After a season of ups and downs ultimately culminating with the Tennessee Titans first playoff win since 2003, the Tennessee Titans ultimately fell to the Patriots 35-14. However, this season was far from a disappointment. This was still the Titans first playoff appearance since losing to the Ravens in 2008 and even included a thrilling come from behind win against the Chiefs in the wildcard round. A significant reason for the Titans’ success this season was legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
The Impact of Dick LeBeau
On the season the Titans finished in the middle of the pack in terms of scoring defense. The Titans allowed 22.2 points per game which ranked 17th in the league. Compared with past defenses dating back to 2014, one season before LeBeau arrived in Nashville, overall defensive ranks have increased each season. In 2014, the Titans allowed 27.4 points per game, which ranked 29th. LeBeau’s first season, in which he served under previous defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, the defensive unit experienced slight improvement. That season, the Titans finished 27th in scoring defense allowing 26.4 points per game. LeBeau took full control of the defense in 2016 after Horton was fired and significant improvement followed. The Titans finished 17th in overall scoring while allowing an improved 23.6 points per game. This season was LeBeau’s finest in his tenure at Tennessee.
This season’s defense featured a vicious pass rush, a stout rush defense, and a young and improving pass defense. In terms of rushing the defense allowed an impressive 88.8 rush yards per game, ranking fourth overall. This was just a small change from last season’s rush defense which allowed 88.3 rush yards per game. Obviously, LeBeau has succeeded in establishing his trademark stingy run defense that teams coveted, primarily during his tenures in Pittsburgh. The pass defense also improved on last season, finishing 25th overall in the league allowing 239.2 pass yards per game. The pass defense improvement could likely be attributed to the LeBeau trademark pass rush. Since LeBeau has taken over in Tennessee in 2016 the Titans have finished at least sixth in total sacks in both seasons. Clearly, this defense is trending in the right direction and the improvement has LeBeau’s fingerprints all over it. Given the fact the Titans made it to the playoffs and there was improvement in virtually every category LeBeau clearly has earned a solid B.
Looking to the Future
A few changes in the coaching staff have been made in the past few days, highlighted by the firing of head coach Mike Mularkey. While the future of Dick LeBeau with the Titans is uncertain, it is undeniable the Titans have benefitted from LeBeau’s presence and would benefit from his continued presence going forward.