Mike Vrabel said back in January that he did not want to try to talk Dean Pees out of retirement a second time.
Maybe he should think again.
Pees, the former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator, told The Tennessean that he is open to the idea of a return to football. Ten months away from the game – much of that time amid a pandemic – has the 71-year-old looking for something to do. It could be going back to work.
“I’ll be honest with you, I miss it. I miss it a lot,” Pees said. “… If the right situation came along, I would certainly consider it. I’ll put it that way. I don’t know that I’d do it. But I’m not saying that I wouldn’t at least consider it.
“… I don’t know if it’d be Tennessee, though. I have no idea.”
In more ways than one, the Titans have not replaced Pees, who was an NFL defensive coordinator for three teams over 12 seasons from 2006-19 (he also spent two years as a position coach), including two with Tennessee (2018-19).
There is no one on the current staff with the title defensive coordinator. Vrabel and outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen combine on the game plans and run the defensive meetings. Bowen is the one who actually makes the calls for that unit during games.
Statistically, the defense has not performed at the level typical of those that Pees coached. Eight times his defenses finished among the NFL’s top 10 in scoring and only once did his group finish worse than 12th. Five times, his defenses finished among the top 10 (three times they were worse than 12th) against the pass.
At present, only four NFL teams have allowed more passing yards than Tennessee, which is also just outside the top half in points allowed. The Titans have had one of the worst third-down defenses, has struggled in the red zone and has been ineffective at rushing the passer.
On a subsequent radio interview Friday, Pees made it clear, he is not angling to return or that he thinks the Titans need him.
"They're doing fine. They're 6-3," Pees told The Midday 180 (WGFX-FM 104.5). "Just quit it. It's not about me. They've had a bunch of injuries, the COVID stuff. I'm not looking to come back to the Titans. They're not looking to have me come back."
Pees said he has watched every Tennessee game this season but does not want to undermine the current staff by offering his opinions on what he has seen.
“Are there things that I would have called different or would call different? Sure,” he told The Tennessean. “That’s just the way it is. I watch every other game and critique it, too.”
Pees retired in 2018 after six seasons as defensive coordinator in Baltimore. Vrabel was hired to lead the Titans a short time later, and his first call was to Pees, who accepted his offer to stay employed.
The time might be right to pick up the phone again.
“I miss the guys,” Pees said. “I miss the players.”