Dean Pees

Titans Made Dean Pees Offer To Return

Dean Pees has pledged to join the Falcons as defensive coordinator, completing a second unretirement in the past four years. But the Titans were also interested in the veteran assistant.

After Pees committed to follow Arthur Smith to Atlanta, Mike Vrabel offered him a chance to return to Tennessee. However, the Titans sought Pees in a consultant-type role instead of a return to their DC post, Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com reports.

We first heard of a Falcons-Pees partnership over a week ago, a day after Smith’s official hire, pointing to the ex-Titans OC prioritizing his former Tennessee coworker. The Falcons announced the hire less than a week later.

The Titans turned to outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen as their de facto DC last season. Bowen was the team’s primary defensive play-caller and remains on Vrabel’s staff. Pees, 71, unretired to join Vrabel’s staff in 2018 — after leaving the Ravens — but left Tennessee after the 2019 season and did not coach this past season. The Titans gave Steelers assistant Teryl Austin a DC interview earlier this month but have not filled the position. It remains uncertain if the team will do so.

While Pees will be tasked with elevating a Falcons defense that has struggled for the better part of the past three years, the Titans will need to make some improvements as well. They slid from 16th in defensive DVOA in 2019 to 29th this past season. Opponents also converted third downs at a historically great rate (51.9%) against the Titans, after the team ranked eighth in this category in 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Falcons Hire Dean Pees, Dave Ragone

Previously rumored Falcons plans came to fruition Thursday. Arthur Smith will bring Dave Ragone aboard as his offensive coordinator, and the first-year Falcons coach has a big role planned for the recently retired Dean Pees.

The former Titans defensive coordinator will again come out of retirement, committing to become the Falcons’ DC. The Falcons are also hiring Marquice Williams as their special teams coordinator.

While Pees and Smith served as Titans coordinators together in 2019, this will be Ragone’s first run as OC. Working as Bears QBs coach for the past five years, this will represent a move up for the ex-quarterback — the first known target for this post.

Ragone, 41, will not, however, have an immediate path to a play-calling role. Smith’s play-calling chops helped him draw interest from all seven head coach-seeking teams this year, and he confirmed he will call plays in Atlanta.

For Pees, this marks unretirement No. 2. Mentioned early as a likely to join Atlanta’s staff, Pees will skip any advisory or consulting roles and jump back into the play-calling fire.

Pees left his post as Ravens DC after the 2017 season but re-emerged as the Titans’ defensive boss ahead of the ’18 campaign. Pees, 71, stuck to retirement for a season this time around — which coincided with a Titans defensive regression — but will return to lead a fourth team’s defense. Pees served as Patriots defensive coordinator from 2006-09 and led the Ravens’ defense for six seasons beginning with their Super Bowl-winning 2012 slate. Of Pees’ 12 defenses, only one has ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed.

Williams has worked as assistant special teams coach with the Chargers and Lions, working in that capacity with Detroit for the past two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dean Pees Expected To Join Falcons

Dean Pees has two retirements under his belt since the end of the 2017 season, but the veteran defensive coordinator may be on the verge of yet again returning to work.

The former Titans, Ravens and Patriots DC has emerged on the Falcons’ radar, with CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora noting Arthur Smith‘s first Atlanta staff is expected to include Pees in some capacity (Twitter link). Pees was Tennessee’s DC from 2018-19, overlapping with Smith’s lengthy run with the Titans. The two were coordinators together last season.

Pees, 70, retired from his post as Ravens DC — one he held from 2012-17 — three years ago but quickly backtracked on a pledge to step away by accepting an offer to become the Titans’ DC. But he left the game again following the ’19 season, preceding a significant step back from Tennessee’s defense. The Falcons may well be set to lure Pees back again. This would mark a fourth team and 17th NFL season for Pees, a longtime college coach who began his NFL career with the Patriots in 2004.

For the first time since their Bobby Petrino hire, the Falcons have the HC keys to an offense-oriented leader. This leaves a void on Atlanta’s defensive staff. While Pees may not be summoned to return to a coordinator post, the Falcons could certainly benefit from having him on their staff. Atlanta’s Dan Quinn hire did not coincide with consistent defensive success. They ranked as a top-half defense just twice in Quinn’s five-plus-year tenure and slipped to 29th in total defense this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans DC Dean Pees Retires

The NFL is losing a prominent assistant coach. Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees announced his retirement during a press conference Monday.

