The road to coaching success in the NFL typically goes through coordinator positions, and we have countless examples of successful defensive and offensive coaches who have made the leap over the years. It is a natural progression in terms of climbing the ladder, and it is the most popular choice for teams looking to fill head coaching vacancies. This history makes it a fair question to ask – could Dean Pees be the next hot head coaching candidate?
To date, the current Ravens defensive coordinator hasn’t really drawn any interest for head coaching vacancies, even after winning the Super Bowl his first year as a coordinator with the team. To be fair, 2012′s defense featured vocal leaders Ed Reed and Ray Lewis as well, so teams may have overlooked Pees’ influence.
Pees certainly has the history and football pedigree to be a head coach. He spent 15 years as a coordinator at the collegiate level, and was the head coach at Kent State for six seasons. He even coached John Harbaugh at Miami (OH). Pees went on to spend six years with the Patriots, where served as the linebackers coach for two seasons and the defensive coordinator for four seasons.
During his tenure with the Patriots, Pees’ defense was the only one in the NFL to finish in the top ten in scoring in four straight seasons. The team allowed fewer than 20 points per game in every season Pees was there, the best of any stretch in Bill Belichick’s tenure as head coach. It’s quite likely that Belichick, a defensive mind, overshadowed Pees in his time in New England as well.
Pees has had a successful run with the Ravens in his three seasons as well. In 2010 and 2011, the team allowed the third fewest points in the NFL with Pees as the linebackers coach. In 2012 he was promoted to defensive coordinator following Chuck Pagano’s promotion to head coach of the Colts.
Even in a disastrous 2013 that mixed injuries and ineffectiveness with offensive deficiencies, the defense managed to rank 3rd in the NFL in third down defense and finished a respectable 12th in both points and yards allowed. Keep in mind this was also the season after Ray Lewis retired and Ed Reed departed in free agency. Talk about some major changes.
If anything, last season proved that Pees is a good coach on his own. It would have been tough for any defense to post respectable numbers given the circumstances that 2013 brought, but Pees held the ship together even when things were at their worst. And that is one of the key elements that separates the great coaches from the mediocre ones.
But will Pees get a realistic shot at a head coaching job? He has few things working against him, other than being overshadowed most of his career. One is his age. 64 certainly isn’t out of the question in the head coaching ranks, but it does give teams pause when they are looking to build a successful team over the long haul. Tom Coughlin is 67, but he has been a head coach for eighteen years.
Pees is certainly in the right place if he wants to become a head coach, however. An incredible thirteen Ravens assistants have been or are currently head coaches in the NFL, four of which were defensive coordinators That’s an astounding number. Not to mention Rex Ryan, Chuck Pagano, and Marvin Lewis have been pretty successful in head coaching roles so far.
The question is, does Pees want to be a head coach? In a 2012 interview with the Detroit Free Press, Pees pretty much shot down the notion, explaining that he enjoys focusing on football and not all the extracurricular activities that a head coach has to deal with.
“They can have that gig all they want. You become a head coach, you become everything but a coach. Especially in college, you’re there speaking to alumni, you’re doing all this stuff, you never coach. And, that’s not why I got into this profession. I watch head coaches even in this league — there’s just so many other hats that you have to wear. I don’t want to wear those hats. I want to wear this one right out here on the practice field, call defenses and play ball and have fun with the players.”
Things can quickly change when a great job becomes available, of course. One thing you learn over the years is to never say never. A great defensive season in 2014 is bound to make the phone ring for Pees, and head coaching offers will at least be batted around. Whether or not the right offer comes along that compels him to be the next Ravens assistant turned head coach, well that remains to be seen.