs also have the possibility of putting the franchise tag for 2020 on Barrett which would also be valued around that same amount for just the one season.

One final cool moment came Wednesday, where Barrett got introduced to a young Buccaneers fan who’s enduring tremendous family hardship with one parent battling cancer and another suffering from the debilitating ALS disease. After signing an autograph for the young man, Barrett gave him the surprise of his young life with two tickets to next weekend’s Super Bowl in Miami:

And just like that fantastic reward, Barrett will soon be similarly rewarded for his fantastic year and upcoming potential. And most likely, it will be in Tampa Bay for a long time.

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Bucs Evans got respect from LeBron James Saturday night

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The new present day cliche’ for respect among athletes/opponents in sports is: “Game Recognizes Game.” And, there was a neat example of that Saturday night, as the Houston Rockets of the NBA hosted the L.A. Lakers. That’s when iconic NBA star LeBron James of the Lakers came over to acknowledge Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in the seats behind him.

As you probably know, James is arguably the most recognizable and successful NBA hoops player worldwide in the last 10+ years. He’s a 15 time All Star, a four time MVP, and helped the Miami Heat win two World Championships. And, then came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who originally drafted him out of high school, and led them to the city’s epic first professional title in any sport in over 50 years back in 2016.

And, LeBron has the Lakers rolling at 34-8 with another win in Houston last night.

As for Evans, he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers biggest offensive weapon and was having a tremendous 2019 season statistically until it was cut short with a hamstring injury in the Bucs early December win over the Indianapolis Colts.

That’s when Evans suffered a severe hamstring injury on a 61 yard touchdown catch from Jameis Winston and did not play another down in 2019. Still, he joined teammate Chris Godwin, as they both went over 1,000 yards for the season, which was the first time in Tampa Bay history that that happened.

Evans is also only the second player in league history, besides Randy Moss, to have 1,000 or more yards receiving in a season in his first six years in the NFL.

Further, it’s also well-known that Evan is a huge fan of the NBA and he’s originally from Galveston, Texas and play in college at Texas A&M. So, it’s only fitting that he would be courtside during the off-season and the Rockets game against the Lakers.

Evans has made mention earlier in his career that he had met and talked to LeBron James on previous occasions. One reason that Evans brought that up during the season, was his touchdown celebration dance when Tampa Bay outgunned the L.A. Rams in late September.

In that 48 – 40 win Evans caught this clinching fourth-quarter bomb touchdown from Winston and then, celebrated with LeBron James’s signature dance move

James has previously and frequently used that on the court after a big moment, a big win or a championship.

Again “Game recognizes Game,” and clearly James wanted to give some recognition to the Bucs star whiteout Saturday night courtside at his own game.

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