The kid was Ken Anderson. "I was off to Washington," says Wyche, "in the big Sam Wyche-for-Henry Dyer trade."
As Wyche remembers the Redskins, the creek rises. "It was 1971, George Allen's first year," he says. "He'd brought together the Over The Hill Gang: Ron McDole, Bill Kilmer, Speedy Duncan, Diron Talbert, Jack Pardee. Great locker-room lies. It was only two years after Vince Lombardi had died there. We went to the playoffs the first season, and the next, to Super Bowl VII. We lost to the undefeated Miami team, but I held for extra points. I got to play in the Super Bowl. I got my knee dirty.
"My fourth year with the Redskins was 1974. We got Joe Theismann. It was a strike year. I was on the picket line with a NO FREEDOM, NO FOOTBALL T-shirt. Joe was in practicing."
Wyche was immediately shipped to Detroit. "In the long view, it was fortunate I got bounced around," he says. "I met a lot of the great players and coaches, like Ray Berry at Detroit. I saw a lot of methods. Later I could pick and choose."
The Lions released Wyche in 1975. He then hooked on for half the 1976 season with St. Louis. " Don Coryell. Joe Gibbs, Jim Hanifan," says Wyche of the Cardinals coaching staff then. "We played the Chargers in Tokyo. I sat in the lobby of the New Otani Hotel with Bill Walsh, who was a San Diego assistant at the time, talking about ultimately getting together."
His playing days done, Wyche went back to Greenville, S.C., and ran a sporting-goods company he had helped start with his '73 Super Bowl money. The business succeeded, but when Walsh took over the 49ers in 1979, he found Wyche looking for a high school coaching job. "I'd written to two schools." says Wyche. "The day Bill called, I'd received a letter from one saying I wasn't qualified to coach there."
Walsh hired him as his quarterback coach. Wyche worked with Joe Montana from 1979 through the '82 season, as San Francisco improved from 2-14 in '79 to 16-3 in '81, when it won the Super Bowl. "He has a great intuition for football," says Walsh. "He's a touch impetuous; he's always looking for new thresholds."
The cobweb of connections would always come through for him. In this delicately poised football matrix, coaches are lifted high or cast down according to the esteem of football men. Bengal owner Paul Brown is the essential football man. Eleven of the 23 Super Bowls have been won by coaches who either played for Brown or coached under him.
"As a player, Sam was courageous," says the 81-year-old Brown with courtly affection. "He stayed in the pocket until it froze over. He scored extremely high in intelligence on the testing we do. And he was a student of everything. All players had to keep their playbooks neat. Sam's asides, the little things you write, were done as a coach would do them. Every year I kept the best one. I kept Sam's."
Brown also kept an eye on Sam. "He went to coach in San Francisco and got his start with a guy who was good with passing offense," says Brown. "The philosophy there was essentially mine, because Walsh had been here for nine years.