Dean Pees is the first to admit that he’s been pretty spoiled over a 39-year coaching career.
In his first job, as the defensive coordinator at the University of Findlay in Ohio, Pees celebrated a Division II national championship. He’s coached under Lou Holtz, Nick Saban, Bill Belichick and now John Harbaugh. In eight seasons as an NFL assistant, Pees hasn’t had to deal with anything worse than a 10-6 regular season.
Pees’ latest opportunity – one that Harbaugh and some of his players said couldn’t have been any more deserving – came Friday when the Ravens handed Pees the key to their vaunted defense, and empowered him with the task of making sure the group’s tradition of dominance continues.
“It's an incredible opportunity to be a defensive coordinator for anybody in this league, at any level, but it’s especially humbling to be one for the Baltimore Ravens,” Pees said. “There has been a strong tradition here throughout the years. I can’t say enough about our defensive room and what it’s like to be a part of that.”
The Ravens named Pees, 62, the team’s new defensive coordinator, while Harbaugh announced that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and assistant head coach/ special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg also will return.
The announcement came one day after the team’s former defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano, was introduced as the new head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and just five days after the Ravens’ season ended with a stunning 23-20 loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game.
“We care about Chuck and he did such a great job. We’re proud of the opportunity that he has. At the same time, it’s an opportunity to move forward,” Harbaugh said. “Dean’s been here for two years now. I think if you get a chance to talk to any of our players, they’ll tell you what a great football coach this man is and what a good person he is too. We go back a long way. I’ve always respected his work, always respected the kind of person he is. He’s been in the NFL, he’s worked in college. All the way through the ranks, he’s been one of the top coaches around and the record speaks for itself. The tradition of this defense will continue and it will flourish and it will be even better. It will be in Coach Pees’ hands.”
Peeshas spent the past two seasons as the Ravens’ linebackers coach after a six-year stint helping run Belichick’s defense in New England. Pees was the Patriots’ linebackers coach for two seasons and their defensive coordinator for four. During Pees’ four-year tenure as defensive coordinator, the Patriots were the only team in the NFL to finish in the top 10 in scoring defense each season, allowing less than 20 points per game every year during that span.
However, Pees left New England following their 33-14 playoff loss to the Ravens in 2009 in a game in which Ray Rice ran all over the Patriots’ defense. There was some suggestion that Pees was forced out either because of the defense’s untimely performance or a medical condition that resulted in a brief hospital stay. However, Pees reiterated Friday that he was not fired and he “decided to explore other avenues, and this was a great avenue to explore.”
Asked what he learned during his tenure in New England, Pees smiled and said, “Win. We won there and we’re winning here. Every place I’ve been I feel like I’ve had an opportunity to work with just some unbelievable people. You learn something from everybody. You learn something from every assistant you work with, every coordinator that you work with. It’s not just New England. It’s everybody. It’s a culmination of a lot of years, being with a lot of people, seeing a lot of different things. I’ve been in a lot of different schemes and there’s no one scheme that is great. If that was the case, everybody would be playing that scheme. It’s what fits your personality. It’s what fits your personnel most of all.”
Pees is the Ravens’ fourth defensive coordinator in as many seasons. Four of the Ravens’ previous five – Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan and now Pagano – have gone on to be head coaches elsewhere.
All of those coordinators had their own personalities and styles from the bombastic Ryan, to the fiery Pagano to the assured Lewis.