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Dick LeBeau Looking Forward to 2017 with Titans


NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Dick LeBeau enjoys three things when he has time away from football. He likes to read, play golf, and play his guitar.

But there's nothing LeBeau enjoys more than coaching, and being around the game.

It's why the legendary defensive coordinator will be back with the Titans in 2017.

"The only question in my mind was from the standpoint that somebody's got to want you to work,'' LeBeau said on Wednesday. "When Mike (Mularkey) said he wanted me to stay, there was no doubt."

LeBeau, who joined the Titans in 2015, will return for his third season with the team and his 59th year in the National Football League as a player or coach. Following a season when the Titans finished 9-7 while making strides in a number of key areas on defense, LeBeau said he's looking forward to what's ahead.

"We made some good progress and there's still a lot out there on the table to get done,'' LeBeau said. "It was really fulfilling for me to watch our players have some success and to see our team have some success, and that is really why you coach. You are just a teacher. It was a rewarding year.

"We didn't get where we wanted to get, and we know we have work to do. But it was not the type of thing you want to run away from. I want to see if we can get this thing over the top. If I were a younger person you wouldn't even think about (walking away). Things are headed in the right direction. I try not to pay much attention to the age aspect. It is what it is."

LeBeau, who will turn 80 in September, said being around the game keeps him feeling young. He remains in good shape by staying active, and moving. He made his 7th hole-in-one last offseason, before bouncing around the practice field during the season like someone half his age.

"I've almost never been on a treadmill in my life,'' LeBeau said with a smile. "Maybe at the doctor's office when they put you on a stress test, that's about the only treadmill I've been on.

"I just try not to have too much excess in my life. I try and stay active, keep moving, and don't sit."

Mularkey said LeBeau is excited about coming back "to finish what we started last year."

Prior to joining the Titans, LeBeau spent 11 seasons as defensive coordinator with the Steelers (2004-14), in what was his second stint with the team. During 13 seasons in Pittsburgh, the Steelers had 10 top-five finishes in the defensive rankings and five times finished ranked No.1.

A Hall of Fame defensive back with the Detroit Lions during his playing career, LeBeau was an assistant head coach with the Bills in 2003 and he served as head coach of the Bengals from 2000-02. He worked previously with the Packers and Eagles as well. Titans coach Mike Mularkey and LeBeau worked together previously in Pittsburgh.

"He is very passionate about his job,'' Mularkey said of LeBeau. "He is still very sharp, and he relates well to the players.

"I thought he got the most out of our players last year. Now there's areas we need improvement on. But I know this: The guys that played for him played as well as they could play and he played hard."

The Titans finished the 2016 season ranked 20th in total defense, including a 2nd overall ranking on rushing defense by allowing 88.3 yards per game on the ground. It was a 24-yard improvement from 2015. The Titans ranked sixth in third down defense, and 30th in passing yards allowed.

The Titans limited the opposition to under 100 yards rushing in 11 of the team's 16 games. Opponents failed to reach 70 yards in seven of those contests, and that happened just twice in 2015.

Led by linebacker Brian Orakpo's 10.5 sacks, the Titans also produced 40 sacks on defense in 2016. Linebacker Derrick Morgan finished with nine sacks, and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey finished with five.

Orakpo and Casey were both selected to the Pro Bowl.

"There were some important areas we did very well in,'' LeBeau said. "We were very competitive in the red zone, which was important. And we have some areas that we obviously need to improve in. The yards allowed, it was passing mostly, we have to get a handle on that and stay strong in those other areas – the red zone defense, goal line defense, short-yardage defense. There were a lot of good things.

"More importantly than the numbers themselves was the approach our players took and the effort they put in to what they were doing. If they continue to do that, which I am very positive that they will, they will continue to improve as a group and improve our football team."

LeBeau knows there will be some changes in personnel in 2017, just like every year.

But he noted the "nucleus is going to be somewhat the same," and he believes that's a positive.

"To see these guys respond and grow like they did,'' LeBeau said. "It was particularly rewarding to see how hard they worked, and the way they stayed together. I think it was evident to our fans these guys are going to play hard and in every situation in the game.

"Things are headed in the right direction and I am excited to be a part of it."

A look back at Dick LeBeau's first three years with the Titans. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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