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Why Dean Pees is Falcons biggest defensive offseason addition 

Coaxing respected defensive coordinator out of retirement was huge win for Arthur Smith, Terry Fontenot

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees during organized team activities on June 17, 2021.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees during organized team activities on June 17, 2021.

Dean Pees doesn't need to flash two Super Bowl rings to earn your respect. His reputation precedes him. That'll happen naturally after 40-plus years in coaching, with so many of them spent as one of the NFL's best defensive coordinators.

He has led the Patriots, Ravens and Titans through golden eras highlighted by deep postseason runs. His defenses have been excellent in the only metric that truly matters: preventing points. Pees has eight top-10 scoring defenses in 12 seasons as coordinator thanks in part to a creative, effective scheme that's somewhat hard to pin down.

3-4 or 4-3? Classification isn't pertinent when adaptability and unpredictability seem to be a scheme's greatest strengths.

Blitzes come from everywhere. Pre-snap alignments suggest one thing, then defenders do another. Tape from a previous game may not foreshadow what's happening in the next one. In short, dealing with Dean must be confusing as heck for a quarterback. Oh, and his former players love him.


Coaxing Pees out of retirement was as important as anything new Falcons brass have done this offseason. That's why he's the right guy to help a Falcons defense that has fallen on hard times.

And, yeah, I know. That's not a fresh take. It has certainly been said between the time head coach Arthur Smith brought Pees back and now, likely more than once.

It has become so apparent during my Falcons crash course that it had to be restated from a megaphone on a mountaintop. This deep dive started when I took over as Digital Managing Editor on June 1, initially using OTAs and minicamp to focus on roster construction. The NFL offseason has gone church-mouse quiet since, with coaches and players alike relaxing on white-sand beaches before training camp starts later this month.

The down period has provided time to examine Falcons schemes, especially while impatiently waiting (taps foot, checks watch) for moving trucks to cross the country. Arthur Smith's offensive system seems effective and efficient. Pees has a real knack for maximizing roster strengths, which is all you can ask from a coordinator.

Coaches typically deflect praise like this with a common refrain.

Players make plays. Execution over everything.

In other words, no call works unless the players make it effective. There's truth to that, but coaching them up well and putting them in position to succeed will go a long way in helping this Falcons defense improve.

Pees will certainly take advantage of an athletic linebacker corps featuring Deion Jones and Foye Olukuon. He has a pair of smart, veteran safeties in Erik Harris and Duron Harmon. That will help Pees' plays run well. Creative blitzes should energize a pass rush that sagged last year and didn't do enough to help teammates on the back end.

Building this defense up will take some time, so let's temper expectations in this first season. Just having Pees in red and black, rocking a headset, will make this unit better. When the Falcons gain the financial flexibility to be bigger players in free agency, when Terry Fontenot gets another crack at the NFL Draft and if position coaches can develop young talent on the roster, Pees system will look better and better.

Having access to it is a coup in itself, and should help the Falcons both now and in the future.

Atlanta Falcons have named Dean Pees defensive coordinator. Pees previously coached at the Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London #5 during team practice at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

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