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Old 01-09-2009, 07:35 PM   #1
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Default Super article on Dick LeBeau

PITTSBURGH — Access to his head is by invitation only. A former cornerback for the Detroit Lions and the inventor of the zone blitz, Dick LeBeau now masterminds the Pittsburgh defense, the N.F.L.’s best.

During games, he stands on the sideline surveying the drama, arms folded, his face blank, betraying nothing. Not the pride he takes in his players, who regard him as a father. Not the vast knowledge of football he has acquired in a 50-year career — 14 as a player, 36 as a coach. Not his Midwestern small-town roots or a sentimental streak as wide as “The Wizard of Oz,” his favorite movie. And certainly not his age, 71.

Joe Schmidt, 76, a former Lions teammate and later his coach in Detroit, said it was annoying how young LeBeau looked.

Now in his second stint as the Steelers’ defensive coordinator, LeBeau has built a career on being opaque. To such an extent that during his years in Detroit, people did not even take him for a football player. “A politician, maybe, or a con artist,” said Charlie Sanders, another Lions teammate who played poker with LeBeau. “You always knew he knew something, but you never knew what it was. I learned the hard way, and it cost me a few bucks.”

Whatever the outcome of the game, LeBeau does not say much. He checks in with his players, asking about their physical condition. James Farrior, a Steelers linebacker and the captain of the defense, said, “If you didn’t know Coach LeBeau and you ran into him after a game, you could never tell if we won or lost.”

What makes LeBeau’s deadpan different from so many other coaches’ is that it is not a mask. Unlike, say, Bill Belichick, whose unchanging expression exudes all the calm of Vesuvius, LeBeau is hard to read in part because he is so steady. “He doesn’t get too high with the highs or too low with the lows,” defensive end Aaron Smith said.

Soft-spoken, he shifts his voice to a baritone growl for practices and games. LeBeau never yells or flies off the handle. Almost never.

Two years ago at Carolina, in the fourth quarter with Pittsburgh ahead, one of the Steelers’ defensive backs intercepted the ball and began celebrating before the play was over. LeBeau was irate. “He really got in this guy’s face and chewed him out,” recalled Ken Whisenhunt, the team’s offensive coordinator at the time and now head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. “Because he thought that that was fundamentally disrespectful to the game.”

“You make a mistake, he can deal with that,” Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said. “He gets more mad if you hotdog and you show off. If he gets on you, you really done did something.”

It counts for a lot with his players that LeBeau was himself a player, and the few occasions when the time is right, he reminds them how good he was. He retired in 1972 with 62 interceptions, which is tied for seventh on the career list, and 171 consecutive starts, a record for cornerbacks.

“He’s not a real rah-rah guy,” strong safety Troy Polamalu said. “He doesn’t have to give us some speech before the game, because we respect him on a day-to-day basis.”

>>>>>>>>>the article is 3 pages long. The rest of of it here......... http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/09/sp...r=1&ref=sports
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"We're not going to turn our backs on him," Ward said. "We're going to treat him like our brother. We're going to accept him back and be very supportive of him and help him get through this. In this locker room, he's still our quarterback."

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Old 01-09-2009, 08:15 PM   #2
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Default Re: Super article on Dick LeBeau

It will be a very sad day when LeBeau leaves the NFL.
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Old 01-09-2009, 08:17 PM   #3
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Default Re: Super article on Dick LeBeau

wow this man has been in the NFL for 50 years strong.. that's amazing.. it will surely be a sad day among steelerfans, when he decides it's time to go
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Old 01-09-2009, 09:33 PM   #4
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Default Re: Super article on Dick LeBeau

Thanks for posting this. :)
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Old 01-09-2009, 10:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: Super article on Dick LeBeau

Do you guys think our Defense will change once LeBeau hits the bucket?
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Old 01-09-2009, 10:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: Super article on Dick LeBeau

Quote:
Originally Posted by BehindSteelCurtain View Post
Do you guys think our Defense will change once LeBeau hits the bucket?
Every game the Steelers play I'm thankful for how adaptive he's been with the changes the game has seen, as well as personnel. I was really, really nervous when Tomlin took over, him being of his own mind, defensively. The way he handled LeBeau was first class, and I'm not sure how everything could have worked out better, honestly.
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Old 01-09-2009, 11:03 PM   #7
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Default Re: Super article on Dick LeBeau

that is a awesome article thanks for posting it!
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Old 01-09-2009, 11:09 PM   #8
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Default Re: Super article on Dick LeBeau

Full article.... I want this kept here for others to read in the future.

