The first person coach Mike Vrabel called when hired by the Tennessee Titans two years ago was Dean Pees, and Vrabel lured him out of a very short retirement after leaving the Ravens.
Pees, who turned 70 last September, said this retirement is final after 16 seasons in the NFL with the New England Patriots, Ravens and now the Titans. Pees was among nine defensive coordinators to go to Super Bowls with two different teams and just missed becoming the first to do that with three.
“I talked him out of retirement once,” Vrabel said Monday. “I didn’t have the heart to do it a second time.“
Under Pees, the Titans finished third in scoring defense in 2018 and 12th in 2019. After finishing the 2019 regular season 9-7, Tennessee upset the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots in the wild-card round and knocked out the No. 1 seed Ravens in the divisional round, holding the NFL’s top-ranked offense to just 12 points. The Titans fell to the Kansas City Chiefs, 35-24, in the AFC title game on Sunday.
Pees left the Ravens at the end of the 2017 season, a day after Baltimore lost to the Cincinnati Bengals on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd with 44 seconds remaining that kept the team out of the playoffs. The Ravens finished that season 12th overall in total defense, sixth in points allowed per game and first in caused turnovers.
Pees, who coached the Ravens linebackers for two years and succeeded Chuck Pagano as the defensive coordinator in 2012, also coached alongside Steve Belichick, father of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, at Navy in the late 1980s. In his only stint as a head coach, Pees went 17–51 in six seasons at Kent State from 1998 to 2003.
At the time of his first retirement, Pees said his 45-year coaching career was over because he wanted to spend more time with his family. He was later lured out of retirement by Vrabel to replace legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Pees’ son, Matt, who had been coaching at Green Mountain High in Lakewood, Colorado, was then hired as a quality control coach by Tennessee.
Vrabel also will have to replace his secondary coach with Kerry Coombs returning to Ohio State as defensive coordinator. When Vrabel had to replace his offensive coordinator a year ago when Green Bay hired Matt LaFleur as head coach, he stayed in-house promoting then-tight ends assistant Arthur Smith. Vrabel said he hopes he’ll be able to have some defensive continuity.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.