The HBO series Hard Knocks has helped turn several members of the Cleveland Browns into household names over the past month.
The series has also shined a light on offensive line coach Bob Wylie, who has quickly been revealed to be a national treasure.
For those who need a quick refresher, Wylie is in his second year with the Browns, part of a 44-year career coaching at the professional and collegiate level. According to his bio at clevelandbrowns.com, he is also a licensed pilot, amateur magician, accomplished musician and serves as a consultant for EA Sports’ Madden NFL video game.
As the Browns prepare for Sunday’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and with the final episode of Hard Knocks airing tonight, Jenny Vrentas of Monday Morning Quarterback caught up with Wylie for a profile.
Here are some of the highlights.
Wylie began taking flying lessons while a senior in high school, which helped him with the ladies:
“I always got dates with the prettiest girls in the senior class. My buddies said, How did you get a date with her? I told them, ‘No. 1, I’m better looking. No. 2, I’m a better athlete. No. 3, I’m getting on airplane, taking her to Martha’s Vineyard for dinner, and then flying back. You are taking Susie Q to Joe’s Bar and Grill for a cheeseburger.’ ”
A lover of magic, Wylie learned one particular card trick from none other than David Copperfield. Wylie uses those skills in a special way:
Wylie remembers when he had his appendix taken out as a kid and a group of Patriots players came to visit children in the hospital. So in many of the cities he’s worked in, he’s found a local children’s hospital to visit on Friday afternoons during the season, cheering up the kids with magic tricks.
Wylie’s coaching education has links all the way back to Hall of Fame coach George Halas. In high school, Wylie played for and then coached with Frank Maznicki, a halfback and kicker for the Chicago Bears under head coach Halas.
That led Wylie to form a friendship with Jim McNally, an offensive line coach at Boston College and provide Wylie a path into the NFL:
In 1980, Wylie was coaching at Brown when he received a call from McNally. “You have to come to Cincinnati,” McNally said. Wylie’s coaching buddy was then on Forest Gregg’s Bengals staff, and discovered that their playbook was nearly identical to what Wylie brought to him several years earlier. Maznicki had borrowed from Halas, whose offense shared many of the principles and terminology that Gregg mastered in Green Bay under Vince Lombardi. Wylie told McNally everything he knew, and soon was a regular guest at Bengals headquarters.
Those connections led Wylie to create the C.O.O.L. Clinic for offensive line coaches. The clinic has grown over the years to the point where 450 coaches from the NFL and college teams attended this year.
Closer to home, Wylie highlights the challenge the Browns are facing in replacing left tackle Joe Thomas:
This year in Cleveland he faces one of the biggest challenges an offensive line coach can have, filling the void longtime left tackle Joe Thomas left when he retired. In the mix is an undrafted rookie, Desmond Harrison, who Jackson said on Monday is a possibility to slide in at left tackle so Joel Bitonio can move back to his natural guard position. “You don’t just replace the future Hall of Famer,” Wylie says. “We are working on it. We know we can put Joel out there, but if we can keep those three inside guys together, we might feel stronger doing that.”
The Hard Knocks cameras will soon be leaving Berea (if they have not already done so) and Wylie will retreat back into the obscurity of practices and meetings where position coaches do their work. But his impact will continue to be felt, not only within the Browns organization, but across the football world and beyond.
You can read the full article here - it is well worth the time.