Throughout the last 4 years, Dean Pees has been the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens; he’s also been public enemy number 1 in Charm City. Many fans and media have questioned and criticized his "bend but don’t break" defense since he took over the job after Chuck Pagano left to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Gone are the days of an aggressive, attacking, organized chaos style of defense that Ravens fans love and has defined this franchise for years.
That just isn’t the Ravens anymore and has led to many expecting the firing of Pees for the last 3 years, none more so than after the disastrous 2015 season. The defense might’ve finished 8th in total defense and 10th in passing defense last year, but let’s not forget that this same defense was absolutely atrocious throughout the first half of the year, ranking 25th , which is unheard of for a franchise with such defensive tradition.
In week 2, Derek Carr threw for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns. 1 week later, Andy Dalton threw for 381 yards and 3 touchdowns, including an all too familiar 80 yard bomb to AJ Green right after the defense scored on a turnover to give the team the lead. Flacco and the offense would give the Ravens the lead right back, only to watch the once intimidating Ravens defense give up a 6-play, 80 yard drive to the Bengals to sink the Ravens to 0-3. 2 weeks later, I went and saw for myself Josh McCown’s 457 passing yard and 2 touchdown day in Baltimore, as the Browns defeated the Ravens 33-31 in overtime. The Ravens dropped to the bottom of the AFC North cellar on that humiliating day. From then on it continued, watching 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick throw a 52 yard pass to fullback Bruce Miller to set up a field goal (Miller caught 3 passes for 89 yards...a fullback.), Torrey Smith catching a 76 yard touchdown pass, not tackling Chris Johnson, and Kendrick Lewis dropping an interception that would’ve defeated the Jaguars.
Heck, the highlight of the season was the kick-six by Will Hill, but even that bailed out the defense (and Matt Schaub) after allowing Austin Davis, the Browns 3rd string quarterback, to drive 71 yards in 6 plays to tie the game. To add it up, you’ve also seen 2014’s defensive debacle against The New England Patriots and the fact that in 2013 the defense could stop you for the first 3 and half quarters but could not stop you in crunch time. In the Super Bowl year of 2012, the defense was ranked 17th. Many figured that 2015 would’ve been Dean Pees last go around as defensive coordinator, but that is not to be as Pees will at least get one more shot to turn things around in 2016. The reason, as Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti stated at the end of the season news conference: Continuity. Safe to say that didn’t leave Ravens fans too happy, not only because of Pees staying, but the reasoning behind it. I get that the bad teams are the ones that constantly change direction, at coaching or in the front office and still don’t go anywhere, but sometimes the teams that are in it every year do know when a change needs to be made. The Ravens know that very well, which is why they have plan B in the form of Leslie Frazier.
Frazier was hired just 8 days after the Ravens end of the season news conference as the team’s secondary coach and to work closely with Dean Pees. Frazier will be entering his 18th year as an NFL coach, including 3 stints as a defensive coordinator with The Cincinnati Bengals from 2003-2004, The Minnesota Vikings from 2007-2010, a tenure which saw him become the head coach from 2010-2013 after taking over for Brad Childress during the 2010 season, and, most recently, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2014-2015. Not to mention, during his playing career, he led the 1985 Chicago Bears defense with 6 interceptions during their championship season. Frazier's playing career would end on a torn ACL during Super Bowl XX.
His arrival is very reminiscent of the Ravens hiring of Jim Caldwell to be the teams quarterbacks coach in 2012, but was also the team’s replacement for then offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, just in case things weren’t going to plan. We all know what happened there and that was something Pees witnessed himself.
The Ravens defensive coordinator has to be looking over his shoulder as we approach training camp next month, knowing full well that at any point in time during the season, the trigger will be pulled. The Ravens, on paper, have talent on defense with the likes of CJ Mosely, Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Jimmy Smith, Elvis Dumervil, Shareece Wright, the return of Terrell Suggs and the arrivals of Jerraud Powers and, most importantly, Eric Weddle. Za’Darius Smith showed promise in his 1st year and rookies like Kamalei Correa, Bronson Kaufusi and Willie Henry can help contribute to the team in 2016. I believe, and the Ravens believe, that the talent is there on defense and can help bring in a new era of great Ravens defenses, but it’s up to Dean Pees to help put that talent to good use on the field and to put them in a good position to succeed every Sunday. Or else it might be, as it is well known throughout the history of The Baltimore Ravens, next man up.