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Dean Pees doesn’t have the same visibly fiery personality of Chuck Pagano.
But Pees and Pagano share something more important.
They both really know defense.
On Friday afternoon, Pees was named the Ravens’ new defensive coordinator, promoted from his job as linebackers coach. He replaces Pagano, who became the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach after one year as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator.
“The tradition of this defense will continue and it will flourish and it will get even better,” said Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to be a defensive coordinator for anybody in this league, but it’s especially humbling to be one for the Ravens,” said Pees added.
Pees Introduced As Defensive Coordinator
The Ravens’ defense finished third in the NFL in scoring and yards allowed per game last season. They recorded the most sacks in the AFC (48).
Harbaugh said the goal now is to be No. 1 in those categories.
“I have my own personality. I’m not going to be the same as Chuck Pagano, or Greg Mattison or anybody before. You’ve got to be who you are and I will be who I am, but I don’t in any way want to change that room whatsoever, the dynamics of that room.”
What Pees, 62, brings is 38 years of coaching experience.
He’s also been in this seat before. He was the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator for four years from 2006 to 2009.
The Patriots’ defense was among the worst in the league this year, and it wasn’t too much better last season. But it wasn’t that way when Pees was there.
During that time, the Patriots ranked in the NFL’s top 10 each season in points allowed per game.
In 2006, Pees’ defense set a New England franchise-record for fewest points allowed per game (14.8). It was the second lowest total in the NFL.
In 2007, the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season, and the defense allowed the fewest yards by a New England defense in 28 years. They were second in the league with 47 sacks. In 2009, the unit ranked fifth in points allowed per game (17.8 points).
Pees reiterated on Monday that he was not fired by the Patriots. He chose to “explore other avenues” and said the Ravens avenue ended being a good one to explore.
Pees came to Baltimore ion in 2009 and quickly earned the respect of his players.
“In our business, when you sit down and talk to somebody you find out real quick their knowledge of football,” said linebacker Jarret Johnson, who rushed to the team facility for the press conference when he heard Pees had been hired.
“With Dean, you spend two minutes with him, [and you know] this is a football guy. He understands the sport, he knows a lot about the game. Anytime you have a conversation about the sport with him, you learn something about the game.”
Pees helped turn Jameel McClain go from an undrafted rookie reserve to a full-time starting linebacker next to Ray Lewis.
“He is a great coach. He really fits the player’s personality so well. He is a proven winner in this league,” McClain said. “I have been around many coaches in my football career, and Dean Pees is as sharp and aware as they come. We are lucky to have him as our coordinator, and I expect great things from our defense.”
Asked what he learned from the Patriots, Pees said, “Win.”
He said the Patriots’ defensive scheme was similar to what Baltimore runs, but that he likes the Ravens’ system better.
Pees will put his own stamp on the Ravens’ defense, but fundamentally not much will change, he and Harbaugh said.
“You’re going to see an aggressive defense, just like you’ve seen in the past,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll be getting after people. That’s the plan, that’s not going to change, and we’re going to build on that.”
“We’ve got a great group [of players],” Pees said. “It is a unique group, one of the most unique groups I’ve ever been around. They’ve got their own style, their own personality. It is what it is and it’s not going to change and I’m not going to change it.”
Two things players talk about with Pees is his adeptness at picking up opposing offense’s tendencies. That, Pees said, comes from a lot of years watching tape.
Another is his ability to teach, and persistence that players learn multiple positions. Pees had every linebacker learn each other’s position. That should add to Baltimore’s already versatile defense.
“I don’t think much will change with coach Pees,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “We call him ‘Coach K,’ because he is so knowledgeable about the game.”
Pees has a long history with Harbaugh. He was Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator at Miami (Ohio) for four years from 1980 to 1983. Harbaugh was a defensive back in Pees’ system.
“If he can make me any kind of a player, that tells you what a great coach he really is,” Harbaugh said with a laugh. “I always respected his work, always respected the kind of person he is.”