Pees, 70, started coaching college football in 1979 and has been in the NFL since 2004. The Titans just lost secondary coach Kerry Coombs to Ohio State earlier today, so Mike Vrabel will have some work to do retooling his defensive staff. Pees got his NFL start with the Patriots, where he served as Vrabel’s linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. Pees left New England after the 2009 season, and went to Baltimore. He served as linebackers coach and then defensive coordinator with the Ravens for the next eight seasons, winning Super Bowl XLVII with the team.

Pees has been on the staffs of some legendary head coaches, including Nick Saban, Lou Holtz, and Bill Belichick. He initially retired after the 2017 season, but that retirement lasted only a few weeks. After Vrabel landed the job in Tennessee, he quickly lured his old coach out of retirement. Tennessee’s defense was up and down during the regular season, but Pees had them playing really well in the playoffs. He was able to put together a gameplan that completely shutdown Lamar Jackson and the vaunted Ravens running game in the divisional round.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans DC Dean Pees To Return In 2019

Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees informed the team that he intends to return to the team for the 2019 season, Jim Wyatt of the team’s website writes

In November, the 69-year-old coordinator was taken to the hospital for a “medical issue” but returned to the team the following day and didn’t miss a game the rest of the season. At the end of the 2017 season, Pees was expected to retire when he left the Ravens but joined the Titans’ staff a month later as the team’s new defensive coordinator under first-year head coach Mike Vrabel.

In his first season with the team, Pees led the Titans to the No. 3-ranked scoring defense and the unit allowed the eighth-fewest yards. That was the first time Tennessee ranked in the top 10 in both categories since the Jeff Fisher-led squad went 13-3 in 2008. In December, Pees’ unit registered a 17-0 win over the Giants for the team’s first shutout since the 2000 campaign.

A longtime defensive coordinator in New England (2006-09) and Baltimore (2012-17), Pees boasts 46 years of coaching experience and a handful of top-10 units.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Rumors: Pees, Kelly, Saints, Falcons

New Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees had to be hospitalized during Sunday’s game against the Colts because of a medical issue. But the 69-year-old assistant is back healthy and working with the the Titans, Mike Vrabel said Wednesday. Pees was coaching on the Titans’ practice field during their first Week 12 workout, per Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com. The veteran DC stayed at an Indianapolis hospital overnight but returned to Nashville, Tenn., on Monday. He’s expected to make the trip to Houston for the Titans-Texans’ Monday night game.

Here’s the latest from some other South teams on Thanksgiving Eve.

  • The anchor of an improved Colts offensive line will not be available Sunday against the Dolphins. Ryan Kelly has an MCL sprain and will miss Indianapolis’ Week 12 contest. The third-year center feared a much worse injury occurred in Sunday’s win over the Titans. “I was worried about the ACL, but that’s intact. It’s reassuring,” Kelly said, via CBS4’s Mike Chappell. Kelly said he underwent knee surgery in high school and is receiving a second opinion, per Chappell. This malady does not require a corrective procedure, and it’s possible Kelly may be back soon. An addition off the Rams’ practice squad, Evan Boehm will start in Kelly’s place.
  • Signed to essentially take Dez Bryant‘s place on the Saints‘ roster, Brandon Marshall signed for the 13th-year veteran’s minimum, Nick Underhill of The Advocate tweets. He signed for $1.02MM and will count $259K toward New Orleans’ cap. Bryant signed for slightly more than the veteran minimum — $1.25MM — with incentives tied to his deal. It’s not known if Marshall has incentives attached to his pact. He’s yet to suit up for the Saints.
  • The Falcons activated Deion Jones last week but did not deploy him against the Cowboys. The acclaimed Atlanta middle linebacker will also miss the Falcons’ Thanksgiving game in New Orleans, being declared out in advance of the NFC South rivalry matchup. Jones suffered a foot injury in Week 1 and spent two months on IR. He’s on Atlanta’s active roster now, and it’s possible the Falcons are giving him an extra 10 days to prepare for a Week 13 return. However, at 4-6, the Falcons can ill-afford any more losses if they want to preserve their fleeting playoff hopes.

