The rumors about who will be joining the Falcons’ new coaching staff are coming in hot and heavy here shortly after Arthur Smith was hired, which means he’s likely moving fast to fill his staff. Yesterday, we heard from insider Adam Caplan that Chicago Bears passing game coordinator Dave Ragone might be the offensive coordinator under Smith, and today we’re hearing something new for the defensive side of the ball.
Where Ragone is a relatively unproven coach who hopefully will mesh well with Smith, the guy the Falcons might bring aboard for a defensive role is a living legend. That’d be Dean Pees, the longtime defensive coordinator for the Patriots, Ravens and Titans.
Continue to hear that longtime top NFL defensive coordonator Dean Pees, who retired but coached with Arthur Smith in Tennessee, will be joining Smith's new staff in Atlanta in some capacity— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) January 16, 2021
The @NFLGameDay Notebook with @MikeGarafolo & @TomPelissero: The #Falcons hired Arthur Smith & may hire DC Dean Pees; the #Lions are zeroing in on #Saints AHC Dan Campbell as their coach; Insight into the #Eagles search, with two new candidates; Who will the #Seahawks hire as OC? pic.twitter.com/Xyf6OEJcF6— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 16, 2021
With Rapoport also pushing this forward, I’m willing to stop calling it a rumor and start calling it a report. There’s still qualifiers here, but it appears it could happen, and that’s exciting.
This move would fit, as Pees and Smith overlapped in Tennessee, Pees is said to be considering a return to the sideline, and he could bring along his son Matt Pees to the Falcons. The younger Pees is a high school coach who spent two years as a defensive quality control coach with the Titans, and I’m sure the elder Pees would like to groom him to take on a larger role with an NFL down the line.
Dean Pees would be a great get for the Falcons, either as a defensive assistant to someone Smith knows well (perhaps Green Bay Packers defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, a longtime defensive coordinator who gave Smith his start in Washington) or as the defensive coordinator himself. As I noted in my potential candidates roundup yesterday, Pees-led defenses have 7 top 10 finishes in yardage and 8 top 10 finishes in points allowed out of his 12 years as a defensive coordinator, and he’s done that with three separate defenses. As our own Kevin Knight wrote, his defense was excellent in Tennessee, too.
As it looks more and more likely former #Titans DC Dean Pees will be joining the #Falcons, here are the stats from his two final years in TEN:— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) January 16, 2021
2018: 3rd in scoring, 8th in yards, 10th 3rd down, 2nd RZ
2019: 12th in scoring, 21st in yards, 8th 3rd down, 31st RZ
The chief knock on Pees—a concerning one in light of this franchise’s history—is that they tended to wear down badly late in games and surrender leads, especially with Baltimore. It goes without saying that’ll be something that has to change in Atlanta, given that most of our hearts are hanging on by a thread.
Pees is my preferred candidate for the job unless the Falcons can pry Wade Phillips loose from retirement, with my only concern being that Pees may once again choose to retire in a year or two. His track record suggests he’d be able to do positive things with this Falcons defense no matter what his role is, even if they obviously need more talent moving forward. We’ll keep an eye on this report and hope it proves true.