"We love coach LeBeau. I don't think there's anything we wouldn't do for him."
- safety Troy Polamalu on NBC Sports in January, 2009.
As you probably heard by now, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been included in this year's class of Hall of Fame inductees! It's quite an honor for the 72 year old. Here's an overview of some of his accomplishments in the league as both a player and a coach.
1959-1972: Detroit Lions (defensive back)
- 3x Pro Bowl selection ('65, '66, '67)
- 62 career interceptions (still 8th best in NFL history despite the drastically increased opportunities for DBs to accumulate INTs since LeBeau's playing days).
- Played in 171 straight games during one stretch for the Lions. I believe that is still an NFL record for the position.
1973-1975: Philadelphia Eagles (special teams coach
1976-1979: Green Bay Packers (defensive backs coach)
1980-1983: Cincinnati Bengals (defensive backs coach)
1984-1991: Cincinnati Bengals (defensive coordinator)
1992-1994: Pittsburgh Steelers (defensive backs coach)
1995-1996: Pittsburgh Steelers (defensive coordinator)
1997-2000: Cincinnati Bengals (defensive coordinator/asst. head coach)
2000-2002: Cincinnati Bengals (head coach)
2003: Buffalo Bills (assistant head coach)
2004-???: Pittsburgh Steelers (defensive coordinator)
- LeBeau will be enshrined in Canton next summer partially because of his defensive innovations - most notably the 'zone blitz' which he began tinkering with in the early 1980s.
- It was not really until his tenure in Pittsburgh though that the idea really came to life. Before being named defensive coordinator in 1995, LeBeau helped stabilize the Steelers secondary in the first years of the post-Chuck Noll era in Pittsburgh. Those were nervous times and LeBeau more than did his part to give the organization and its fans that they were more than heading in the right direction.
- In those three years coaching the Steelers DBs, LeBeau's secondary never finished outside the top 10 in passing touchdowns allowed.
- In 1995, LeBeau's first year as DC, Gregg Lloyd set career highs in interceptions (6) and forced fumbles (3)
- Levon Kirland benefited from LeBeau's zone blitz scheme, notching a career high 4 interceptions in 1996, while terrorizing quarterbacks with blitzes up the shoot when not dropping in to coverage.
- Chad Greene recorded 13 sacks in 1996, the year Kevin Greene departed for Carolina. Greene was a beast in his prime, but he also was made to look a lot better than he really was by the system he was playing in.
- Then there's James Harrison more recently...I could go on, but the point is, Dick LeBeau has turned great athletes in to great football players. And he's done it for a long, long period of time.
"Everything I do is because of (LeBeau)," Harrison said. "If he doesn't call that defense that puts me in a position to make plays, I wouldn't be talking to you now."
I could list all of the accolades LeBeau's defenses have collected over the years; all the individual honors his players have won. But that's not really the point. It's the entire body of work that makes Coach Dad such a living legend and so deserving of the ultimate honor - enshrinement in Canton, Ohio in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's an overdue honor for LeBeau, but as they say, better late than never.