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Dick LeBeau

Dick LeBeau
Tennessee Titans
LeBeau (center) celebrates during Pittsburgh's Super Bowl XLIII parade in February 2009
Nickname(s) Coach Dad
Date of birth: (1937-09-09) September 9, 1937 (age 78)
Place of birth: London, Ohio, USA
Career information
Status: Active
Position(s): CB/FS
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College: Ohio State
High school: London High School
NFL Draft: 1959 / Round: 5 / Pick: 58
Drafted by: Cleveland Browns
As coach:










Philadelphia Eagles
(Special Teams Coach)
Green Bay Packers
Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals
(defensive coordinator)
Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers
(defensive coordinator)
Cincinnati Bengals
(Defensive Coordinator/
Assist. Head Coach)
Cincinnati Bengals
(head coach)
Buffalo Bills
(assistant head coach)
Pittsburgh Steelers
(defensive coordinator)
Tennessee Titans
(assistant head coach)
As player:
19591972 Detroit Lions
Career highlights and awards
Pro Bowls: 1964, 1965, 1966
Awards: 2008 Sporting News Coordinator of the Year
Honors: 1954 High-school football All-American
1964 2nd-team All-NFL
1965 2nd-team All-NFL
1970 2nd-team All-NFL
1965 1st-team All-Conf.
1971 2nd-team All-Conf.
2013 Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame
Career stats
Interceptions 62 (7th most all-time)
Consecutive games played 171
Playing stats at
Coaching stats at Pro Football Reference

Charles Richard "Dick" LeBeau (lǝ-BOH; born September 9, 1937) is an American football coach and former cornerback. He is currently the associate head coach in charge of defense for the Tennessee Titans. He has been active at field level in the National Football League (NFL) for 56 consecutive seasons–14 as a player with the Detroit Lions and 42 as a coach.[1] He was most recently the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive coordinator and is considered to be one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all time.[2] Considered an “innovator” and “defensive football genius”,[3][4] LeBeau created the "zone blitz" when he was defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 1980s.

On February 6, 2010, LeBeau was selected into the 2010 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The entire 2010 Steelers team attended the induction ceremony.


Playing career

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.

He was initially drafted in the fifth round in 1959 by the Cleveland Browns but was cut in training camp. A few months later, he was signed as a rookie free agent by the Detroit Lions. He played 14 years 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."

LeBeau is widely considered to be one of the greatest defensive backs in Detroit history. He recorded 62 interceptions for 762 yards and three touchdowns. His 62 interceptions are the most by a player in Lions' history, and he is tied for seventh all-time in NFL history. His 762 interception return yards ranks 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 holds the NFL record for consecutive appearances by a cornerback with 171. He also recovered 9 fumbles, returning them for 53 yards and a touchdown.

During his career, he earned three trips to the Pro Bowl (1964-1966). In 1970, LeBeau established a career-high nine interceptions (tied for sixth on the team’s all-time single-season interceptions list). He 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.[5][6]

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

Coaching career

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Ron Jaworski, ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback.[7]

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. 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 in 1984, 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 (9.5 sacks), David Grant (5 sacks), and Jason Buck (6 sacks). Pro Bowl defensive backs Eric Thomas and David Fulcher (the world's biggest free safety) combined for 12 interceptions. The team won the AFC Central Division with a 12–4 record. Bengals lost Super Bowl XXIII against 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 2 spots and were in the top half of NFL defenses due to LeBeau's scheme. In 1990 and 1991 the Bengals defense ranked 25th and 28th of 28 teams and the Bengals made a change in defensive coordinators.

LeBeau was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1992 as the secondary coach. In 1994, 4 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 with 9 sacks, while Pro Bowl linebacker Greg Lloyd led the team with 86 tackles. The secondary was led by Pro Bowl defensive backs Carnell Lake and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson. The Steelers lost against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX, making it the third Super Bowl lost for him.

In 1997 LeBeau returned to the Bengals as defensive coordinator The Bengals defense was 25th in 1996 and in his first year back with the Bengals 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 dropped to 25th on the NFL (out of 31 teams) an improvement of 3 spots.