Quote:
PITTSBURGH — Access to his head is by invitation only. A former cornerback for the Detroit Lions and the inventor of the zone blitz, Dick LeBeau now masterminds the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, the N.F.L.’s best.

During games, he stands on the sideline surveying the drama, arms folded, his face blank, betraying nothing. Not the pride he takes in his players, who regard him as a father. Not the vast knowledge of football he has acquired in a 50-year career — 14 as a player, 36 as a coach. Not his Midwestern small-town roots or a sentimental streak as wide as “The Wizard of Oz,” his favorite movie. And certainly not his age, 71.

Joe Schmidt, 76, a former Lions teammate and later his coach in Detroit, said it was annoying how young LeBeau looked.

Now in his second stint as the Steelers’ defensive coordinator, LeBeau has built a career on being opaque. To such an extent that during his years in Detroit, people did not even take him for a football player. “A politician, maybe, or a con artist,” said Charlie Sanders, another Lions teammate who played poker with LeBeau. “You always knew he knew something, but you never knew what it was. I learned the hard way, and it cost me a few bucks.”

Whatever the outcome of the game, LeBeau does not say much. He checks in with his players, asking about their physical condition. James Farrior, a Steelers linebacker and the captain of the defense, said, “If you didn’t know Coach LeBeau and you ran into him after a game, you could never tell if we won or lost.”

What makes LeBeau’s deadpan different from so many other coaches’ is that it is not a mask. Unlike, say, Bill Belichick, whose unchanging expression exudes all the calm of Vesuvius, LeBeau is hard to read in part because he is so steady. “He doesn’t get too high with the highs or too low with the lows,” defensive end Aaron Smith said.

Soft-spoken, he shifts his voice to a baritone growl for practices and games. LeBeau never yells or flies off the handle. Almost never.

Two years ago at Carolina, in the fourth quarter with Pittsburgh ahead, one of the Steelers’ defensive backs intercepted the ball and began celebrating before the play was over. LeBeau was irate. “He really got in this guy’s face and chewed him out,” recalled Ken Whisenhunt, the team’s offensive coordinator at the time and now head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. “Because he thought that that was fundamentally disrespectful to the game.”

“You make a mistake, he can deal with that,” Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said. “He gets more mad if you hotdog and you show off. If he gets on you, you really done did something.”

It counts for a lot with his players that LeBeau was himself a player, and the few occasions when the time is right, he reminds them how good he was. He retired in 1972 with 62 interceptions, which is tied for seventh on the career list, and 171 consecutive starts, a record for cornerbacks.

“He’s not a real rah-rah guy,” strong safety Troy Polamalu said. “He doesn’t have to give us some speech before the game, because we respect him on a day-to-day basis.”

LeBeau said: “If I make a bad call, I’m not going to stand up in front of them on Monday and say, ‘You guys messed up that play.’ I’m going to say: ‘That was really a lousy call. I had a reason for doing it, but guess what? I was wrong.’ ”

Teacher and Student

He knew that he would be a coach back in high school, in London, Ohio. “I watched the coaches that I had” — among them Ohio State’s Woody “This Is Not a Democracy” Hayes — “and I’d say to myself, ‘Geez, I would never do that.’ ”

LeBeau said that as a player, he wanted to be instructed. “And so I’ve coached the way I wanted to be coached,” he said. “Players just want to get better, and they will respond to the instructor who is making them better.”

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin, a former defensive coordinator, credited LeBeau with “making the complex seem simple — and that’s what we strive to do, as teachers.” Whisenhunt praised LeBeau’s “calming influence” on players.

