Falcons DC Dean Pees Retires

For the third time in his coaching career, Dean Pees has announced his retirement. The Falcons defensive coordinator is stepping away from the NFL after two seasons in Atlanta and 18 total years as a staffer in the professional ranks.

Pees, 73, began his storied coaching career in college in 1979. In the decades to follow, he would go on to work on with seven different staffs, including the head coaching role at Kent State for six seasons. That led to his arrival in the NFL in 2004, as a linebackers coach with the Patriots It was under that title that he won his first Super Bowl. He became New England’s DC two seasons later, and remained with the franchise through 2009.

That stint was followed by a similar one (transitioning from LBs coach to DC) in Baltimore. Pees was in charge of the Ravens defense for six years, a span including the team’s Super Bowl campaign in 2012. He was expected to retire at the conclusion of the 2017 season (and, very briefly, did), with the Ravens ready to move on to Don Martindale as his replacement and Pees’ status as a highly successful coach secured.

Very shortly after that, however, Pees came back to serve as the Titans’ DC. He led Tennessee’s defense for two seasons, including a 2018 campaign which saw them rank amongst the league’s best in terms of both points and yards allowed. When he decided once again to step away from the game (this time for a full season), it was expected that he would end his career.

Instead, the Falcons – under new head coach and former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith – were reported to be interested in luring him out of retirement, and they succeeded in doing so in January 2021. Pees oversaw Atlanta’s defense for the past two campaigns, one in which the team has struggled on both sides of the ball through their transition into a rebuilding phase. Last month, he suffered a health scare following a pregame collision which required a trip to the hospital, but he was able to return to his post the following week.

Overall, Pees now walks away after 14 years in charge of four teams’ defenses. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes (on Twitter) that the Falcons will undergo a “wide search” for his replacement. Two candidates he names are LBs coach Frank Bush (who filled in for Pees in Week 15 following his hospitalization) and Packers defensive passing game coordinator Jerry Gray, who has eight years of DC experience dating back to his time with the Bills and Titans.

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