Dick LeBeau

Last updated

Dick LeBeau
Dick-lebeau.jpg
LeBeau (center) during Super Bowl XLIII parade in February 2009
No. 24, 44
Position: Cornerback
Personal information
Born: (1937-09-09) September 9, 1937 (age 85)
London, Ohio, U.S.
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:185 lb (84 kg)
Career information
High school: London (London, Ohio)
College: Ohio State
NFL Draft: 1959  / Round: 5 / Pick: 58
Career history
As a player:
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
As player
As coach
Career NFL statistics
Interceptions:62
Interception yards:762
Touchdowns:4
Player stats at NFL.com  ·  PFR
Coaching stats at PFR

Charles Richard "Dick" LeBeau ( /ləˈb/ lə-BOH; born September 9, 1937) is a former American football cornerback and coach in the National Football League (NFL). He was active at field level in the NFL for 59 consecutive seasons, 14 as a player with the Detroit Lions and 45 as a coach. [1] LeBeau spent the majority of his coaching career as a defensive assistant, most notably as the defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. Described as an "innovator" and "defensive football genius", [2] [3] he is considered to be one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all time. [4]

Contents

LeBeau was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round of the 1959 NFL Draft before signing with the Lions, where he was named to three Pro Bowls. Upon retiring as a player in 1972, LeBeau began his coaching career the following season as the special teams coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and landed his first defensive role as the Green Bay Packers' defensive backs coach in 1976. He joined the Bengals in 1980, where he spent 19 non-consecutive years, including 12 years as defensive coordinator. During his first stint as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator, LeBeau popularized the "zone blitz", which helped the Bengals make two Super Bowl appearances in Super Bowl XVI and Super Bowl XXIII. He also served as the Bengals' head coach from 2000 to 2002, his sole head coaching position.

In between his two stints with Cincinnati, LeBeau began a defensive assistant tenure for the Steelers in 1992 and rejoined them in 2004 after one season as the Buffalo Bills' assistant head coach. His time in Pittsburgh spanned 16 non-consecutive years, holding the position of defensive coordinator for 13 years. LeBeau helped the Steelers make four Super Bowl appearances as their defensive coordinator, winning Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII during his second stint. After leaving the Steelers for the second time in 2014, LeBeau served as the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach of the Tennessee Titans until 2017. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player in 2010.

Playing career

College

LeBeau attended Ohio State University playing for famed coach Woody Hayes, and was on the 1957 national championship team, playing as a halfback on offense and a cornerback on defense. Also in 1957, playing both sides of the ball, he scored two touchdowns as Ohio State came back to beat Michigan 31–14.

NFL

LeBeau was drafted in the fifth round in 1959 by the Cleveland Browns, but was cut in training camp. A few months later, he was signed by the Detroit Lions. He played 14 seasons in Detroit and was teamed with Hall of Famers Dick "Night Train" Lane, Yale Lary, and Lem Barney as part of a Detroit secondary that was one of the most feared in the NFL. Johnny Unitas always had respect for him, stating, "Dick is a good corner. I am just glad Night Train Lane is gone. [5]

LeBeau is widely considered to be one of the greatest defensive backs in Lions history. [5] [6] He recorded 62 interceptions for 762 yards and four touchdowns. His 62 interceptions are still a Lions franchise record, and he is tied for seventh all-time in NFL history. His 762 interception return yards rank third all-time in team history.

LeBeau was also one of the most durable players in the league. In 14 years, he played 185 games – placing him fourth on Detroit's all-time list. He is third all-time for most seasons played (14) and previously held the NFL record for consecutive appearances by a cornerback with 171, which has since been broken by Ronde Barber. LeBeau also recovered nine fumbles, returning them for 53 yards and a touchdown.

During his career, LeBeau was named to three consecutive Pro Bowls (1964–1966). In 1970, he established a career-high nine interceptions (tied for sixth on the team's all-time single-season interceptions list). LeBeau was a major defensive contributor to the Lions finishing with a 10–4 record that season. The Lions finished second in the NFC Central and earned a berth in the playoffs.

In 2010, LeBeau was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with running back Floyd Little. [7] [8]

LeBeau was honored by the Lions and inducted into the Pride of the Lions in 2010.

