Over the past couple of days, Arthur Smith has filled out his coaching staff, naming Dave Ragone the offensive coordinator and pulling Dean Pees out of retirement to be his defensive coordinator.
Pees began his coaching career all the way back in 1979 at the University of Findlay but has since coached under a laundry list of Hall of Famers. From 1990-1993, he was the defensive coordinator at Toledo under Nick Saban before joining Lou Holtz’s staff for a season as Notre Dame’s secondary coach. Pees then re-joined Saban’s staff at Michigan State, where he was the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach for three years.
Following the 1997 season, Pees found out the hard way that head coaching isn’t for everyone, as he went 17-51 over five seasons at Kent State before making a jump to the pros, joining Bill Belichick’s staff in New England as the linebackers coach. In 2006, he was promoted to defensive coordinator — a position he served in for four years. Here is how his defenses ranked while calling the shots for the Patriots:
2006: 2nd in points allowed, 6th in total defense, 5th in rush yards allowed, 12 in pass yards allowed
2007: 4th in points allowed, 4th in total defense, 10th in rush yards allowed, 6th in pass yards allowed
2008: 8th in points allowed, 10th in total defense, 15th in rush yards allowed, 11th in pass yards allowed
2009: 5th in points allowed, 11th in total defense, 13th in rush yards per game, 12th in pass yards allowed
With his contract up following the 2009 season, Pees decided not to return to New England and took a job with Baltimore as the inside linebackers coach under Jon Harbaugh. By 2012, he was the Ravens defensive coordinator — a position he held for the next six years.
2012: 12th in points allowed, 17th in total defense, 20th in rush yards allowed, 17th in pass yards allowed
2013: 12th in points allowed, 12th in total defense, 11th in rush yards allowed, 12th in pass yards allowed
2014: 6th in points allowed, 8th in total defense, 4th in rush yards allowed, 23rd in pass yards allowed
2015: 23rd in points allowed, 8th in total defense, 12th in rush yards allowed, 10th in pass yards allowed
2016: 9th in points allowed, 7th in total defense, 5th in rush yards allowed, 9th in pass yards allowed
2017: 6th in points allowed, 11th in total defense, 15th in rush yards allowed, 10th in pass yards allowed
Following the 2017 season, Pees announced his retirement, but that didn’t last long. He soon joined Mike Vrabel’s staff in Tennessee.
2018: 3rd in points allowed, 8th in total defense, 18th in rush yards allowed, 6th in pass yards allowed
2019: 12th in points allowed, 21st in total defense, 12th in rush yards allowed, 24th in pass yards allowed
Once again, after the 2019 season, Pees announced his retirement, but clearly, the itch to coach just won’t go away. After just one season on the couch, he accepted the job to be the Falcons defensive coordinator instead of returning to the Titans, who were also trying to coerce him out of retirement.
Alex recently broke down Pees’ defense, and in it, he talked about how he coaches a very bend but don’t break style. The first 80 yards are much easier to get than the last 20. These rankings over his years as defensive coordinator portray exactly that. Pees only has two seasons where he finished higher ranked in total yards than points allowed (2015-2016 with the Baltimore Ravens). Hopefully, that trend continues in Atlanta.