LeBeau was named head coach in 2000.

Despite LeBeau's considerable defensive coaching talent, his offenses were not nearly as successful, and his teams finished 4–9, 6–10 and 2–14, respectively, in his three seasons. His overall record as a head coach stands at 12–33. He was fired after the 2002 season, but almost immediately resurfaced as a defensive assistant with the Buffalo Bills. LeBeau then went back to the Steelers in 2004.

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

As an assistant coach he is credited with inventing the "Fire Zone" or "zone blitz" defense, which employs unpredictable pass rushes and pass coverage from various players.[8] His defenses typically employ 3–4 sets, with any of the 4 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.[9]

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.[10]

LeBeau was named "Coordinator of the year" by the Sporting News for the 2008 season.[11] On January 10, 2015, LeBeau stepped down as defensive coordinator of the Steelers.[12] He was then hired as the assistant head coach/defense of the Tennessee Titans on February 5, 2015.[13]

Personal life

LeBeau acted in the 1970 movie Too Late the Hero, where he played Michael Caine's double in a scene.[14] LeBeau is said to regularly recite A Visit from St. Nicholas by heart to his players every holiday season.[15] LeBeau credits his London High School coach, Jim Bowlus, with influencing him to taking 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.

Dick has four children with his first wife, Phyllis Geer LeBeau (passed from cancer in 2002): Richard Jr, Linda, Lori, and Fe. He has been married to his current wife, Nancy, since 1973[16] and together they are the parents of one son, Brandon Grant LeBeau.

Head coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CIN 2000 4 9 0 .308 5th in AFC Central - - - -
CIN 2001 6 10 0 .375 6th in AFC Central - - - -
CIN 2002 2 14 0 .125 4th in AFC North - - - -
CIN Total 12 33 0 .267 0 0 .000
Total 12 33 0 .267 0 0 .000


  1. 1.0 1.1 Domowitch, Paul (2009-01-28). "Unassuming LeBeau has respect of blitzing Steelers defense". Philadelphia Daily News. 
  2. Brubach, Holly (2009-01-08). "After the Zone Blitz, the Deadpan Defense". The New York Times. 
  3. Gosselin, Rick (2009-01-30). "Steelers' LeBeau deserves spot in Hall of Fame". Dallas Morning News. 
  4. Kragthorpe, Kurt (2009-01-29). "Steelers' LeBeau knows defense". Salt Lake Tribune. 
  5. Bouchette, Ed (2010-02-07). "LeBeau elected to football Hall of Fame". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  6. Klis, Mike (2010-02-07). "Floyd Little elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame". Denver Post. 
  7. Mihoces, Gary (2009-01-15). "The puppet master: LeBeau's X's and O's fuel Steelers' run". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  8. Svrluga, Barry (2009-01-18). "Steelers' LeBeau Earns Respect of Former Teammates and Current Players". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  9. Steelers coordinator LeBeau still the man for all seasons
  10. Cook, Ron (2008-11-30). "The type of thing that makes a grown man cry". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  11. Coordinator of the year: Dick LeBeau, Steelers. Retrieved on 2009-01-21.
  12. Stout, Steve (January 10, 2015). "LeBeau resigning as Steelers defensive coordinator". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 10, 2015. 
  13. "Titans Name Dick LeBeau Assistant Head Coach/Defense". Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  14. Steelers innovator Dick LeBeau never shows his age. Retrieved on 2009-02-01
  15. Pittsburgh's LeBeau Earns Respect of Former Teammates and Current Players.
  16. Curnutte, Mark (2001-09-07). "Dick LeBeau: The Bengals' man for all seasons". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 2015-01-14. 

External links

Preceded by
Hank Bullough
Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Coordinator
Succeeded by
Ron Lynn
Preceded by
Dom Capers
Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Coordinator
Succeeded by
Jim Haslett
Preceded by
Larry Peccatiello
Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Coordinator
Succeeded by
Mark Duffner
Preceded by
Tim Lewis
Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Coordinator
Succeeded by
Keith Butler