Coaching career

Early jobs

After retirement as a player, LeBeau immediately went into coaching with the Philadelphia Eagles as a special teams coach under coach Mike McCormack, spending three seasons in Philadelphia. In 1976, LeBeau coached the secondary for the Green Bay Packers under Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Bart Starr. In his first season, Willie Buchanon, Johnnie Gray, Steve Luke, and Perry Smith combined for 10 interceptions. In 1977, Mike C. McCoy replaced Smith, and that quartet combined for 11 interceptions. In 1979, Estus Hood replaced Buchanan, and the secondary combined for another 11 interceptions.

Cincinnati Bengals

In 1980, LeBeau became the Cincinnati Bengals' secondary coach; in that season, his starting secondary intercepted seven passes.

In 1981, Cincinnati had an outstanding defense that had not given up more than 30 points in any of their regular season or playoff games. Their line was anchored by defensive ends Ross Browner and Eddie Edwards, who were effective at stopping the run. Cincinnati's defense was also led by defensive backs Louis Breeden and Ken Riley and linebackers Bo Harris, Jim LeClair, and Reggie Williams, who intercepted four passes and recovered three fumbles. The Bengals intercepted 19 passes for 318 yards and also recorded 41 total sacks. The Bengals played in their first AFC Championship Game, defeating San Diego 27–7, limiting the Chargers' offense to only 7 points. In Super Bowl XVI, the Bengals trailed 20–0 at halftime and lost to San Francisco, 26–21.

In 1984, LeBeau was promoted to be the Bengals' defensive coordinator. His defenses rarely allowed more than 30 points in a game to an opponent. In 1984, his first season as defensive coordinator, the Bengals dropped from the top-ranked defense in 1983 (when they were coordinated by Hank Bullough) to 13th, allowing 339 points all season. In 1985, they dropped from 13th to 22nd. In 1986, points allowed were cut to 394 and the team finished with the 20th-ranked defense in the NFL. In 1987, they cut the points allowed to 370.

In 1988, the Bengals defense ranked 17th in the league, allowing 5,556 yards and 329 points during the regular season. Cincinnati had a superb defensive line, led by pro bowl defensive tackle Tim Krumrie, along with linemen Jim Skow (9+12 sacks), David Grant (five sacks), and Jason Buck (six sacks). Pro Bowl defensive backs Eric Thomas and David Fulcher combined for 12 interceptions. The team won the AFC Central Division with a 12–4 record but lost Super Bowl XXIII to the San Francisco 49ers for the second time in franchise history. The following season, 1989, the Bengals defense was 15th in the NFL, an improvement of two spots and was in the top half of NFL defenses due to LeBeau's scheme. In 1990 and 1991 the Bengals' defense ranked 25th and 28th respectively, out of 28 teams, and the team made a change in defensive coordinators.

Pittsburgh Steelers

LeBeau was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1992 as the secondary coach. In 1994, four defensive players were called to play in the 1995 Pro Bowl (Kevin Greene, Carnell Lake, Greg Lloyd and Rod Woodson). As a secondary coach LeBeau strongly influenced Lake and Woodson.

In 1995, LeBeau was promoted to be the defensive coordinator and the 1995 Pittsburgh defense ranked third in the league in total yards allowed after they had finished as the second-ranked defense in 1994 in that same category, so the drop off was minimal with LeBeau at the helm. They did allow 327 points in 1995 as opposed to 234 the year before when the Steelers defense was coordinated by Dom Capers, but they got to the Super Bowl in 1995 with a much-improved offense. Pro Bowl linebacker Kevin Greene led the team in sacks with nine, while Pro Bowl linebacker Greg Lloyd led the team in tackles with 86. The secondary was led by Pro Bowl defensive backs Carnell Lake and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson. The Steelers lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX, making it the third Super Bowl loss for him.

Cincinnati Bengals (second stint)

In 1997, LeBeau returned to the Bengals as defensive coordinator. The defense was ranked 25th in 1996, and in his first year back they dropped to 28th and allowed just over 400 points. In 1998 they remained 28th in the NFL (of 30 teams) and allowed 452 points. In 1999 the zone blitz scheme began to take hold and although the Bengals defense allowed 460 points, they improved to 25th in the NFL (out of 31 teams).

Head coach

LeBeau was named interim head coach for the Bengals in 2000 following head coach Bruce Coslet's resignation during the 2000 season. Following the season, he was named permanent head coach.

