"Four years of this [censored]. Four years of our corners playing 10 yards off the [censored] ball on 3rd and 3's. Four years of dominating while blitzing and then slacking off and sitting back at the end of the game. Four years of complete incompetence. This guy is the worst defensive coordinator in the league and I am tired of waiting for his [censored] to be gone. He has lost us 10+ games the past 3 years on his [censored] game planning alone. He needs to go." - Redditor /u/kapate13
While this Ravens' fan's words are a little brash, it's pretty close to the truth, and is representative of what a lot of us are thinking right now. Ever since the departure of former coordinator Chuck Pagano to Indianapolis in 2012, pondering what the hell Dean Pees is doing has been an annual pastime. While the Ravens have had decent success with their defense over the years, his questionable playcalling has been masked by a top-tier front seven that overshadowed a suspect secondary.
That's a luxury that Pees doesn't have anymore. With the Ravens playing without either Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, or Ed Reed on the field for the first time since 1998, the Ravens are trying to build a new defensive empire. That's something that the team can't do when Pees' conservative play-calling is killing our chances. Calling loose zone coverage on long third downs has absolutely killed us this year. Last week, the Broncos went 8-18 on third downs. This week, the Raiders went 9-14. That's pretty unacceptable when the current league average is 39.87%. I think Redditor /u/imayknownothing absolutely hit the nail on the head by saying that this defense isn't "bend but don't break", but "more like fall over and concede".
However, this is nothing new for the Ravens. The signs of the Ravens' defensive demise under Pees have been present for a long time. Remember when we won the Super Bowl thanks to our kick-ass 17th place defense? Remember how that same defense was the third-best in the league only a year before? It's time to face the reality that until Pees leaves Baltimore, we will never go back to being defensively dominant.
Harbaugh and the front office are no strangers to firing coordinators in the midseason. While Coach Harbaugh was very hesitant to do so, he finally pulled the trigger on cutting Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron in Week 14 with just a few weeks left until the playoffs. It was a move that sparked the Ravens offense, and led the team to their second Super Bowl victory.
So who could the Ravens bring in in place of the ineffective Pees?
Look no further than the man who led the Buffalo Bills to their first winning record in ten years. His name, Jim Schwartz. Schwartz's Lions, who he coached from 2001-2008, were well known and respected for having nasty defenses. Schwartz brought that same attitude to Buffalo, where in just one season, he took the reigns of the previously mediocre Bills defense and brought them to success. Last year's Bills defense led the NFL in sacks (54), and were fourth in points allowed (18.1 per game). They were also fourth in yards allowed (312.2) and third in takeaways with 30. It's a pretty impressive resume and track record for a guy who has been surrounded by incompetence for most of his coaching career.
The real kicker? He's currently not employed by a NFL team.
The good news for Ravens fans is that Pees' 'make it or break it' moment is coming sooner, rather than later. When the Ravens face the prolific offense of the Bengals and Steelers in the next couple weeks, all eyes will be on Pees. If his defense doesn't step up to the plate, I could see him out of Baltimore by Week 5.
It's a sad but true reality for a team whose pedigree used to be defensive excellence, on both the coaching staff, and roster. Rex Ryan, Marvin Lewis, and Jack Del Rio are all alumnus of the Ravens organization, and so are countless other defensive playmakers on the field. I really do hope that this defense picks up the slack, but all dynasties must end. Us fans might have to get used to a Ravens team without a premier defense for a little while.