Titans Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees Retires
NASHVILLE – Dean Pees’ first retirement lasted a couple weeks. This one, he insists, is good.
The Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator retired Monday after two seasons with the team and 47 seasons as a coach, the last 16 in the NFL. He missed an opportunity to become the first defensive coordinator to coach three different franchises when the Titans lost 35-24 in Sunday’s AFC Championship at Kansas City.
“The first thing everybody says to me is, ‘Is this for real?’ Pees said. “It is for real. If I wanted to continue coaching, it would be here. We got a great staff. I really enjoy the guys. It’s great working for [head coach] Mike [Vrabel]. I love our players.
“I’m done coaching.”
Pees came to the Titans in 2018, shortly after he retired for the first time. He had spent the previous eight seasons (2010-17) with the Baltimore Ravens, the last six as defensive coordinator. Before that, he spent six seasons (2004-09) with the New England Patriots, the last four as defensive coordinator, where Vrabel was one of his players.
When Vrabel was named Titans head coach, he said his first phone call was Pees, who accepted his offer. Tennessee finished in the top 10 in total defense and scoring defense in its first season with Pees in charge. Through the first half of the 2019 regular season, when the Titans struggled to win games, the defense was ranked ninth in yards allowed. That number dipped in the second half, when the offense improved and the defense was willing to trade yards for time off the clock.
“I knew he was in the process of retiring, but I wanted him to be a part of this, to help me and to help lead our defense and our team with his experience and his knowledge,” Vrabel said. “… We’re lucky that he was here and that he chose to come here be with us.”
This is the second straight year that Vrabel must replace one of his coordinators. Matt LaFleur, who directed the offense in 2018, left last offseason to become head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Tight ends coach Arthur Smith was promoted to fill that position.
Vrabel indicated that he would like to hire someone with some understanding of Pees’ defense, considered one of the game’s most broad and versatile schemes, to run things on that side of the ball next season.
“There’ a lot of options as far as being able to bring guys in to interview,” Vrabel said. “I want to take my time. … It’s important that I’m comfortable with the person that’s going to be in that role. So, this is not something that’s going to be done overnight and we’ll make sure that we do what’s best for the team.”
Before he made it to the NFL, Pees was a high school coach in Ohio and spent 25 years in the college ranks, including a six-year stint as head coach at Kent State, where he went 17-51 overall, 14-21 with one winning season in his final three years. His college jobs included one season as secondary coach at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz (1994) and three years as defensive coordinator for Nick Saban at Michigan State (1995-97).
“It’s been a great profession, a great ride,” Pees said. “I’ve been very fortunate along the way, from being a high school coach … to all the college jobs that I had. … I’ve been around nothing but great people. When you’re around great organizations and great players, they make you look great.
“… I can’t say enough about the opportunities that I’ve been blessed with. But I think God’s trying to tell me it’s that time.”