Dunlap: LeBeau Out, But Process Seems Strange
No press conference.
No member of the Rooney family standing in front of television cameras thanking Dick LeBeau --- one of the greatest defensive coordinators of all-time --- for his dedication and commitment to one of the proudest organizations in the National Football League.
Nope. Instead on Saturday afternoon, it came in a flash, a breaking news item flickered out from a small town newspaper just west of Columbus, Ohio.
"I'm resigning this position, not retiring," LeBeau, 77, said in an exclusive interview with the Urbana Daily Citizen, a newspaper located in the area in which he was born in 1937. "I had a great run in Pittsburgh. I'm grateful for all the things that have happened to me and thankful for all the support I had in Pittsburgh."
Like that, it was over.
No fighting back tears at the podium.
No cameras snapping or reporters rapid-firing questions.
No former players jamming into that room in the South Side to hear the final remarks of a man who helped mold them; a man who helped make them millionaires.
LeBeau was out --- about as unceremoniously as one could be out.
And do you want a microcosm that adequately serves to quantify the loyalty LeBeau has? You just read those quotes.
They appeared in a small town Ohio newspaper, in place you'd least expect to break news about a major story involving the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But I will venture a guess here: While he could have called CBS or ESPN or one of the Pittsburgh papers or NFL.com, LeBeau had made a promise to a reporter in his hometown that if something were to ever happen, LeBeau would give him the story first. I don't know this to be fact, but it's a pretty good guess.
And seeing how it all transpired, seeing how the Urbana Daily Citizen got the story first should strengthen everything you've ever heard about the loyalty and devotion Dick LeBeau has to people.
He's the epitome of a man's man.
In all of this however, in the fact that he will no longer coach in Pittsburgh, is there blame to be had on one side or the other? No. This was a Pittsburgh Steelers defense --- albeit beset by injury --- that had slipped to 18th overall and couldn't have been one that made the man who was a coordinator here in 1995 and '96 and then from 2004-14 his happiest.
This isn't a column stating anywhere that LeBeau should have come back for the 2015 season. In actuality, I feel the other way, a change in the coordinator position on defense will only serve to help this organization.
That said, it just all smells fishy.
Here's the thing that feels like the biggest takeaway: I don't believe for one minute that LeBeau resigned.
The man was fired.
Or he was going to be fired if he didn't resign.
A simple connection of the dots --- or a smidgen of logic --- yields as much.
This is a similar situation to when it was announced by the team that Bruce Arians "retired" after the 2011 season, only to surface in Indianapolis the next season and move on, eventually, to be the head coach in Arizona.
I guess the bottom line in all of this, is that the Steelers had a choice, and the way they handled this was a way in which looks like they fudged it up the most.
If you are going to fire someone, fire someone.
If you are going to remove someone, remove someone.
If Art Rooney II --- or whomever made the decision LeBeau was no longer needed --- felt compelled to rid themselves of a man such a Dick LeBeau, have the damn backbone to put your name and face to it.
Instead, in this instance, if feels like the onus fell to LeBeau to play along with the charade --- just as it did with Arians --- and LeBeau handled it with grace and dignity. He took one for (the former) team.
No one should have expected anything less from that man.
But should we expect more from the Steelers? That's the real question.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 "The Fan." You can e-mail him at email@example.com. Check out his bio here.
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