Schmidt said, “I think the Steelers’ defense now reflects how he played.”

LeBeau’s teammates in Detroit remember him reading scouting reports and watching film. “People would try to pick on him,” Sanders said, because, at 6 feet 1 inch and 185 pounds, “he didn’t have all the physical attributes that most guys had in the secondary. But the fact that he was as smart as he was and studied as much as he did, that’s what made him excel — that’s why he had the numbers. He was ahead of the quarterback.”

Schmidt, captain of the Lions’ defense until 1965, said: “I called defensive signals, and Dick dropped information to me in the game that was helpful to me and helped our defense. And he had that information because he studied more than anybody else on the team.”

Lem Barney, who arrived as a rookie in 1967, considers the six years he played with LeBeau his apprenticeship — Barney at left corner and LeBeau on the right.

“Dick taught me to be able to understand what offensive coordinators would try to do to you as a defensive back,” Barney said, adding, “Dick was a very astute defensive ballplayer, and with his insight and his intuition, he was almost like a coach out there playing.”

In 1963, the late author George Plimpton took part in the Lions’ training camp, an experience that became the basis for his book, “Paper Lion,” in which LeBeau figures as an appealing if enigmatic character, playing his guitar in the dorm at night and singing “mournful” songs he composed.

As the Joe Schmidt Trio, LeBeau, Schmidt and defensive back Bruce Maher cut a 45-r.p.m. record whose B side, a LeBeau song called “The Lonesome One,” appeared briefly on the local charts. The unsold copies, which LeBeau jokingly numbers in the tens of thousands, are still in his mother’s basement. There were no live engagements. “Thank God,” Schmidt said.

Since his retirement as a player in 1972, LeBeau’s career path as a coach has passed through Philadelphia, Green Bay, Cincinnati (where he had a 12-33 record in three seasons as head coach, beginning in 2000), Buffalo and Pittsburgh, twice. First in 1992, when Bill Cowher, the Steelers’ head coach at the time, hired him as the defensive backs coach and three years later promoted him to coordinator. In 1997, he left for the Bengals.

In 2004, the Steelers were looking for a defensive coordinator once again. “I watched Pittsburgh play a quote-unquote meaningless game against Baltimore, when Baltimore was already in the playoffs and Pittsburgh was out,” LeBeau said. “I’d kind of kept an eye on the defense because there were still quite a few of the players I had coached. And I saw how hard they played and I thought, Man, that’s a pretty special bunch of guys — I sure would like to be associated with them.” He called Cowher and asked for his old job back.

“The defense was there that we had put in place in ’92,” Cowher said. “We continued to do the same thing with some differences, adding to it. So it was pretty much a case of him picking up where he left off and getting a feel for the guys we had.”

“I knew all about him,” said Farrior, one of the players who had arrived in LeBeau’s absence. “Who he was, where he played and coached. I was excited to finally meet the guy who wrote a lot of the defenses we had been running. He told us he was happy to be back in Pittsburgh, and that was one of the things that struck me the most — that he’s not one of these coaches trying to get a better job, that he’s happy with where he is in his life right now. All he wants to do is coach this defense.”
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Old 01-09-2009, 11:10 PM   #9
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Default Re: Super article on Dick LeBeau

The rest of the article.

Quote:
Creating 1 From 11

LeBeau makes defense compelling: the perfect unison it requires, the complexity, the unsung heroics. “Many of the offensive plays are going to happen on one side of the formation, and these guys over here are not going to be as involved as the guys over there,” LeBeau said. “But defensively, if all 11 of your guys aren’t fitting together, then you’re going to have seams and holes. So a perfect play for us is the perfect mesh as it moves across the field.”

Polamalu, who had seven interceptions this season, including one so improbable and acrobatic that it became a hit on YouTube, said that LeBeau did not make a big deal over picks and sacks. “I think the thing that really impresses him the most is not those highlight plays but everybody being really disciplined and doing our jobs: they run for 2 yards, they run for 2 yards, then we force them to punt.

“Anyway,” Polamalu added, “he has 62 interceptions, which is more than our whole defense.”

