For the bulk of their existence, the Baltimore Ravens have represented in many ways the standard of defensive football over the course of the past two decades. Like them or not, the Ravens have had a true defensive identity over that period of time as strong as any other team in the league.
The 2017 season has been another strong season in that regard, as they find their unit ranking at or near the top in many statistical categories. But the man primarily responsible for that unit will be calling it quits after this season, according to reports early this morning.
ESPN initially shared the news that Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees intends to retire when this season ends, which could be as early as this evening or as late as the Super Bowl. Baltimore is likely to secure a playoff berth later today, though it is not yet set in stone. They figure to be the fifth seed as the top wildcard.
Pees, an Ohio native who served as defensive coordinator in Ben Roethlisberger’s stomping grounds of Findlay and Miami (Ohio), did not enter the NFL until 2004, when he joined the staff of the New England Patriots as their linebackers coach, but he was promoted to defensive coordinator after two seasons.
After leaving New England, he joined the Ravens staff as the linebackers coach, a role in which he served for two seasons under Chuck Pagano, taking over as defensive coordinator when the latter took a head coaching job with the Colts. He has been in this role since then, for the past six seasons.
It is unknown, at least to me, who would succeed Pees in the role of defensive coordinator, presuming that it would be an in-house promotion, as they have operated over the course of the past several generations. The Ravens have a defensive system in place that has largely remained intact because of that consistency in the transfer of power.
Prior to Pagano, who served just one season as defensive coordinator after three seasons as the Ravens’ defensive backs coach, there was Greg Mattison, who was the defensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009. He came in with John Harbaugh in 2008 as their linebackers coach.
Before Mattison was, of course, Rex Ryan, who is perhaps their most well-known defensive coordinator throughout their history. He has served two head coaching stints since vacating that position, which he owned from 2005 to 2008. He was the team’s defensive line coach from 1999 until he was promoted.
Then there was Mike Nolan, the defensive coordinator from 2002 to 2004. The year prior to that, he was actually their wide receivers coach, but he had a lengthy history of experience in the role with the Giants and other organizations.
The defensive coordinator prior to that, and from the organization’s beginning, was Marvin Lewis, serving in that role from 1996—coming from the Pittsburgh Steelers as linebackers coach—through 2001. So every defensive coordinator in their history, going back to the beginning, was an internal promotion.