Two current NFL assistant coaches, Dick LeBeau and Tom Moore, along with retired assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia have been selected as the Class of 2015 for the Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
The Dr. Z Award is given for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL. The award is named for Zimmerman, who covered the NFL for 29 years as Sports Illustrated’s lead pro football writer.
Zimmerman’s writing career was cut short by a series of strokes in November 2008 that left him unable to speak, read and write. But his impact on the writing and football industries was profound. He’s widely considered one of the best football writers of all time, and his 1970 “A Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” and revised 1984 “The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” are textbooks to this day for young football writers trying to learn the game and trying to learn to write about the game. He was an offensive lineman at Stanford and Columbia, played on the offensive line for a U.S. Army team and a semi-pro football team. His first shot at covering pro football regularly was for the New York Post in 1966. In 1979, he moved to SI. When he was struck down, Zimmerman was still writing multiple columns a week for the magazine and its website, SI.com. He lives in Mountain Lakes, N.J., with his wife, Linda.
The Dr. Z Award Class of 2015:
Dick LeBeau – In his 43rd season as a NFL coach, LeBeau is in his first year as assistant head coach/defense for the Tennessee Titans. After a 14-year NFL career at cornerback (1959-72) with the Detroit Lions which led to his enshrinement as a player into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, LeBeau went into the NFL coaching ranks immediately after his retirement as a player as the special teams coach for the Philadelphia Eagles (1973-75). He was the defensive backs coach with the Green Bay Packers (1976-79) then moved to the Cincinnati Bengals as the defensive backs coach (1980-83) and defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach (1984-91). LeBeau was secondary coach (1992-94) and defensive coordinator (1995-96) with the Pittsburgh Steelers, before re-joining the Bengals as the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator (1997-2000). After only three games into the 2000 season, LeBeau was named Bengals head coach, and served in that role through the 2002 season. In 2003, he was the assistant head coach of the Buffalo Bills before going back to Pittsburgh as defensive coordinator (2004-14). LeBeau is considered the architect of the zone blitz scheme, and he has coached in six Super Bowls (XVI and XXIII with Cincinnati; XXX, XL, XLIII and XLV with Pittsburgh).
Tom Moore – In his 37th season as an NFL assistant coach, Moore is in his third season with the Arizona Cardinals as assistant head coach/offense after returning to the sidelines after spending the 2011 (New York Jets) and 2012 (final five weeks with the Tennessee Titans) seasons as an offensive consultant in retirement. He started his coaching career at his alma mater, Iowa, as freshmen team coach (1961-62). After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1963-64), where he coached a division team in Korea and the post team at Fort Benning, Georgia, Moore returned to the college ranks, first as the offensive backfield coach at Dayton (1965-68), then offensive coordinator at Wake Forest (1969), offensive backfield coach at Georgia Tech (1970-71) and backfield coach at the University of Minnesota (1972-73). He got his first taste of pro coaching in 1974 with the WFL’s New York Stars as an offensive assistant. Moore returned to the University of Minnesota as offensive coordinator (1975-76), before coming to the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers as wide receivers coach (1977-82), and later, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (1983-89). He joined the Minnesota Vikings as assistant head coach/quarterbacks (1990) and was assistant head coach/offensive coordinator (1991) before moving to wide receivers coach (1992-93). Moore was the Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach (1994) before a promotion to offensive coordinator (1995-96), and he served as the running backs coach for the New Orleans Saints for one season (1997). He is best known for his time with the Indianapolis Colts as offensive coordinator (1998-2009) and senior offensive assistant (2010), where he coached several record-breaking offenses and tutored quarterback Peyton Manning during his first 13 seasons in the NFL with the Colts. He has coached in four Super Bowls (XIII and XIV with Pittsburgh; XLI and XLIV with Indianapolis).
Dante Scarnecchia – Scarnecchia spent 32 seasons as a NFL assistant coach, 30 with the New England Patriots. He began his coaching career at California Western University (1970-72) as the offensive line coach. Scarnecchia moved on to Iowa State, where he was an offensive line assistant (1973) and defensive backs assistant (1974). He was the offensive line assistant at SMU (1975-76), offensive line/recruiting coordinator at Pacific (1977-78) and offensive line coach at Northern Arizona (1979) before returning to SMU as the offensive line coach (1980-81). He entered the NFL ranks with the Patriots as tight ends/special teams coach (1982-88) and moved to Indianapolis as the Colts’ offensive line coach (1989-90). He returned to New England as the Patriots’ tight ends/special teams coach (1991-92) and worked as special assistant (1993-94), defensive assistant/linebackers (1995-96), special teams coach (1997-98), offensive line coach (1999) and assistant head coach/offensive line (2000-13). His work with the Patriots helped protect quarterback Tom Brady during three Super Bowl-winning seasons in 2001, 2003 and 2004. Scarnecchia coached in the first seven Super Bowls the Patriots were involved in (XX, XXXI, XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLII and XLVI).
ABOUT THE PFWA: The Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) is the official voice of pro football writers, promoting and fighting for access to NFL personnel to best serve the public. The PFWA is made up of accredited writers who cover the NFL and the 32 teams on a daily basis. Jeff Legwold, who covers the Denver Broncos for ESPN.com, is the organization’s president for 2015-17, while Bleacher Report national columnist Dan Pompei is the PFWA’s first vice-president and ESPN’s Jim Trotter is the organization’s second vice-president. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.
PAUL “DR. Z” ZIMMERMAN AWARD WINNERS (For lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL): 2014 – Jim Johnson, Howard Mudd, Fritz Shurmur and Ernie Zampese; 2015 – Dick LeBeau, Tom Moore and Dante Scarnecchia.