They know him well
Titans DC Pees will face old team as Ravens visit
NASHVILLE — Dean Pees’ retirement sure didn’t last very long. Not with Mike Vrabel pouncing on the chance to lure the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator — and one of Vrabel’s former coaches when he was an NFL linebacker — to work with him in his first year as coach of the Tennessee Titans.
Now the schedule is giving the 69-year-old defensive coordinator a chance to try to slow down his old team. The Titans (3-2) host the Ravens (3-2) today with both teams trying to bounce back from close losses in low-scoring games.
“At some point in time when I do conclude my career,” Pees said, “it will be to me a unique situation and a unique opportunity I was given to work for two guys that are great coaches and were great players for me, and for me then to kind of give back and the fact that I kind of know them so well. We’re on the same page as far as how you do things and that kind of stuff; it all kind of came from the same school.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who played for Pees at Miami (Ohio), hired Pees to coach linebackers in 2010 before making him defensive coordinator before the 2012 season, which wrapped up with Baltimore winning the Super Bowl. Pees held that job through last season before retiring after 45 years as a coach.
Vrabel’s 14 seasons as an NFL player included eight seasons with the New England Patriots (200108), with Pees working first as their linebackers coach in 2004 and ’05 and then their defensive coordinator through 2009. After Vrabel was hired by the Titans in January, he called Harbaugh and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome for permission to talk to the retired Pees.
Ravens safety Eric Weddle said it was tough to see Pees join the Titans.
“We were all happy for him, because we know how much he loves coaching,” Weddle said. “But he’s with them now. We appreciate what he did here, but we’re doing our thing now, and he’s doing his.”
After kickoff, friendships are forgotten for at least three hours.
“Once the game starts, we’ll be trying to choke each other out,” Harbaugh joked.
The Ravens replaced Pees by promoting Don “Wink” Martindale, 55. Vrabel hired Pees to replace Dick LeBeau, 81, in Tennessee.
“Replacing Dick LeBeau anywhere is not an easy thing to do, and I was very aware of that, but I felt like we needed a change,” Vrabel said. “And Dean has been everything that I had hoped for.”
Both teams have enjoyed success early this season, but neither is happy with last week’s results. The Ravens lost 12-9 in overtime in Cleveland, while the Titans fell 13-12 in Buffalo.
Without Pees, the Ravens have been just as stingy, leading the NFL in scoring defense (15.4 points per game) and tackles for loss (34). They haven’t allowed a touchdown in the second half of a game this season, and they rank third in yards allowed per game (303.8).
That’s four spots ahead of the Titans, who are third against the pass (210 yards per game), just ahead of Baltimore (215.4). Tennessee’s red-zone defense is the league’s best.
Last week’s loss to the Bills was the Titans’ second this season in which they failed to score a touchdown. In their favor, starting quarterback Marcus Mariota is off the injury report for the first time since hurting the elbow on his throwing arm in the season opener.
Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel, right, talks with defensive coordinator Dean Pees before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 23 in Jacksonville, Fla. Pees faces his former team today as the Ravens visit the Titans.