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Who Are We Now? Part 2. Dean Pees Edition

To begin my second and final piece of my two part series of Who Are We Now?, I introduce to you the famous and infamous... Dean Pees (enter Dean pees stage right).

As stated in the beginning of the previous article, the NFL is a copycat league. Coach Pees and the scheme he runs is just a copy of a copy of a copy. So to fully understand who Pees is and the scheme he runs you must fully understand where he and his scheme come from (que rapidly intensifying music).

We will have to go all the way back to the 1970's, and look into one of the most influential people to ever stand on an NFL sideline. Someone very few people remember today. The team was the Miami Dolphins and the coach is Bill Arnsparger. Long story short Ansparger was an schematic genius who set trends that still last today. In Miami he essentially invented the "zone blitz" defense as well as the hybrid front defense. Arnsparger led the way in thinking outside of the box and putting NFL offenses on their heels. Now Arnsparger was never an NFL head coach, but the mark he left was massive. Those defenses he crafted helped lead to the undefeated season that stood as the standard for perfection around the league. To this day it is only rivaled by the 2007 New England Patriots 16 consecutive win season (que Dean Pees comically winking at the audience).

Now Arnsparger influenced essentially every defensive coach in the NFL and beyond. They immediately began to copy him. One of the people who took his scheme and had huge success with it, was none other than Bill Parcells. Parcells led multiple Super Bowl caliber teams, and his coaching tree is considered to be one of the greatest coaching trees in NFL history. As a head coach, he led the NY Giants to two Super Bowls. His defensive coordinator was none other than Bill Belicheck. The defense that Belicheck ran was an early and successful version of a hybrid/multiple front defense. How did Parcells and Belcicheck create such a successful defense? They had the perfect player to run it. They had Lawrence Taylor being an absolute menace to QB's in the 1980's. Taylor could rush from a standing position as well as with his hand in the dirt with equal veracity, which made him the perfect player to run this defense. On one down they would have a 4-3 Under defense to rush the passer, the next they would stand him up and run a two-gap 3-4 defense to stop the run. On third downs they could run a one-gap 3-4 defense and hit the team with a deadly zone blitz. Parcells and Belicheck had what Belicheck would later on term the perfect "Elephant" to run that defense. Taylor and the hybrid front defense would become the standard for defenses in the future. Most defenses today have some sort player that plays a similar role to Taylor, and runs some version of a multiple front themselves.

Now Belicheck having ran this multiple front or hybrid defense for years eventually got a head coaching job. It was with Cleveland and he tanked. Eventually he would get another shot and that would be with the New England Patriots. Now when he got that shot he ran with it and would cement himself as most likely the single most genius coach in NFL history. After a short period of time in New England, Belicheck brought in a successful college coach that he had faith in, and it was none other than Dean Pees. Pees had humble beginnings starting as a linebackers coach in 2004 with the Patriots, but he quickly rose in the ranks in New England. By 2006 he was the defensive coordinator for New England. With him came some of New England's deadliest defenses. He crafted the legendary 2007 Patriots defense and helped propel the longest winning streak in NFL history (Pees comically winks once again). He would stay in that role until 2010. He would leave, go to Baltimore, and eventually become their defensive coordinator as well, and again win another Super Bowl with a legendary defense. Both defenses had legendary defensive rosters, but they had one other thing in common and that was Pees. In both places he ran the defense that he perfected with Belichick in New England, and that defense was perfected with Parcells and Belchick after Parcells copied the Arsnparger defense from Miami and San Francisco in the 1970's (que Dean Pees fixing his tie and approaching podium).

