Report: Dean Pees Returning to NFL

Former Titans defensive coordinator will run the Atlanta Falcons' defense for Arthur Smith.
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Dean Pees reportedly will end his retirement in order to help another head coach get off to a good start.

NFL.com reported Thursday that the septuagenarian will return to the NFL in 2021 as the Atlanta Falcons’ defensive coordinator under new head coach Arthur Smith.

Pees, 71, retired a year ago after two seasons as the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator and sat out the entire 2020 campaign. He made it known during the season, however, that he was open to a return to coaching.

It was his second retirement in two years and the longer of the two. The first, which came in 2018, lasted a matter of weeks before he agreed to join the Titans and Vrabel, who Pees once coached with the New England Patriots.

Smith and Pees worked together for two years under Vrabel. Smith, who was formally introduced as the new man in charge of the Falcons on Tuesday, was tight ends coach in 2018 before he was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2019.

Also, according to the report, Dave Ragone will be Smith’s offensive coordinator, although Smith will call the plays for the Falcons. Ragone and Smith worked together in Tennessee from 2011-13 when Ragone was the Titans’ wide receivers coach (2011-12) and quarterbacks coach (2013) while Smith was an entry-level assistant.

Pees has been an NFL defensive coordinator for 12 seasons with the Titans, Ravens and Patriots. Seven times, including in 2018 with Tennessee, his defenses finished among the NFL’s top 10 in yards allowed, and eight times, also including 2018, they finished among the top 10 in scoring. Only once have his units finished worse than 12th in points allowed.

Without him, the Titans finished 24th in points allowed, 28th in yards allowed and last in third down defense in 2020. He will take over one of the four defenses that gave up more yards than Tennessee.

Smith never has been a head coach at any level, and Pees will provide a veteran and proven presence on his staff.