By any measure, Todd Downing at 37 is a young NFL coordinator. He took the field for his first ever regular season game and the tactician working against him on the opposite sideline happened to be the most senior coordinator in NFL history.
Dick LeBeau is a Hall of Famer as a player with the Lions with two Super Bowl rings as a coach and who has been roaming an NFL sideline as a coach for 45 years. Three of those years he was a head coach (2001-03) with most of the rest as an NFL defensive coordinator with the Bengals, Steelers, and now the Titans.
“Yeah, a lot of respect for coach LeBeau,” said Downing last week. “He had an unbelievable career as a player. I was with the Lions previously in my career, so I know what he did as a player, what he accomplished there. He has a gold jacket for a reason. Just an unbelievable football mind and I have a lot of respect for him, so it makes it fun to have the first regular season game be against a guy like that.”
Saturday, LeBeau became the first ever active 80-year-old NFL coach. The team with whom he is entering his second season threw him a surprise 80th birthday party.
This former 14-year NFL defensive back retired from his playing career in 1972 and a year later he took his first NFL coaching job, joining the Eagles as a special teams coach.
That man who was coaching the Raiders offense Sunday on the opposite sideline was born SEVEN YEARS LATER. Todd Downing was four years old when LeBeau got his first job as an NFL Defensive Coordinator in 1984 with the Bengals.
The two were on even planes Sunday, Downing calling the Raiders offense and LeBeau the Titans defense. And it was the 43-year junior Downing to came out on top.
“I thought Todd did a great job,” said Jack Del Rio. “Matched up against Dick LeBeau in his first game, calling the game. Dick LeBeau has got a few skins on the wall, he’s pretty good. And he turned 80 yesterday. I said no gifts, let’s get them all out of the way hopefully yesterday. None today.”
The Raiders offense did well not to give the Titans defense any gifts. At least not in the form of turnovers. They did gift wrap a couple sacks when they opted to put Vadal Alexander in at right tackle for a series, and from a pass that missed a wide open Marshawn Lynch. But they put Marshall Newhouse back at RT after that and Carr made up for the miss to Lynch with a late touchdown pass.
LeBeau would have to be happy with the gifts he received on Saturday as the Raiders offense scored six times to pull out the 26-16 victory.
“It was another step forward for our offense with him calling his first real game. And I know when I took the knee I gave him the ball. I know it’s a first time as a coordinator against that defense, against that coach, being able to get a win is a special thing. So, I made sure I did that because he worked his tail off.”
LeBeau has a bust in the Hall of Fame as a player, and a couple Super Bowl rings as Defensive Coordinator in Pittsburgh (2005, 2009), and is approaching the end of a legendary football career. While Downing got off to a good start in the early stages of his.