NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A few weeks ago, as he spoke appreciatively of Dick LeBeau, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Mularkey offered up a surprise.
He said that defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and not assistant head coach/defense LeBeau, called the defensive plays in 2015.
Count me among those who presumed LeBeau had those duties. When Ken Whisenhunt hired LeBeau, he said the Pro Football Hall of Famer would be in control of that side of the ball. That made sense.
In 2013 in what was Mike Munchak's final season, the team got mixed signals from having two guys at the top of the defensive coaching tree -- coordinator Jerry Gray and senior defensive assistant Gregg Williams.
I never had cause to ask about defensive play-calling last year. Whisenhunt was pretty forceful when he spoke of giving LeBeau power over the defense. Whisenhunt, LeBeau and Horton all let us believe LeBeau was calling the plays.
Why wasn’t he?
Apparently in having control of the defense, he didn’t want to usurp the power of his protégée. Horton had played for and coached with LeBeau extensively before they got back together in Nashville.
Certainly LeBeau had a big hand in game planning and could steer what the defense would do in certain situations. But insider linebacker Avery Williamson confirmed that the calls that came to him from the sideline from linebacker coach Lou Spanos originated with Horton.
“Coach LeBeau knew that coach Horton was the man in charge. They respected each other very well,” Williamson said when I spoke to him on The Midday 180 in Nashville. “Coach LeBeau, he let coach Ray have his time. At the end of the day, (Horton) was the D-coordinator and I think he did it in a very respectful way. He’s a man of class, both of them are. Coach LeBeau never stepped out of his lane and coach Horton never did either.
LeBeau now has control of every sort. Horton went to Cleveland as Mularkey put his staff together. LeBeau’s title in a new contract is assistant head coach/defensive coordinator.
“I feel like, from what I heard, it’s going to be a little bit more aggressive,” Williamson said. “Hopefully that’s true. I’m looking forward to it, because I would definitely like to have at least three or four more sacks at the end of the year.”