BIGPLAY’s NFL 100: 100 Personalities From the NFL’s First 100 Years: #38 Dick LeBeau

Long-time defensive coach Dick LeBeau was an innovator.

Photo Courtesy of Codey Dauch, BIGPLAY

A list like this takes into account people who had great impact on the NFL even if they were not the best player or head coach of all-time. Dick LeBeau was affiliated with the NFL for 59 years as a player and a coach. He played alongside Dick “Night Train” Lane and Lem Barney and coached defensive standouts Tim Krumrie and Troy Polamalu.

As a player, he spent 14 seasons with the Detroit Lions. He holds the franchise record for most career interceptions with 62. Additionally, he was a three-time Pro Bowler and was a durable player as he played in 171 consecutive games. For part of his career, he was coached by former teammates Harry Gilmer (1965 – 1966) and Joe Schmidt (1967 – 1972).

After his playing career, he got straight into coaching, starting as special teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. He would go on to coach under Bart Starr, Sam Wyche and Bill Cowher. From 2000 – 2002, LeBeau got his opportunity to be a head coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. While it did not go well, it had more to do with less than stellar quarterback play as opposed to LeBeau being a bad coach.

Photo Courtesy of David Richard, AP

Many have considered him an innovator and he is widely responsible for using the zone blitz. In two different stints as the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he helped players like Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley become feared pass-rushers as outside linebackers in his 3 – 4 system.

In 2010 LeBeau received the ultimate honor from the NFL, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Floyd Little, John Randle, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith.

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