Dick LeBeau

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

Charles Richard LeBeau (/ləˈb/ lə-BOH; born September 9, 1937) is an American football coach and former cornerback, who was last an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans of 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] He is considered to be one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all time.[2] Considered an “innovator” and “defensive football genius”,[3][4] LeBeau popularized 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 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."

LeBeau is widely considered to be one of the greatest defensive backs in Lions history. He recorded 62 interceptions for 762 yards and three 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 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 previously held the NFL record for consecutive appearances by a cornerback with 171, which has since been broken by Ronde Barber. He also recovered nine 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

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.

First stint with the 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 (nine-and-a-half sacks), David Grant (five sacks), and Jason Buck (six 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 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.

First stint with the 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.

Second stint with the Bengals

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. His overall record as a head coach stands at 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.

Second stint with the Steelers

LeBeau returned to the Steelers in 2004 as their defensive coordinator. He was the Steelers defensive coordinator until 2014. During this time frame, LeBeau coached the Steelers to 3 Super Bowl appearances, winning 2. LeBeau was named "Coordinator of the year" by the Sporting News for the 2008 season.[7] On January 10, 2015, LeBeau resigned as defensive coordinator of the Steelers.[8]

Tennessee Titans

A month after resigning from the Steelers, he was hired as the assistant head coach/defense of the Tennessee Titans.[9]

On January 20, 2016, the Titans officially named LeBeau assistant head coach/defensive coordinator after the departure of Ray Horton to the Cleveland Browns. Said LeBeau, "I like Tennessee a lot. I really love being here."[10] 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.[11]

Legacy, defensive strategy

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.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]

Head coaching record

TeamYearRegular seasonPostseason
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
CIN2000 490.3085th in AFC Central----
CIN2001 6100.3756th in AFC Central----
CIN2002 2140.1254th in AFC North----

Personal life

LeBeau acted in the 1970 movie Too Late the Hero, where he played Michael Caine's double in a scene.[16] LeBeau is said to regularly recite A Visit from St. Nicholas by heart to his players every Christmas season.[17] 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, who passed from cancer in 2002: Richard Jr, Linda, Lori, and Fe. He has been married to his current wife, Nancy, since 1973[18] and they have one son together, Brandon Grant LeBeau.


  1. 1 2 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. Coordinator of the year: Dick LeBeau, Steelers Archived 2009-01-29 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2009-01-21.
  8. Stout, Steve (January 10, 2015). "LeBeau resigning as Steelers defensive coordinator". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  9. "Titans Name Dick LeBeau Assistant Head Coach/Defense". Titansonline.com. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  10. "Titans DC Dick LeBeau: "I really love being here"". www.titansonline.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30.
  11. Wolfe, Cameron (January 23, 2018). "Dick LeBeau, 80, won't return as Titans defensive coordinator". ESPN.com. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
  12. Mihoces, Gary (2009-01-15). "The puppet master: LeBeau's X's and O's fuel Steelers' run". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
  13. Svrluga, Barry (2009-01-18). "Steelers' LeBeau Earns Respect of Former Teammates and Current Players". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
  14. Steelers coordinator LeBeau still the man for all seasons Archived 2009-02-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. Cook, Ron (2008-11-30). "The type of thing that makes a grown man cry". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  16. Steelers innovator Dick LeBeau never shows his age Archived 2015-09-23 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on 2009-02-01
  17. Pittsburgh's LeBeau Earns Respect of Former Teammates and Current Players.
  18. Curnutte, Mark (2001-09-07). "Dick LeBeau: The Bengals' man for all seasons". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 2015-01-14.

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