Continuity at defensive coordinator hasn’t been a theme of John Harbaugh’s tenure coaching the Ravens.
He started with Rex Ryan in charge of the defense in 2008. After Ryan was named New York Jets head coach, Greg Mattison took over for the next two seasons. Mattison then left for the University of Michigan and Chuck Pagano succeeded him. Pagano’s stint lasted just the 2011 season before he was named the Indianapolis Colts’ new head coach, and now Dean Pees is running the unit.
Four defensive coordinators in Harbaugh’s first five seasons at the helm.
It would be logical to wonder if that lack of stability would hurt the Ravens. Harbaugh doesn’t think so.
“All four of the guys who have been coordinators here in the last, going on five years now, I think have done a tremendous job, all with the circumstances they had to deal with,” Harbaugh said after last Wednesday’s OTA. “It goes back to the players. Obviously we’ve had some stability and some continuity with some leadership obviously with the star players and veteran guys we all know about. The coordinators are no small part of it.”
The Ravens have continued to own one of the best defenses in the league even as the coordinator carousel has turned.
In Harbaugh’s first four seasons, the team has finished no lower than 10th in the NFL in total defense (in 2010) while ranking in the league’s top three in each of the other three campaigns.
Pees has a solid track record as a defensive coordinator, having filled the position with the New England Patriots from 2006-09. He then served as Baltimore’s linebackers coach the last two years before being promoted to replace Pagano.
So what will Pees bring to the job? What kind of new spin will he have from his three predecessors?
“You’ll probably be able to tell me after the 16th game of the season,” Pees said. “I don’t know. Everybody’s got their own personality. I loved working with Greg, Chuck Pagano, I have the alsolute utmost respect for him. He did a fantastic job.
“You are who you are. I’ve been around coaches who have tried to be somebody other than who they are. We have a system here. We have a system that’s been proven. It’s worked. I’m not going to come in and try to change that system. Am I going to try to put my personal touch on it? Yeah, I probably will without even knowing it. Everybody calls a game differently. Everybody sees a game differently. But yet it’s going to be some of the same calls.”
Harbaugh seemed to have a more definitive idea about why Pees seemed like the right fit.
“Dean’s distinctive. If you talk to the players, they’ll tell you that,” Harbaugh said. “He definitely has his own style. How to describe it, I don’t know. He’s forceful. He’s very confident. He’s been doing this a long time. I think he’s really creative. He’s one of the better teachers I’ve ever seen as a coach. Obviously, the proof is going to be in the pudding. We’re excited about where we’re going on defense.
“He’s a great football coach and I’m sure he’s going to do a great job.”
Pees expanded on his coaching style a little bit, as well.
“You can probably tell my voice carries,” he said. “I don’t need signals. I can probably yell it in. Bunch of guys who play hard. not really any different than the philosophy (that) has been here. we want a bunch of guys who run to the ball, are nasty and upset when they get to the ball. We want guys to play here.”
The players don’t seem bothered by the lack of coordinator consistency, and since Pees was hired, have seemed to say nothing but positive things about the choice.
Ravens defensive back Cary Williams is among those OK with the the ever-shifting coordinators.
“With the great organization we have, I’ve had great coaches since I got here in 2009. There hasn’t been much of a difference. I can tell you we’ve had great guys all three years,” Williams said.
“Dean Pees and I, we have a great relationship. He’s so knowledgeable, so crafty, on defense. He definitely brings another element to our game as far as what we’re going to do on Sundays - the pressure and some of the zone coverages. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens this year and how well we’re going to flourish in the system.”