So with all of this in mind, where does that leave Atlanta today? Well it leaves Atlanta running a scheme that was started in Miami in the 1970's and perfected in New England and Baltimore in the 2000's. Pees has a very similar coaching philosophy as Belicheck to this day. Belicheck is known as being an X's and O's coach, more than a players coach. Pees is much the same. While Pees believes in being hands on, ultimately his greatest feats will be in the film room and coaching meetings. Pees draws up blitzes from multiple positions, and disguises what the defense is doing by using players who do not fit specific roles. He will have a OLB put their hand in the dirt as though they are rushing with a 4-man front DE, but then drop into coverage just like an OLB does. He will have lineman drop into coverage. He will have safeties stop the run, while ILB's blitz the QB from the outside with a stunt. The key to the multiple front defense is that it is all smoke and dagger. Offenses find it hard to tell what they are facing on any given down. Considering the evolution of the NFL offense that we are seeing today, as referenced in the previous article, this defensive evolution requires a tit for tat nature as well.

Today in Atlanta we have players like Arnold Ebiketie, Grady Jarrett, and Rashaan Evans. These players are interestingly multiple and will be used in a wide variety of ways. Ebiketie (AK) has shown a propensity to rush from a variety of places, and he will most likely hold the Lawerence Taylor or "Elephant" role. Jarrett will be the lineman who can shift from a 2 gap 3-4 DE to a 1 gap 4-3 DT with equal effectiveness (which is incredibly hard to find), and Evans will be the ILB who can cover TE's or take on offensive lineman on their way to the QB. Without these players who can take on a multitude of roles within any given defensive alignment, it becomes a lesson in futility (Pees begins to wipe sweat from his forehead).

Atlanta's biggest issue today, is that its front 3 or 4 players cannot create the pressure needed to give the rest of the defense room to be "multiple" for a lack of better terms. They have to play in a much more defined role, to ensure they are disciplined, and can contain the damage offenses are doing to the best of their ability, which in all honesty they did decently. They were the first team in NFL history to not have a single play go for more than 40 yards. Meaning, they got absolutely slaughtered by plays underneath, but they held teams back from taking the top off our defense. For 2022 I expect that to change a bit (Pees starts to gather himself).

The 2022 Atlanta Falcons defense will be the most multiple defense we have possibly ever seen because they have the players to do so. Expect Jarrett to rush the passer more from both interior and end roles, in both even and odd fronts. Expect to see AK blitz from both the inside and outside with his hand in the dirt and standing. Expect our safeties to see an increase in blitzes because of the increase in talent within our CB group. Our run stopping should be increased in that we have gotten more talented at the ILB position. Naturally all of this is still heavily dependent on the front 3 or 4, but do not expect Pees to dial anything back because of that. If anything he could go in the complete opposite direction and dial everything up to an 11, and just blitz a ton more than years past. The use of the zone blitz WILL be used a lot more, simply because we have an actual "Elephant" role from AK, plus we have Lorenzo Carter who can cover and blitz very effectively on the other side as well. Pees didn't have anyone who could effectively take these roles his first year in Atlanta, and thus couldn't run his scheme and ended up watering everything down to an unrecognizable point. This year he does, and he is most likely itching to actually show that he hasn't lost his ability (que Pees confidently and defiantly exiting stage left).

So there it is. The 2022 Atlanta Falcons are a team who will run the predecessor of the oZB scheme. Arthur Smith is using a new variation of that scheme basing everything on size mismatches and team offense that is schemed before the game. They will run a multiple front defense and bring that side of the football into the 21st century. It is not something new, but it is something that requires specific players, which we didn't have in 2021 but now do have in 2022. Pees will dial up plenty of zone blitzes and bring pressure from anywhere and everywhere possible. His time spent in the coaching rooms will show some sort of improvement, but the play from the players on the field is still going to make or break this team (curtains draw, the crowd cheers in applause, and the lights come on).

For your reading pleasure (the coaching tree graphic is really fun for football nerds):

Bill Arnsparger's Creation of 3-4 Hybrid Defense

Hybrid Defensive Fronts

Coolest coaching Tree Graphic You Will Ever See

Evolution of the NFL Defense

<em>This FanPost was written by one of The Falcoholic's talented readers. It does not necessarily reflect the views of The Falcoholic.</em>