Asked why LeBeau and the Steelers have turned out to be such a good fit, the team’s chairman, Dan Rooney replied, “Maybe we do things similar.”

LeBeau’s brand of charisma is a sort of anticharisma, and along with Tomlin he has created a culture in which players thrive on selflessness.

“In any particular snap,” LeBeau said, “there are four or five guys defensively who make wonderful plays that no one in the stands would even notice.”

The running joke, Smith said, is that nobody wants to be the superstar.

“Great defense is more than just great players,” Tomlin said. “It’s guys understanding how what they do fits in the big picture. It’s guys making personal sacrifice for the betterment of the group, spilling and taking on blocks, doing things that are against human nature.”

In LeBeau’s hands, defense is both physical and cerebral. “We have an extremely intelligent defense,” he said, “and our guys take pride in being correct and understanding what’s being asked of them and getting their part of it done. There’s no way you can play defense without being smart.”

As a strategist, LeBeau continues to innovate. The schemes he devised for the Steelers in 2005 stymied four of the N.F.L.’s best offenses in the playoffs, beating the Colts with a new blitz and holding the Seahawks to 10 points in the Super Bowl.

Though the zone blitz and other schemes that LeBeau created have been widely copied, Tomlin contends that there is a big advantage in having the guy who wrote the play running the play.

“Success in football is all about anticipating the game’s evolution,” Tomlin said. “Working with the author of the scheme keeps you on that cutting edge. I would imagine that a lot of people wait for the off-season to study Dick, what adjustments and changes he’s made. And we get a chance to be part of that on a day-to-day basis.”

Shows of Respect

When the word came down this season that the league intended to honor LeBeau for his 50 years in football, his initial reaction was to decline.

“I didn’t want to take the focus off of the game,” he said. “It was a real important part of the season for us. I just wanted the guys focusing on the ballgame, getting ready to win.”

It was Dan Rooney and his son Art II who finally talked him into going along with the plan. In the end, LeBeau complied, standing on the field for a pregame ceremony in November, looking vaguely embarrassed by all the fuss, with tears in his eyes. His players stayed on the field to watch.

Among the biggest tributes to LeBeau are the private ones. Smith claimed that knowing LeBeau has made him not only a better player, but also a better man. Defensive end Brett Keisel said playing for LeBeau made him love the game more than he ever thought possible.

“We genuinely come to work and think, I can’t wait to hear what he’s got to say and where we’re going to go next,” Keisel said.

Always smiling. Always glad to see you. Always interested in you. Always asks after your family. Never in a hurry. If Dick LeBeau has detractors, no one seems to know who they are. Asked if he has ever seen anyone disrespect LeBeau, Smith said: “I don’t think anybody would be crazy enough to do that. We’d take care of them. I don’t think they would make it out alive.”

Sanders, Barney and Schmidt have all been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Not LeBeau. Not yet.

“I think he knows that he had the respect of his peers,” Sanders said. “But he also had the numbers that qualify him to be there, especially during that era.”

Last year, when the Steelers played an exhibition game in Canton, his defense turned out in retro Lions jerseys with No. 44, LeBeau’s number — as a not-so-subtle statement. The Hall of Fame recently asked all its living members to write in names of players who have been overlooked; Barney said that LeBeau’s name was first on his list.

Talking to LeBeau and his players, it is hard to resist the notion of football as family, except that so few families get along as well as the Steelers’ defense. They even have a holiday tradition in LeBeau’s annual customized recitation of “The Night Before Christmas,” which he began for the benefit of his mother and aunts some 40 years ago and continued for his five children and later his players. He still recites it for his mother, now 95.

Tomlin said LeBeau had never talked to him about retirement. “When he wants to have that conversation,” Tomlin said, “I’m not available.”
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Old 01-09-2009, 11:41 PM   #10
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Default Re: Super article on Dick LeBeau

Nice article. LeBeau has sure made Tomlin's first 2 years easy, huh? I wonder how much of the way the secondary has been playing is a credit to Tomlin though? He was the defensive backs coach for the Bucs when they won the Super Bowl and that D was really good.
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