When I first started writing for Baltimore Beatdown, one of the first articles I did was about how it was time for Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees to step up or get fired because of a looming threat in secondary coach Leslie Frazier. 2016 was the season for Pees to prove himself after years of his "bend but don't break defense" falling short.
The Ravens screamed "continuity" during their end of the year press conference after 2015 as the reasoning for bringing Pees and former offensive coordinator Marc Trestman back this season. They used the fact that the defense finished 8th last year as another reason for bringing Pees back. They ignored the sad fact that the defense was 25th during the first half of the 2015 season and the main reasoning for finishing 8th was because they played bad offenses to close out the year. The stats didn't tell the whole story. Just like they didn't tell the whole story this year.
When the Ravens started off 3-0, many were praising Pees and the defense for how well they played. The problem? They played the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars. In my eyes, we were going to find out the real Ravens defense the very next week against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders offense is young, fast, and very talented. I wanted to see if the defense could match up with this offense, especially with the Raiders flying cross country to Baltimore. I wanted to see if Pees learned his lesson from the year before when the Raiders offense smashed them in Oakland. The result was sadly the same.
The Raiders won the game 28-27 as Oakland quarterback Derek Carr threw for 199 yards and 4 touchdowns. If you are keeping track, Carr in two games against the Ravens has thrown for 550 yards and seven touchdowns. Carr is really good, but that's terrible. I knew right then and there that this defense was still the same old Dean Pees defense. The players might've changed but the philosophy didn't. The defense was severely overrated and they proved it throughout the course of the season.
Did the defense perform well against good offenses at times this season? Yes, they did. They held a Redskins offense to 16 points, they did a very good job against the Steelers during their first meeting, and they completely dominated a red-hot Dolphins team just a few weeks ago. They deserve credit for those games but we must look at the big picture.
Two weeks after they lost to the Raiders, the defense gave up 222 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns to Odell Beckham Jr. in a loss to the New York Giants on a day where Baltimore's offense was as balanced as they've ever been at that point in the season. Yes, its Beckham, but one guy beat them that day. One guy also beat them the very next month later in Dallas. That was rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns. Last week in Baltimore, Ryan Matthews and the Philadelphia Eagles offensive line gashed them.
The culminations of how truly overrated this defense was, and the games that should once and for all show the Ravens that Pees is not the guy for the job, were these last two losses to the New England Patriots and Steelers. Leading up to the Patriots game, all you heard was how the Ravens defense was the #1 ranked defense in football. How they could be a big test for Tom Brady and that offense. Brady proceeded to throw for 406 yards with 4 touchdown passes.
Sunday night in Pittsburgh was the cherry on top of a terrible cake as Pees defense went prevent and "bend but don't break" with a ten-point lead, blowing it in four minutes. Let that sink in, they blew a ten point lead in four minutes. If that's not enough for change at the defensive coordinator position, I don't know what is. To follow that up, they quickly allowed a game-winning touchdown drive after the offense drove down the field to give them the lead.
A lot of people will point to the injuries of Jimmy Smith. Here's the fact, while Smith is a good player, one guy should not make your defense. Another fact, and this is a sad one, is that Pees has coached numerous games without Smith. If he can't coach his defense without the absence of one player, a player who has missed many games throughout his career, after five years as the defensive coordinator, how can he ever lead this defense to becoming the unit it can be? Jimmy Smith is a very good player, but let's not act like he is on the level of a Patrick Peterson or a Richard Sherman. The way this defense plays without him, you would believe he is on their level. That's on Pees.
The Ravens find themselves in the same situation today they did a year ago. They have a defense with some good pieces in there. This isn't a bad defense, it's a defense that isn't good enough to perform well on the big stage when they really have to. They haven't in a while and a lot of that falls on Pees. Perhaps the biggest reason that the Ravens need to part ways with him is because he doesn't utilize his defensive players properly. He doesn't put them in a position to succeed. The Ravens need a guy who can do that, they need a guy who can make this defense, a defense that has talent, to mold from a good but overrated defense, into a great one.
As long as Dean Pees is around, no matter how many defensive players the Ravens acquire this offseason, the unit will never be what it truly can be. If the Ravens decide to keep Pees, get ready for more of the same. They can't allow that to happen. Steve Bisciotti shouldn't allow it.