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fordfixer
01-18-2009, 01:33 AM
LeBeau, Ryan revered by their players

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 07666.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_607666.html)

His players call Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau "wizard" and there is some irony to that.

In the classic film "Wizard of Oz," an average man uses bluster and gimmickry to create the illusion that he is great and all-powerful. LeBeau, maestro of the No. 1 defense in the NFL, may well qualify as both, yet he carries himself in an understated manner that hardly seems fitting for one of the noted innovators of his time.

That the ego of a man who has excelled for 50 years in the NFL as a player and coach could fit comfortably into a thimble is one reason why, as Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said, his players "would go out and bleed for him at any time."

Rex Ryan, defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, also gets maximum effort and corresponding results from his star-studded cast of players. And, like LeBeau, he eschews a heavy-handed approach to coaching.

The two master motivators and strategists will be behind the curtains today when the Steelers host the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. The moves they make as they turn Heinz Field into an oversized chess board could loom large in determining which team advances to the Super Bowl.

The third meeting this season between the bitter AFC North rivals has been cast as a classic defensive struggle and for good reason. Offenses produced a combined four touchdowns in the teams' first two meetings, and only 55 rushing yards separated the Steelers from becoming the first team since the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles to finish the regular season No. 1 in rushing defense, passing defense and total defense.

The Ravens, meanwhile, finished right behind the Steelers in most major defensive categories, and the similarities between the units don't end in the statistical analysis.

Both LeBeau and Ryan employ a base 3-4 defense that can look like one thing before the snap and morph into something totally different after the ball is hiked. And each subscribes to a fundamental philosophy when it comes to shutting down opposing offenses.

"Both defenses," Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said, "are built to stop the run."

Ryan learned the importance of doing just that at an early age.

He is the son of Buddy Ryan, whose vaunted "46" defense tormented teams in the 1980s and 1990s by crowding the line of scrimmage, clogging running lanes and making offenses one-dimensional.

"I see some of his dad's stuff in what he does," said the 71-year-old LeBeau, who is more of a contemporary of the elder Ryan than the younger ones. Rex's twin brother, Rob, is the Oakland Raiders' defensive coordinator.

There is one major difference between Rex Ryan and his father.

Rex Ryan, who has been the Ravens' defensive coordinator since 2005, is not prone to the kind of outbursts associated with his father, at least not with the players that he engages in meetings and trusts to do the work that is necessary to succeed on the field.

"What Rex has done, and I compliment him on this all the time, is he has kept it likable," Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "It's easy to police yourself when you're given the leeway. It's one thing if you have a coach and he's always like, 'You stink. You did this, you did that.' Coach Ryan doesn't have to do that because we do it ourselves."

"A big part of what he does, that is so unique, is that he has such a great rapport with the players and is just a tremendous includer of everybody in the room," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who worked with Ryan at the University of Cincinnati in the 1990s. "That may be one of his greatest motivational strengths."

Another strength of Ryan's is that, like LeBeau, he is pragmatic.

Just as the latter says with a chuckle, "I look at everybody's film and if they have something that's working pretty good I've been known to try it myself," Ryan also studies other defensive coordinators and borrows from them.

That includes LeBeau, who is widely credited with developing the zone blitz in the early 1990s, a scheme that has been as timeless as it is effective.

"There are a few coaches that you respect in the game, that you really respect, and obviously he's one," Ryan said of LeBeau.

The respect, not to mention affection, that LeBeau commands from his players manifests itself in more than just what they produce on the field.

Given any opportunity, they will lobby for his inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and last year they wore throwback LeBeau jerseys to a Steelers preseason game in Canton, Ohio, to make a statement that had nothing to do with fashion.

That they speak in reverential tones of the man whose 62 career interceptions are tied for seventh on the NFL's all-time list is a testament to the way he treats them.

LeBeau rarely if ever raises his voice, and his handling of his players is such that they do not want to let him down because doing so would be akin to disappointing their father.

"There's a lot of coaches in this league that are kind of jerks, that kind of use their position to talk down to and demean people, and he does none of that," Steelers free safety Ryan Clark said. "So you respect him as a man first."

The man may be in his early 70s, but he could pass for someone in his 50s and shows no signs of slowing down. It is not uncommon for LeBeau to slip off to the side while the players are stretching before practice and rattle off sets of push-ups.

The idea that he spends long hours at the Steelers' South Side practice facility devising elaborate defensive plans might be true for much of the year. But when the Steelers get deep into the season, the "wizard" said he knows when to step back and not make things too complicated for his players.

"Right now what I try to do is stay out of my guys' way," LeBeau said in his typical modest fashion, "and not slow them down."

He usually does anything but that, which the Ravens are likely to find out today.

Off the charts

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said he pays particular attention to three statistics when evaluating his defense: yards per rush, yards per snap and yards per pass attempt. He said the Steelers have come well under the benchmarks they established in those three areas, adding that “these guys’ numbers are really off the charts this year.” Here is a look at how the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens compare in those categories:

Team: Yards per rush — Yards per snap — Yards per pass attempt

Goal: 3.7 — 4.7 — 5.7

Steelers: 3.3 — 3.9 — 4.7

Ravens: 3.6 — 4.5 — 5.4

flippy
01-18-2009, 03:40 AM
Team: Yards per rush — Yards per snap — Yards per pass attempt

Goal: 3.7 — 4.7 — 5.7

Steelers: 3.3 — 3.9 — 4.7

Ravens: 3.6 — 4.5 — 5.4


And as much as everyone tries to say Baltimore is a close second in defense, they are not.

flippy
01-18-2009, 04:10 AM
The title of this article and concept are getting under my skin the more I think about it.

LeBeau is revered.

Ryan is an above average defensive coach.

Lebeau created his defense.

Ryan inherited a great defense from Marvin Lewis.

The Steelers defense respects the game.

The Ravens don't.

The players are a reflection of their coaches....

RuthlessBurgher
01-18-2009, 09:28 AM
If Rex Ryan is so great, why is he not the Ravens head coach right now? He's a relatively young guy in his mid-40's just waiting to get a head coaching gig, and he gets passed over for the special teams coach from the Eagles at this time last year. LeBeau was not considered as a head coach when we hired Tomlin because he has been down that path before and would prefer more of the hands-on teaching he is able to do as the d-coordinator than all of the non-football CEO-type duties that are expected of the head man. Plus, the man is in his 70's and is not striving to advance in his profession at his age.

flippy
01-18-2009, 09:31 AM
If Rex Ryan is so great, why is he not the Ravens head coach right now? He's a relatively young guy in his mid-40's just waiting to get a head coaching gig, and he gets passed over for the special teams coach from the Eagles at this time last year. LeBeau was not considered as a head coach when we hired Tomlin because he has been down that path before and would prefer more of the hands-on teaching he is able to do as the d-coordinator than all of the non-football CEO-type duties that are expected of the head man. Plus, the man is in his 70's and is not striving to advance in his profession at his age.

Rex Ryan and the :brownssuck :ratsuck