Despite LeBeau's considerable defensive coaching talent, his offenses were not nearly as successful as head coach, and his teams finished 4–9, 6–10, and 2–14, respectively, in his three seasons. LeBeau's overall record as a head coach was 12–33. He was fired after the 2002 season.

Buffalo Bills

Shortly after being fired by the Bengals, LeBeau was named the Buffalo Bills's assistant head coach.

Pittsburgh Steelers (second stint)

LeBeau returned to the Steelers in 2004 as their defensive coordinator. He was the Steelers defensive coordinator until 2014. During this time frame, LeBeau helped lead the Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances, winning two. He was named "Coordinator of the year" by the Sporting News for the 2008 season. [9] On January 10, 2015, LeBeau resigned as defensive coordinator of the Steelers. [10]

Tennessee Titans

A month after resigning from the Steelers, LeBeau was hired as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. [11]

On January 20, 2016, LeBeau was officially named assistant head coach/defensive coordinator of the Titans after the departure of Ray Horton to the Cleveland Browns. Said LeBeau, "I like Tennessee a lot. I really love being here." [12] On January 22, 2018, it was reported that LeBeau was considering retirement after not being retained after head coach Mike Mularkey and the Tennessee Titans agreed to part ways and Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel was hired as the new head coach. Although LeBeau was open to returning to the Titans under Vrabel, the Titans decided to not invite him to be part of their new coaching staff. [13]

Legacy, defensive strategy

Dick LeBeau is arguably the best ever to coach defense. … He has done it on such a consistent basis over a long period of time.

Ron Jaworski, ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback. [14]

It was a thought process kind of born out of necessity. It was basically an outcropping of the run-and-shoot [offense] that was becoming pretty prevalent in the league back then. We were in the same division as Houston, and they were tremendous at it with Moon and Co. Then the West Coast offense was spreading throughout the league. Those were all quick-rhythm, get-the-ball-out-of-your-hands-and-cut-up-the-defense types of passing games. We were just looking for ways to get pressure without exposing our defensive backs to have to cover the whole field all of the time.

Dick LeBeau, on the origin of the ‘zone blitz’. [1]

As an assistant coach, LeBeau is credited with inventing the "Fire Zone" or "zone blitz" defense, which employs unpredictable pass rushes and pass coverage from various players. [15] His defenses typically employ 3–4 sets, with any of the four linebackers (and frequently a defensive back) among the pass rushers, while defensive linemen may drop back into short pass coverage zones to compensate for the pass rush coming from other positions. The design is intended to confuse the opposition's quarterback and frustrate its blocking schemes. Since zone blitzes don't identify any of the prospective rushers, the offense may be unsure on each play of which defenders will rush the passer and which will drop into coverage. While often described as a "blitzing" scheme (implying more than the typical number of four pass-rushers used by most defenses), the call on any particular "zone blitz" play may involve only three or four pass rushers but from unpredictable positions and angles. [16]

LeBeau is beloved among his players, many of whom refer to him as "Coach Dad." Steelers players have given him many gifts, including a Rolex watch. [17]

Head coaching record

TeamYearRegular seasonPostseason
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
CIN 2000*490.3085th in AFC Central----
CIN 2001 6100.3756th in AFC Central----
CIN 2002 2140.1254th in AFC North----
Total12330.26700.000

*Interim head coach

Personal life

LeBeau acted in the 1970 film Too Late the Hero , where he played Michael Caine's double in a scene. [18] LeBeau is said to regularly recite A Visit from St. Nicholas by heart to his players every Christmas season. [19] LeBeau credits his London High School coach, Jim Bowlus, with influencing him to take up coaching after his playing years ended. LeBeau says seeing the effect that Coach Bowlus had on him and his teammates clinched it for him at that point.

LeBeau has four children with his first wife, Phyllis Geer LeBeau, who died from cancer in 2002: Richard Jr., Linda, Lori, and Fe. He has been married to his current wife, Nancy, since 1973 [20] and they have a son together, Brandon.

