The NFL is nothing if not a copycat league where today’s tendencies, once proven successful, become tomorrow’s trends. It could create a market for septuagenarian coaches.
While watching a wave of 30-something assistants getting coveted head-coaching jobs, Steelers coordinator Bruce Arians sent a not-so-subtle reminder that there is nothing like a true original.
“You’ve got a lot of guys that are head coaches now that are computer guys that copied other people’s stuff,” Arians said, “and the two best coordinators in this league are 70 years old — Dick LeBeau and Tom Moore. They’re great teachers, and they know why they put it in.”
Moore, 70, won two Super Bowl rings as the Steelers’ offensive coordinator from 1977-89 and another in the same position with the Indianapolis Colts. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, 71, has one Super Bowl and has a chance to win another in Super Bowl XLIII Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla.
From top to bottom, the Steelers have reverence for LeBeau and his blitz-oriented schemes that keep opposing offenses and coaches guessing.
Arians believes LeBeau is unique because of his ability to be creative, yet simple.
“It’s one thing to have exotic schemes — and all these young guys come up now that have these exotic schemes, they copied it off someone else,” Arians said. “Dick sits down with a pen and paper and goes through formations and draws up blitzes. They’re very creative and beat what you do, but they’re very simple to his guys. To me, the biggest compliment is when you flip on the film and all the other teams are doing his stuff. Next year, they’ll cut up all the Pittsburgh films and they’ll all be running these blitzes next year. But they don’t really know why they put them in.
“That’s the beauty of it: Dick knows why he put it in.”
Among LeBeau’s admirers is his boss, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who is impressed by his defensive coordinator’s never-ending desire to learn despite boasting the league’s No. 1 defense.
“Somebody’s that’s been in this league 50 years, that’s an inspiring quality to me,” said Tomlin, 36. “I’m looking to learn. Regardless of my job description and job title, I try to come in and learn something new every day and find new ways to skin it and cut it. He shares that same approach. From that standpoint, we’re kindred spirits.”
Not that LeBeau would ever come across as a know-it-all.
“He probably knows close to all of it,” Tomlin said, “but he doesn’t wear it, he really doesn’t. He’s an incredibly humble, down-to-earth person.”