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LeBeau coaching out fantasy

9-25-01, 9:50 a.m.

On the first anniversary of his appointment as head coach of the Bengals, Dick LeBeau took a break from grading the Baltimore game film to talk with Geoff Hobson of

HOBSON: If you could have seen yourself on that first day and now, would you have been surprised?

LEBEAU: Sure. This is a Walter Mitty deal here. We'll take it and do what we can with it.

HOBSON: The thing about Walter Mitty is that was fantasy. This is real enough that people are sniffing something special.

LEBEAU: It depends on what we do from here. We're getting better. We've taken a step, but we've got a long way to go to get across the bridge.

HOBSON: What do you remember about that first day? It began with you trying to talk your good friend (Bruce Coslet) out of resigning and ended with you getting the head coaching job you always wanted after 42 years in the NFL.

LEBEAU: I don't remember much about it at all. It seems longer than a year ago to me. I didn't even realize it's been a year (until he was told at Monday's news conference). I think that's a good thing. It means I've been worried about what's going on here.

HOBSON: You have to like the numbers. You go into this week's game with a chance at going 7-9 in your first 16 games. They're 6-6 since your first win and 5-4 at home under you.

LEBEAU: We have to do better than that, don't we?

HOBSON: The players like the fact that you coach with confidence and give them confidence by saying, "This is what we'll do," instead of saying, "We can't do this."

LEBEAU: Isn't that what life is about? Life is about doing what you can do and getting on with it.

HOBSON: During the week you prepared for the Ravens, you kept telling them they outscored the Ravens, 7-6, in three of the four quarters in the last game that Baltimore won, 27-7.

LEBEAU: That was nothing I fabricated. I was just giving them facts. In the last 30 minutes, we played them on an even keel and that's what we had to do for four quarters and end up winning it in the fourth and that's what we did.

HOBSON: That first day you talked about wanting to establish a certain look. It seems to be to play good defense, run the ball, possess the ball, hang around until the fourth quarter, and make something happen. Isn't that the LeBeau look and do they have it now after starting the season with a 34-14 edge in the second half?

LEBEAU: Play hard before any of those things. Play hard is the most important. You think you have ideas and if you ever get the opportunity (as head coach), you hope to use them. These are some of my thoughts and the guys are doing a good job trying to get that done.

HOBSON: You've delegated more authority as you've become more comfortable and you've said that's what all the head coaches you've respected in the past have told you. Do you still talk to those guys?

LEBEAU: A lot of the guys I learned from, I'd have to get a direct line upstairs. We haven't spoken in some time and I hope we don't for a good while.

HOBSON: How about anybody alive, like head coaches in the league now? Dick Jauron, Dom Capers?

LEBEAU: There really isn't enough time. I do that in the offseason. That's one thing I've learned, I think, is managing my time. There's not much. I don't think we got up one morning in the last year not knowing what we were going to do that day.

HOBSON: Are you surprised that a 64-year-old guy relates so well to 24-year-olds?

LEBAU: Others seem somewhat surprised. I just try to be myself every day. I was a little bit fortunate. I have a 22-year old son, so I was 41 when he was born. I've had pretty good practice relating to younger people. I try to treat these guys with a lot of respect and sincerity and I hope that comes through.

HOBSON: Takeo Spikes says one of your strengths is leaving a lot of things to the captains (Spikes and Willie Anderson).

LEBEAU: We all have to be involved. You set a lot of your rules and the players have to follow the rules. The players are the proactive part in this whole equation. Our captains do a great job. This is their team.

HOBSON: It's been a memorable year. Your first win came when Corey Dillon set the rushing record. You beat Jacksonville in one of the coldest games in team history. There was winning the opener and then last Sunday and all that brought with the pre-game ceremony.

LEBEAU: This was a very special day. There was a lot of emotion out there and throughout the nation. It was a great day to have a victory.

HOBSON: You've said that (new defensive coordinator) Mark Duffner did a nice job solving a problem in the offseason. What was it?

LEBEAU: Just nuts and bolts things. I didn't like the way the previous defensive coordinator had done it.

HOBSON: That's kind of curious since you were the previous.

LEBEAU: Every year, you review the things you do and what the opponent does. That's part of any business. You evaluate and update. It's something I had in my mind well into last season that I wanted to do differently and Mark and the defensive coaches came up with the solution and it took some expertise.

What Mark was working on was where we call strength and how do we set the defense around certain things.

HOBSON: Have you been tempted to call some defenses during a game?

LEBEAU: Mark probably hears from me more than he wants to on Sunday. I try to stay out of it, but lets face it. I've got 42 years in the National Football League; 14 playing defense and twenty something coaching defense. If we're in a situation where I think my experience helps, I'm not going to be bashful.

HOBSON: It looked like one of the adjustments you had to make was staying out of the day-to-day, nuts-and-bolts meetings. After that first minicamp meeting when you told them to break into offense and defense, you were wandering the halls like you were lost.

LEBEAU: Sure, that was my milieu if you will. I was comfortable in that environment of meetings. That's still one of the hardest parts to get used to. It's like being a coordinator during individuals. What do you do?

HOBSON: On that first day, you seemed kind of overwhelmed by the paperwork and administrative responsibilities. I remember you saying you weren't even sure what the weekly inactive list was all about.

LEBEAU: That's exactly right. I'm at the point where I've got a good expectation at least of what's going to happen on a daily basis.

HOBSON: You've mentioned that you thought the head coach made a good hire this offseason with offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. It seemed like you were looking for a guy to do what you do on defense and dictate with formations.

LEBEAU: We had an idea of what we wanted to bring in. Something that people made us defend over the years. I interviewed a lot people and I was looking for people with a similar multiple approach. Bob matched up. I knew he had a strong track record and I knew he'd come in with credence credibility and I think that's what has happened.

I liked what our offense did Sunday. You don't score two touchdowns against those guys very often.

HOBSON: You got doused from the water bucket after the game, didn't you?

LEBEAU: Yes. They did it (after the opener), too. I'm 2-for-2. Those are my first ever. I wouldn't mind getting hit 14 or 15 times. My favorite drenching is the last one.


LEBEAU: Because it was a win.

HOBSON: You're a historian. You like the presidents. Are you Harry Truman? You know, the unknown guy who came out of nowhere to unexpectedly get the call and people overlooked his experience and abilities.

LEBEAU: I don't know a Tom Pendergast. (Truman's) old political boss.

HOBSON: Maybe that's why you had to wait so long to become a head coach. You didn't have any political connections.

LEBEAU: I think Harry Truman was one of our strongest presidents, so I'd take the compliment if you want to say that even though I'm a Republican. Truman was a hell of a president.

HOBSON: Maybe you are more like LBJ. The guy everybody knew, who had a lot of experience and who had to fill the job in mid-term.

LEBEAU: LBJ was very wealthy. But I wouldn't confuse being the President of the United States with being a head football coach.

HOBSON: It's probably easy for you not to get ahead of things at 2-0. You've been in the league long enough that you were a rookie when you played Baltimore as the defending champion. When they were coming off that great 1958 title game.

LEBEAU: I've probably gone against Baltimore many times when they were defending champions.

HOBSON: Paul Brown used to say act like you've been there before. You've been there.

LEBEAU: We're 2-0. That means there are 14 games left.

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