Titans DC Dean Pees Taken To Hospital

Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees was taken to a local hospital after suffering a “medical issue” during today’s game against the Colts, the club announced.

Pees, 69, previously announced his retirement in January after six seasons as the Ravens’ defensive play-caller, but he changed his mind about continuing his NFL career after Mike Vrabel was hired as Tennessee’s head coach. Pees was hired as the Titans’ defensive coordinator at the end of January, and has led a defense that currently ranks in 12th in DVOA.

While it’s unclear who is currently calling defensive plays for the Titans, Vrabel does have experience as a DC. PFR extends it best wishes to Pees and wishes him a speedy recovery.

Coaching Rumors: Ravens, Lions, Steelers

Dean Pees‘ retirement from the Ravens didn’t last long as he became the Titans’ defensive coordinator less than a month later. The about-face took Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti by surprise.

I’m a little shocked,” Bisciotti said (via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com). “He’s 68 years old. It’s hard to give it up, I guess.”

Bisciotti didn’t come right out and say it, but it sounds like Pees went to the Titans in part because they were willing to employ his son, Matt Pees, as a quality control coach.

I wish Dean all the luck,” Bisciotti said. “I understand he got his son in; I think that was a big point of his. We have a nepotism rule that may have prohibited that from happening in the last few years.”

Here’s more from the coaching world:

  • Following Carnell Lake‘s resignation from the position of Steelers secondary coach, Pittsburgh’s brass reached into the college ranks to fill the post. UCLA defensive coordinator Tom Bradley will leave Los Angeles to become the Steelers’ new DBs boss, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Bradley is a Pennsylvania native who spent 33 seasons on Joe Paterno’s staff — from 1979-2011. He coached the Bruins’ defense for the past three years. The 61-year-old Bradley will be on an NFL sideline for the first time come 2018.
  • In addition to formally announcing former Boston College defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni as their new defensive coordinator and keeping Jim Bob Cooter on as offensive coordinator, the Lions have also named several other members of new head coach Matt Patricia‘s staff. Chris White has been hired as Detroit’s tight ends coach, while former Miami head coach Al Golden will remain on staff as the club’s linebackers coach (he’d previously coached tight ends). Most of White’s experience has come at the collegiate level, but he did serve as the Vikings’ assistant special teams coach from 2009-12. The Lions also officially announced several other coaching hires that had been previously reported, including George Godsey (quarterbacks), Jeff Davidson (offensive line), and Brian Stewart (defensive backs), plus one that hadn’t in David Corrao (director of football research).
  • A 49ers defensive assistant for the past three years, former NFL DC Jason Tarver will become a coach outside of California for the first time in his 20-plus-year career. Tarver agreed to take the defensive coordinator job at Vanderbilt, per Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. The Raiders’ DC from 2012-14, Tarver enjoyed two stints with the 49ers — the first from 2001-10. He coached alongside current Vanderbilt HC Derek Mason in 2011 at Stanford.
  • Speaking of the Commodores, the SEC program also announced former Browns assistant Shawn Mennenga will oversee Vandy’s special teams units in 2018 (Twitter link). The Browns let Menneaga walk after he served seven seasons under previous ST coordinator Chris Tabor.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.