LeBeau attended the American Legion Ohio Buckeye Boys State program in 1954 as a delegate. On June 10, 2019, he was inducted into the Buckeye Boys State Hall of Fame.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rod Woodson</span> American football player and coach (born 1965)

Roderick Kevin Woodson is an American former professional football defensive back in the National Football League (NFL) for 17 seasons. He is currently the Head Coach of the XFL's Vegas Vipers. Woodson was drafted in the 1987 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers and played his first ten years there, and was a key member of the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl XXXV championship team. He also had two shorter stints for the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders. Widely considered one of the greatest all-time defensive players ever, Woodson holds the NFL record for fumble recoveries (32) by a defensive player, and interceptions returned for touchdown (12), and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1993. His 71 career interceptions is the third-most in NFL history. He was an inductee of the Class of 2009 of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on August 8, 2009. Woodson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016. Rod played most of his career as a cornerback then switched to safety during the later part of his career.

Kenneth Allan Anderson is an American former professional football player who was a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL), spending his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He later returned as a position coach.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marvin Lewis</span> American football coach (born 1958)

Marvin Ronald Lewis is an American football coach who is special advisor to the head coach at Arizona State. Previously, Lewis was the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in the National Football League (NFL) for 16 seasons. He came to prominence as the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens from 1996 to 2001, whose defense in 2000 set the record for the fewest points allowed in a 16-game season and led the franchise to their first Super Bowl title in Super Bowl XXXV. This success resulted in Lewis being named the Bengals' head coach, where he served from 2003 to 2018. He was also a commentator for the Alliance of American Football (AAF).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bill Cowher</span> American football player, coach, and analyst (born 1957)

William Laird Cowher is an American sports analyst, former football player and coach. Following a six-year playing career as a linebacker in the National Football League (NFL), he served as a head coach in the NFL for 15 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He began his coaching career as an assistant under Marty Schottenheimer for the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, serving as the latter's defensive coordinator from 1989 to 1991. Cowher was named head coach of the Steelers in 1992, whom he led until his retirement following the 2006 season. After retiring, he joined The NFL Today as a studio analyst.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joey Porter</span> American football player and coach (born 1977)

Joseph Eugene Porter is an American former football outside linebacker who played 13 seasons in the National Football League (NFL), and is a former outside linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After playing college football at Colorado State, he was drafted by the Steelers in the third round of the 1999 NFL Draft. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Porter won Super Bowl XL with the Steelers over the Seattle Seahawks. He played for the Miami Dolphins from 2007 to 2009 and the Arizona Cardinals from 2010 to 2011.

In American football, a zone blitz is a defensive tactic that sends additional players to rush the opposing team's quarterback, whilst also unexpectedly redirecting a supposed pass rushing player into pass coverage instead. This tactic also likely includes zone coverage.

Henry Charles Bullough was an American football player and coach. He played college football at Michigan State and graduated in 1954. Bullough was a starting guard for the Spartans team that won the 1954 Rose Bowl. He was selected by the Green Bay Packers with the 53rd pick in the fifth round of the 1955 NFL Draft.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ike Taylor</span> American football player (born 1980)

Ivan "Ike" Taylor is a former American football cornerback. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL) in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, and spent his entire 12-year career in Pittsburgh. He played college football at University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Deshea Townsend</span> American football player and coach (born 1975)

Trevor Deshea Townsend is an American football coach and former cornerback who is the passing game coordinator and cornerbacks coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL). He previously served as an assistant coach for the Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zac Taylor</span> American football coach (born 1983)

Zachary William Taylor is an American football coach who is the head coach for the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League (NFL). Beginning his NFL career as an offensive assistant, he was the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams when they made a Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl LIII. Taylor was named Cincinnati's head coach the following season in 2019, where he went 6–25–1 in his first two years. In 2021, he led the Bengals to their first playoff win since 1990, ending the longest active drought in the four major North American sports, en route to an appearance in Super Bowl LVI.

Richard Blair Modzelewski was an American football defensive tackle in the National Football League for the Washington Redskins, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and the Cleveland Browns. He also served as interim head coach of the Browns in the final game of the 1977 season. Modzelewski was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mike Tomlin</span> American football coach (born 1972)

Michael Pettaway Tomlin is an American football coach who is the head coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). Since joining the Steelers in 2007, he has led the team to ten playoff runs, seven division titles, three AFC Championship Games, two Super Bowl appearances, and a title in Super Bowl XLIII. At age 36, Tomlin became the youngest head coach to win the Super Bowl, a record which was later beaten by Sean McVay in Super Bowl LVI. Tomlin has never had a losing record during his 16 seasons as a head coach, which is the longest such streak in the history of the NFL.

