For Ravens fans the hits just kept on coming after the brutal AFC Championship game loss to the New England Patriots. Shortly after the team got back to business the news rocked the Castle that Chuck Pagano, first year defensive coordinator for the team, was hired as the new head coach for the hated rival Indianapolis Colts. Pagano had a great year with the Ravens as he brought back much of the ferocity in the defense that seemed to be lacking since Rex Ryan left for New York.
Ryan's replacement, Greg Mattison, was a bit more subdued in his play calling and focused more on coverage down field than finding creative ways to rush the passer. Not that there is anything wrong with that but the teams weakest link during his tenure was the secondary and the defense was built around the front seven and creating pressure. It just seemed that there was something lacking. Just off the top of my head, the three man rush was not a strength or ours... and it was used a bit too much under Greg Mattison's regime. After 2010 he left for the same job with Michigan and Pagano stepped in an brought the defense back to life. It was never said that the team was unhappy with him but I assume it was a mutual decision for him to leave.
Now Pagano is off to a new venture. He packed his family up on a Mayflower truck and headed off to Indy. Baltimore has since promoted linebackers coach Dean Pees into Pagano's old job. When it was announced that Pees would be taking over I had no idea who he was or where he came from but after doing some research I am pleasantly surprised to find out he has quite an impressive resume.Back in 1983, Pees was the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Miami of Ohio, where he coached a young defensive back by the name of John Harbaugh. Harbaugh has a pension for bringing in coaches from his past. He also seems to have a healthy respect for people that worked for his father. If there is one thing John Harbaugh is good at it is finding great people in which to delegate responsibility. He has stuck with Cam Cameron through thick and thin and hopefully that gamble will pay off in the very near future.
Pees was the Patriots’ linebackers coach under Belichick in 2004 and 2005, and then when Erick Mangini left to become a head coach he was promoted to defensive coordinator. Sound familiar?
Pees was the Patriots’ defensive coordinator for four seasons, but he ultimately left the New England organization following its embarrassing 33-14 playoff loss to the Ravens in 2009 in a game where Rice ran all over Pees’ and Belichick’s defense. He left after the season to come to Baltimore to coach Ray Lewis and the Ravens linebackers.
Opinions ranged as to why Pees left New England. One suggestion was that a medical condition, which prompted a brief hospital stay, was behind it, however Pees claimed that he had an allergic reaction to an albuterol inhaler. Pees insisted that since his contract was soon to expire it was time for a change of scenery.
Whatever the case may be he had a lot of success in New England prior to the playoff loss to Baltimore. During his four-year tenure as New England’s defensive coordinator, the Patriots were the only team in the NFL to finish in the top 10 in scoring defense each season, allowing less than 20 points per game every year.
In his first season as Patriots’ defensive coordinator in 2006, Pees’ defense set a franchise-record for points allowed per game (14.8), which was also the second lowest total in the NFL, and finished fourth in the league in takeaways.
The following year as New England had a 16-0 regular season before losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, the defense ranked fourth in the NFL in yards per game (288.3), the fewest permitted yards by a Patriots’ defense in 28 years. It also finished second in the league with 47 sacks and sent three starters (Vince Wilfork, Mike Vrabel and Asante Samuel) to the Pro Bowl.
In 2008 Pees' defense ranked second in the NFL surrendering 309.9 yards per game and in 2009, his last year with the team, the Patriots ranked fifth in the league in scoring defense allowing 17.8 points per game. Not bad at all.
New England had a much better defensive unit back then but they still had no where near the talent that the Ravens have on the defensive side of the ball. It will be interesting to see what he is able to do with this group.
Over the Ravens history they have made a name for quite a few defensive coordinators. Most moving on to head coaching positions when they left because of the great teams they were a part of here. However the Ravens just keep on trucking, staying in at the top of the NFL in just about all defensive categories, the one constant being Ray Lewis. I am confident that no matter who is "calling the shots" we will be just fine, as long as #52 is out there running the show and orchestrating everything on the field.