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New Titans DC Dean Pees Discusses His Plan on Defense

Posted Feb 7, 2018

New Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees found out in a hurry retirement wasn’t for him. On Wednesday, the veteran coach discussed his plans for Tennessee, and why he’s thrilled to coach the Titans.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Initially, retirement sounded like a good idea to Dean Pees.

So after 45 years of coaching, including 10 seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator, Pees decided to hang it up at the end of the 2017 season. He turned down a contract extension with the Ravens, and pondered a life of leisure, around his big family. His health was good, and visions of a Viking cruise even danced around in his head.

But on Wednesday, Pees found himself standing inside the indoor practice facility of the Tennessee Titans, surrounded by reporters and cameras. He’d been hired as defensive coordinator of the Titans eight days earlier, and after five minutes of explaining his thought process, it was clear he wasn’t here by accident.

“After about two weeks, I was ready to come back,” Pees said. “I really started second-guessing myself a little bit: Is this really what I wanted to do? ... Did I really do the right thing?”

When new Titans coach Mike Vrabel reached out to Pees to coach his defense, he didn’t hesitate to get back in it. His family encouraged him to take the job, and Pees said he liked the idea of working with Vrabel, in Nashville. He clearly wasn’t ready to walk away from the game. His wife was fired up about it, too.

“No.1 was Mike – Mike convinced me,” Pees said. “I felt really humbled that a guy I coached (in New England) would ask me to come back and be persistent on me coming here. The other part of it is was, it was Nashville. We love this city. … And also looking at the Titans and how they’ve been playing, and the arrow is very much up on this organization.”

Pees, who announced his retirement last month, returned to the game for a chance to coach with Vrabel, who won three Super Bowl rings as a player with the Patriots. Included his 45 years of coaching experience, Pees has spent 14 years in the NFL, including eight seasons (2010-17) with the Ravens, including the last six years (2012-17) as the defensive coordinator. He initially joined Ravens in 2010, as the linebackers coach.

Before joining the Ravens, Pees spent six seasons (2004-09) coaching for the Patriots. He originally joined the Patriots as linebackers coach, and spent his final four years he served as the defensive coordinator. It’s where he coached Vrabel. The two have remained in touch.

“He wouldn’t have hired me if I didn’t have the same philosophy that he had,” Pees said of Vrabel.

Pees has enjoyed great success as a defensive coordinator. In six of his 10 years as defensive coordinator with the Ravens and Patriots, his units finished in the NFL’s top 10.

Under Pees in 2017, the Ravens had a league-best three shutouts and 33 takeaways. The Ravens also ranked sixth in points allowed per game (18.9). The 2012 Ravens team won Super Bowl XLVII and Pees became just the eighth defensive coordinator in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl with two different teams. Three (2014,’15,’16) of his six years as defensive coordinator for the Ravens resulted in top 10 rankings for the defense.

In three of his four years (2007,’08,’09) as the defensive coordinator, the Patriots ranked in the top 11 in total defense. Over the four-year period, New England ranked second in the NFL in points allowed (17.3/game).

Pees said he’s still evaluating the team’s current personnel. He echoed Vrabel’s press conference quote of having coverage consistency and front multiplicity.

What does he want his defense to be known for under his tutelage?

“Tough, physical, smart, and giving great effort,” Pees said. “None of those things talk about ability. They all are things that everybody can do, and if we can do those kinds of things along with the guys that we have and the guys that we will get. … If you can do those kinds of things and not make a lot of mental mistakes, and you play tough and we want to be aggressive.

“We want to be on the attack, and that’s what I want our defense to be known for.”

“And those things that I just talked about are everything that Mike Vrabel was as a player, and is as a coach,” Pees continued. “He’s tough, he’s smart, and he gives great effort. So that is the kind of guy that I respect, and the kind of players I am used to coaching and those are the kind of players you are looking for. And when you have those same ingredients in your head coach, what more can you ask for? That’s the kind of guy I want to work for.

“And John Harbaugh was the same way. I am so fortunate – I have worked for Nick Saban, Bill Belichick, John Harbaugh. The guys that I have been able to be a coordinator for and work for, coach (Lou) Holtz. … Mike is in the exact same mold as all those guys.”

Pees said building a defense like kind of like building a baseball team – “you kind of go right up the middle.”

He said the defensive linemen, linebackers and members of the secondary all play crucial roles in his scheme. The safeties will need to be great communicators “and need to be able to run the show.”

And Pees, at 68, plans to run the show on defense in Tennessee for a long time.

His return to the game after a two-week retirement is hardly temporary.

“I signed a multiple year contract,” Pees said. “It’s as if I didn’t retire. … I am here. I am here until Mike doesn’t want me here anymore, or whatever. I am not planning on making this a (one)-year deal at all.

“We are planning on buying a home here in Nashville, and being a part of the community.”