Falcons coach Dean Pees retires for third time

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One of the most respected coaches in the NFL is stepping away from the game. The Falcons will now be in search of a defensive coordinator to replace Dean Pees, who told players he’s retiring, according to Tom Pelissero.

This is actually the third time Pees has retired, which almost felt expected. Prior to the team’s Week 18 contest, the veteran coordinator left the door to retirement wide open following his 50th-year coaching.

Pees coordinated some of the best defenses in modern history with the Patriots and Ravens, winning Super Bowls with both organizations. He hung his whistle up for the first time following the 2018 season with Baltimore, and less than a month later, he came out of retirement to coordinate the Titans’ defense under Mike Vrabel.

After two seasons in Tennessee, Pees once again retired. Then, for the second time and what will more than likely be the final time, he came out of retirement to join Arthur Smith’s staff in Atlanta. As the Falcons defensive coordinator, Pees hasn’t had the same success compared to years past. Below are this season’s metrics:

  • Opponent Points per Game 22.7 (23rd)
  • Opponent Yards per Game 362.1 (27th) 
  • Opponent Third Down Conversion Percentage 45.91% (31st)
  • Opponent Rushing Yards per Game 130.2 (23rd)
  • Opponent Yards per Rush Attempt 4.4 (18th)
  • Opponent Completion Percentage 66.31% (25th)
  • Opponent Passing Yards per Game 231.9 (25th)
  • Opponent Yards per Completion 10.6 (24th)
  • Sacks 21 (31st)
  • Takeaways per Game 1.0 (27th)

The defenses in Atlanta have been terrible under Pees but to no fault of his own. Because of salary cap issues inherited from the former regime, the Falcons haven’t been able to spend significant money on defensive personnel.

For the 2022 season, Atlanta ranks 29th in cap space spent on the defense, with just a hair over $39 million allocated to Pees’ unit. That is about 19% of the team’s total salary cap, with the average defender costing the team $1.6 million in 2022.

Grady Jarrett is the only high-paid member of the defense. Casey Hayward’s two-year, $11 million deal is the most lucrative free agent contract handed out to a defender, and the new regime hasn’t spent a single first-round pick on the defensive side of the ball. Richie Grant and Arnold Ebiketie are the two highest-selected defenders of the new regime’s tenure.

The Falcons defense has been abysmal since Pees took over, but it’s not because of the coordinator. Sure, he’s been outcoached at times, but for the most part, the defensive issues can be attributed to the substandard personnel. Until there’s some real investment into the defense — free agency or draft — expectations should always be tempered.

Dean Pees had an illustrious career and laid the groundwork in Atlanta for the next defensive coordinator. The vast talent discrepancy between what he had with the Falcons compared to the Patriots and Ravens should be considered when discussing his legacy. The underwhelming units in Atlanta shouldn’t be held against him. He’s probably not too upset with the way his group has performed because expectations were low to begin with.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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