Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday's Interviews: Dick LeBeau

Early last week there were rumors afloat that Dik LeBeau, the youngest looking 71 year old man in America, was leaning towards retiring. That unsubstantiated talk has been largely put down, but if there was any doubt remaining Mr. LeBeau squashed it on Thursday when he met with the media. We have moved his answer to the question about retirement to the top of the NFL's transcript, everything else is offered as it was received from the league:

(on why he wants to continue in his position win or lose): “Well, I think these guys play defense pretty well and it’s kind of fun to coach them. They keep me young, there’s no question about it and that’s the reason why. As long as my health holds up and people want me to work, I think it’d be pretty foolish to leave these guys.”

(on his discussion with Head Coach Mike Tomlin when he decided to retain him as the defensive coordinator): “The first time I talked to Coach Tomlin he called me on the phone and he said I’m real busy, but I just want you to know that I want you to stay. So, after that it was just a matter of meeting with him and figuring out what he wanted to do. That was all I wanted to hear and he told me that and I knew he was real busy, so I didn’t really talk to him for two or three days. But we spent a lot of time in our earlier association with just trying to exchange defensive philosophies and situational calls and things of that nature; they were very productive by far. Before he got completely immersed with the draft and free agency and everything like that we had some real quality time there and it was, I thought, I hope, productive for him and it certainly was for me.”

(on what he thinks about the recent surge of younger head coaches): “I think all coaching is a young man’s job really. I don’t think there’s any question about that. I’ve been blessed. But, is it a young man’s job? I think invariably most coaches are going to say yes. There is something to be said in all walks of employment for experience. The older you are, hopefully, you are more experienced, but sometimes you wonder. But, you should get better every year. Hopefully that is the case.”

(on the scouting department): “Our scouts do a great job. Our Director of Football Operations who coordinates our draft is Kevin Colbert and he’s done a tremendous job of getting people that fit and fit what we do.”

(on if he met any resistance when he was in Cincinnati about using the zone blitz scheme): “No, I was really lucky there too because we were really going far off the diving board in 1983 and 1984. Sam Wyche was the head coach and Coach Wyche was an innovative guy himself. Really the popularization of the no-huddle as a constant theme of attack. I think Sam was one of the very, very first guys that I ever saw do it and as far as I know he was the first guy. Everybody used two minute, but Sam evolved it into an every attack, which is pretty prevalent around the league. Most teams will do it some throughout the season. He was more open perhaps to something that was a little bit more bizarre perhaps than cover-3, so I was lucky there.”

(on the players’ reaction when he first introduced the zone blitz scheme): “The players have always enjoyed the pressure schemes. I move them and they like to move. I’ve never been exposed to very many players that don’t like to put pressure on the quarterback and not just set in one position. The offense makes us adjust to everything, formation, snap count, shifts, no huddles, so it’s fun to make them have to adjust.”

(on if it’s like turning the tables and making the offense adjust to the defense): “Well, try to level the field a little bit for your guys that’s all. Still, they’re going to initiate the action because they’re the ones that have the football. We’re always going to be a stimulus-response type of situation, but hopefully by moving and bringing some different people in different combinations we can deter some of the things they want to do.”

(on if he has seen Mike Tomlin grow as a coach from year one to year two): “I think he’s done a tremendous job both years. I think Coach Tomlin knew what he wanted to do when he came in here. If you check his track record out, he’s achieved at a very early age all through his career. I think that he deserves a tremendous amount of credit for coming into a situation where there was a great coach just leaving and leaving pretty much at the top of his record and the things that Coach Cowher accomplished at Pittsburgh and that’s not an easy situation for any man to step into. Mike went in with his own personality and his own thoughts and I think Coach Tomlin would tell you that he has grown. Hopefully, we all grow every year with what we’re doing, but I think from day one he’s done a tremendous job and I don’t think it can be overstated the degree of difficulty to follow a man that is successful as Coach Cowher was there. I think you’ve said all you need to say about Coach Tomlin when you say that he was successful in a difficult situation.”

(on if the Cardinals offense is similar to what Coach Whisenhunt did with the Steelers): “Yeah, I mean sure. We’re going to see some of the things he’s done. He has a great cast of characters to orchestrate it. The quarterback has so more experience and accuracy. That, to me, is the main ingredient that he brings; he’s so accurate. It’s not like he doesn’t have anybody out there to catch the ball. He has three tremendous wide receivers. No one talks about their tight ends, but they’re big, really big and they can really catch the ball. I know we’re going to see some things that Coach Whisenhunt’s done before, we’re going to see some things he hasn’t done. I know he’ll have some surprises. The thing that makes him so formidable are the people they have doing them.”

(on why his players play so well): “It’s because of their character. They’re competitive and they live to play, so we try not to hurt them, we just try to stay out of their way. I’m blessed. We have a tremendous group of young men. You would be proud to call any one of them a member of your family. They’re going to defend everybody and they’re going to play every minute they have left. I’m probably the most proud of that: how they play. I’d like to claim some credit for that, but the people that they are, they’re just tremendous competitors. They’re going to play, I promise you that.”

(on not being able to prepare for every possible play the Cardinals will use): “Well, a wise man once said, ‘He who defends everything, defends nothing.’ That was Fredrick the Great, the unifier of the Prussian states. I think he knew what he was talking about. He had a pretty good competitive record.”

(on how Arizona QB Kurt Warner said he hates him): “That’s quite a compliment. On the other hand, I’m a great admirer of Kurt Warner. I think his story is great. I think his career is great. I think he’s a tremendous example of all that’s right in professional athletics. I’m a tremendous fan of Kurt Warner. I admire him. I hope he doesn’t do too well on Sunday, but I really think he’s a great man and a great player.”

(on if he thinks this is the best group of athletes he’s had as a whole package defensively): “Again, I’ve been blessed. We had Kevin Green and Greg Lloyd on the outside and Levon Kirkland and Chad Brown on the inside and you’re not going to get very many better players than that to work with. I think, from the standpoint of numbers, from what they produce, the numbers speak for themselves. I think maybe the game is progressed to where what they’ve done certainly has merit, but I wouldn’t compare them to other teams. But, as far as people, I’ve never had better people to coach either on or off the field. They’re special.”

(on when he first got to Pittsburgh and how much of a melting pot of defensive ideas it was with him, Dom Capers and Bill Cowher): “Well, there’s no question that it was a melting pot. All three of us had been defensive coordinators. Coach Cowher had the final voice because he was the head coach and Dom Capers was our defensive coordinator. I certainly was not a prime mover at first, but we didn’t talk much about the fire zones early. But as we got in to where people were comfortable with what we were going to do, we began to get into some different pressures and we had success with them. So, it was just an out-pouring of a lot of guys who had some good defensive exposure.”

(on what year he started using the zone blitz): “I’d say about 1984. I started delving into dropping different people. That was the first year that I was the coordinator. I had always had these ideas, but if you’re not the coordinator you don’t get them in. Then, it really grew when we drafted a guy from Arizona by the name of David Fulcher who was a tremendous force blitzing and he could play like a linebacker. Yet, he had pretty good open field capabilities too. Trying to utilize his ability to blitz without having the opponent just always hot-read away from him was one of the first things that got me thinking in some of the things we did.”

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