Darren Perry is a former professional American football player in the National Football League and current Defensive backs coach for the Vegas Vipers. He was drafted into the NFL in 1992 by the Pittsburgh Steelers and would later go on to play professional football with the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints. Perry retired from professional football due to a groin injury in 2000 after completing 8 years as a player.

Steven Wayne Jackson is a former American football defensive back for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans who is currently the senior offensive assistant for the Atlanta Falcons. He was selected by Houston in the 3rd round in the 1991 NFL Draft. In 1999, the Titans made it to Super Bowl XXXIV in which Jackson appeared as a substitute; however, they lost to the Kurt Warner-led St. Louis Rams. In 2022, twenty-two years later, Jackson coached the Cincinnati Bengals secondary/cornerbacks in Super Bowl LVI, also losing to Los Angeles Rams.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Billy Davis (American football coach)</span> American football player and coach (born 1965)

Bill Davis is an American football coach who is the linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of the Cincinnati Bengals</span>

The Cincinnati Bengals are a professional football franchise in the National Football League. Since starting off as an expansion franchise in the American Football League in 1968, they have appeared in three Super Bowls, but lost all three times, twice to the San Francisco 49ers and once to the Los Angeles Rams.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ray Horton</span> American football player and coach (born 1960)

Raymond Anthony Horton is an American football coach and former player. He played college football at Washington and was drafted in the second round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

The 2000 season was the Baltimore Ravens' fifth in the National Football League (NFL) and the second under head coach Brian Billick. The Ravens ended the season as Super Bowl XXXV Champions.

Teryl Austin is an American football coach who is the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). He was previously the defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions from 2014 to 2017 and the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Avery Williamson</span> American football player (born 1992)

Avery Milton Williamson is an American football linebacker who is currently a free agent. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He played college football at Kentucky.

References

  1. 1 2 Domowitch, Paul (January 28, 2009). "Unassuming LeBeau has respect of blitzing Steelers defense". Philadelphia Daily News .
  2. Gosselin, Rick (January 30, 2009). "Steelers' LeBeau deserves spot in Hall of Fame". Dallas Morning News .
  3. Kragthorpe, Kurt (January 29, 2009). "Steelers' LeBeau knows defense". Salt Lake Tribune . Archived from the original on February 6, 2009.
  4. Brubach, Holly (January 8, 2009). "After the Zone Blitz, the Deadpan Defense". The New York Times .
  5. 1 2 "Detroit Lions Top 50: #14-10 with VIDEO". Detroit Jock City. July 17, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2022.
  6. Kowalski, Tom (February 7, 2010). "Former Lions defensive back Dick LeBeau voted into Pro Football Hall of Fame". mlive. Retrieved February 18, 2022.
  7. Bouchette, Ed (February 7, 2010). "LeBeau elected to football Hall of Fame". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  8. Klis, Mike (February 7, 2010). "Floyd Little elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame". Denver Post.
  9. Coordinator of the year: Dick LeBeau, Steelers Archived January 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved on January 21, 2009.
  10. Stout, Steve (January 10, 2015). "LeBeau resigning as Steelers defensive coordinator". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  11. "Titans Name Dick LeBeau Assistant Head Coach/Defense". Titansonline.com. Archived from the original on February 8, 2015. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
  12. "Titans DC Dick LeBeau: "I really love being here"". www.titansonline.com. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  13. Wolfe, Cameron (January 23, 2018). "Dick LeBeau, 80, won't return as Titans defensive coordinator". ESPN.com. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  14. Mihoces, Gary (January 15, 2009). "The puppet master: LeBeau's X's and O's fuel Steelers' run". USA Today. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  15. Svrluga, Barry (January 18, 2009). "Steelers' LeBeau Earns Respect of Former Teammates and Current Players". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  16. Steelers coordinator LeBeau still the man for all seasons Archived February 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  17. Cook, Ron (November 30, 2008). "The type of thing that makes a grown man cry". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  18. Steelers innovator Dick LeBeau never shows his age Archived September 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved on February 1, 2009
  19. Pittsburgh's LeBeau Earns Respect of Former Teammates and Current Players.
  20. Curnutte, Mark (September 7, 2001). "Dick LeBeau: The Bengals' man for all seasons". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Archived from the original on January 18, 2015. Retrieved January 14, 2015.