AFC North Notes: Ravens, Steelers, Ben, Bell

As the Ravens seek to repair their offense in 2018, they should target free agent tight end Jimmy Graham, opines Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has always displayed a proclivity for throwing to tight ends, and Graham could give the Ravens a valuable weapon in the red zone (each of Graham’s 10 touchdowns all came from inside the 20). While he did score often, Graham is entering his age-32 campaign and only managed 520 receiving yards on the season. Football Outsiders‘ DVOA metric, which records value on a per-play basis, wasn’t fond of Graham either, as he ranked just 28th out of 51 qualified tight ends. However, that was a higher finish than any of Baltimore’s tight ends from a year ago. The Ravens only have $10.5MM in available 2018 cap space, so adding any free agents might be tough unless general manager Ozzie Newsome & Co. release a few veterans or restructure contracts.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • Dean Pees quickly accepted an offer to become the Titans’ defensive coordinator under new head coach Mike Vrabel shortly after “retiring” as the Ravens‘ DC, leading to questions about whether Pees was forced out of Baltimore. However, Pees said today that wasn’t the case, per Hensley (Twitter link). Pees helped the Ravens to the No. 3 defensive DVOA ranking a season ago, so it would have been surprising if head coach John Harbaugh removed Pees from his staff. Although Tennessee now employs a defensive head coach in Vrabel, Pees is expected to call the plays for the Titans.
  • With a solid core in place, the Steelers‘ personnel plan involves inking quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a multi-year extension and signing running back Le’Veon Bell in the short-term, argues Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Roethlisberger wants to play for at least three more seasons, so Pittsburgh can reduce his 2018 cap charge by giving him a new signing bonus, the cap hit of which would be spread across multiple seasons. Bell, meanwhile, has a “conviction to set a healthier market for running backs,” but has indicated he’d accept the franchise tag next season.
  • Keeping stability among their most talented players is essential for the Steelers, but so is ensuring continuity on a staff that parted ways with offensive coordinator Todd Haley earlier this year. Head coach Mike Tomlin isn’t going anywhere, but as for the reports indicating a Steelers minority ownership group had pushed for Tomlin’s firing“I didn’t get that letter yet,” Steelers majority owner Art Rooney II sad, per Fowler (Twitter link). “I don’t know if it got lost in the mail or it’s coming by Pony Express.”
  • The Steelersone-year extension for punter Jordan Berry is worth $1.887MM, per salary cap guru Ian Whetstone (Twitter links). Berry had been scheduled to become a restricted free agent this offseason, and his new contract will pay him roughly the same as an original round tender. RFA tenders must increase by at least 5% each year, and given that last year’s low tender was worth $1.797MM, Berry’s salary is now equal to the 2017 original round tender plus that 5%. As such, it’s possible the Steelers have added a mechanism to Berry’s contract that will increase his pay when the tender amount is officially announced by the NFL, per Whetstone. For what it’s worth, Over the Cap projects the 2018 original round tender to come in at $1.908MM.
  • Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake will not return to team in 2018, as he indicated in a statement released by Pittsburgh that he’ll move home to California as his son finishes high school. Lake is longtime Steelers fixture, as he earned multiple Pro Bowl nods and was named to one All-Pro team during his decade-long career in the Steel City. He was hired to serve as Pittsburgh’s secondary coach in 2011, and that role comprises the sum of his coaching experience. Lake is only 50 years old, so there’s a chance he returns to the coaching ranks down the road.

AFC North Notes: Bengals, McCarron, Steelers

It’s imperative that the Bengals gauge the A.J. McCarron market correctly this offseason, Paul Dehner Jr. and Jim Owczarski of the Enquirer write. Unless the quarterback wins his grievance case, he’ll be a restricted free agent, meaning that the team can attach a second-round tender to him and likely collect on a valuable draft pick.

In theory, the Bengals could use the first-round tender ($4MM+), but that would place him in the upper tier of backup quarterbacks not on rookie contracts. Last year, only three such QBs earned more – Mike Glennon, Nick Foles, and Matt Schaub. Rival clubs would be willing to take on McCarron for that salary, but it’s hard to see a team also sacrificing a first-round pick in that scenario.

Here’s more from the AFC North:

  • Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier was officially released from the rehabilitation clinic two months after having spinal stabilization surgery, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) details. Shazier will now begin outpatient rehabilitation and still has a long road ahead of him, but it’s a very positive step forward for the 25-year-old.
  • It’s still not clear whether Dean Pees was forced out of his role as the Ravens‘ defensive coordinator, Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun writes. Pees, 68, retired at the end of the 2017 season only to accept a job as the Titans’ defensive coordinator four weeks later. It’s possible that Pees painted himself into a corner by making his pending retirement known to members of the organization ahead of time, setting the table for Don “Wink” Martindale to take over as the new DC this year. Regardless of how it went down, Zrebiec argues that change can be a good thing. Pees isn’t necessarily responsible for all of the Ravens’ defensive woes, but the team did have a handful of late-game, late-season meltdowns under his watch.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) expects Eric DeCosta to reach out to Ray Rice to join the team in some capacity when he takes over as Ravens GM in 2019. DeCosta will take over as the Ravens’ GM in 2019 with current GM Ozzie Newsome moving to a consultant role.