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It’s Time To Coordinate A Path To The Hall

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If you ask any player or coach in the NFL they would tell you that their number one goal is to win a Super Bowl followed closely by making it into the Hall of Fame.
But what about the coordinators that construct the game plan and call the plays on a play by play basis? They are crucial members of the organization that go nameless unless the team is having an outstanding season or taking the hit for the head coach on a struggling team. There is no job security and surely no Hall of Famer coordinators right? Dick Lebeau and Tom Moore would disagree. 

The 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears were led by two Hall of Fame players in the late Walter Payton and Mike Singletary. The cast of players on that team included Wilber Marshall, Richard Dent, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Steve McMichael, current Tennessee Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher and a Hall of Fame Coach in Mike Ditka.

But every defensive player on that team would say defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan was every bit as vital to that team as Ditka, maybe even more. That 85′ Bears team may have had the most dominating defense ever and it showed in Super Bowl XX against the Patriots.

That day the Bears set Super Bowl records for sacks (7) and fewest rushing yards allowed (7). The Bears’ 36-point margin over the Patriots was a Super Bowl record until Super Bowl XXIV (45). The Patriots were held to negative yardage (-19) throughout the entire first half, and just 123 total yards in the entire game, the second lowest total in Super Bowl history.

When the game ended Ditka was carried off by the offensive players and Ryan by the defensive players, a tradition usually reserved solely for the Head Coach.  Ryan left to become the Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach and the Bears haven’t won a Super Bowl since.

Dick LeBeau has been in the NFL for 50 years as a player and a coach. He is considered an “innovator” and “defensive football genius”. LeBeau created the ‘zone blitz’  when he was defensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 1980s. He is currently in his second stint as the Steelers defensive coordinator, a position he has held for the past 5 years and from 1992-96.

As a player LeBeau has Hall of Fame credentials as well. He had 62 career interceptions for 762 return yards and 3 touchdowns, and holds the NFL record for consecutive game appearances for a corner back with 171. He also recovered 9 fumbles, returning them for 53 yards and a touchdown. But as impressive as his playing statistics are, it’s his impact coaching defense that has many thinking he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. 

Lebeau’s coaching career began as a special teams coach in Philadelphia from 1973-75 with stops in Green Bay as the secondary coach from 1976-79, Cincinnati as the defensive coordinator (1980-91 and again from 1997-2002) Buffalo (2003) and Pittsburgh (1992-96 and 2004-present). He has coordinated 3 AFC Championships for Pittsburgh (1995, 2005, and 2008), and two Super Bowl Championships Super Bowl XL,  and Super Bowl XLIII.

 LeBeau is known as the “father of the zone blitz”,  also known as the “fire zone”. When asked about how he created it, Lebeau told  Philadelphia Daily News “It was a thought process kind of born out of necessity. It was basically an outcropping of the run-and-shoot [offense] that was becoming pretty prevalent in the league back then. We were in the same division as Houston, and they were tremendous at it with Warren Moon and Co. Then the West Coast offense was spreading throughout the league. Those were all quick-rhythm, get-the-ball-out-of-your-hands-and-cut-up-the-defense types of passing games. We were just looking for ways to get pressure without exposing our defensive backs to have to cover the whole field all of the time.”

LeBeau’s impact on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the 3-4 defense goes without saying. He is the master and no one has done it better for as long as he has done it. Without Dick LeBeau one could argue that neither Bill Cower or Mike Tomlin would have Super Bowl rings. It was LeBeau’s defenses that made critical plays to either seal victories or make game changing plays that turned the momentum to the Steelers.

Former Eagles quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski may have summed it up best, “Dick LeBeau is arguably the best ever to coach defense. … He has done it on such a consistent basis over a long period of time.”

Tom Moore may be the exact opposite of Dick LeBeau because he is the architect of some of the most prominent offenses in NFL history. He started off in Pittsburgh under the great Chuck Noll as his wide receivers coach from 1977-82 which included two Super Bowl wins. Also on the Steelers staff  was future Head Coach Tony Dungy.

Moore was promoted to offensive coordinator in 1983 and held that title until 1989. He then went to Minnesota as the Assistant Head Coach from 1990-1993 and then off to Detroit as the offensive coordinator from 1994-96. He then went to New Orleans as the running backs coach for the 1997 season before landing in Indianapolis as the offensive coordinator from 1998 until he retired this past off season.

Moore, up until his retirement this off season, had coached Peyton Manning his entire career. The Colts had a  record of 117-59 in the regular season and 7-8 in the playoffs, also setting numerous NFL records, including highest passer rating, season (121.1 in 2004) and a then record for most passing touchdowns in a season with 49, also established in 2004. Moore also was the offensive coordinator for the Colts Super Bowl XLI win.

Dick LeBeau and Tom Moore are just two examples of coordinators that have had a huge impact on the game and they, along with the others, need to be recognized for it. The NFL honors players, coaches and contributors (such as owners and commissioners) for their efforts and contributions to the game and rightfully so.

But for a select few coordinators, the true elite coordinators who have had such an impact on the game of football, it is only justified that these coordinators the recognition they deserve. It’s time for the NFL and the Hall of Fame committee to coordinate a path to the Hall of Fame for them.


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Written by Joe Arrigo

September 21, 2009 at 11:03

Posted in NFL

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