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When did Dean Pees have to be the most flexible? When he won a Super Bowl - The Athletic


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by Tori McElhaney for The Athletic 

 

The one word that kept coming up in Dean Pees’ first news conferenceas the Falcons’ defensive coordinator was “flexible.” Perhaps it’s a fitting word for the situation, and maybe it’s even the perfect word to describe Pees’ nearly 50-year career. Either way, flexibility is something Pees knows well.

When asked what he expects from the Falcons’ defense, he said it would be multiple, as all of his defenses have been. That’s how his defenses played in Baltimore and Tennessee. He said his philosophy is to be “multiple but simple.”

“Simple on the back end and really multiple up front,” Pees said. “Our talent and our roster will dictate what we’re going to do, not me. We can go a lot of different directions.”

But as he spoke, it got me thinking about the flexibility displayed in his career. So, I asked: When is a time he had to be the most flexible to get the most he could out of the individual pieces of a defense? He dove right in with an interesting answer.

First, he reminisced about the years he worked on Nick Saban’s staff (two stints, in fact).

The first time Saban joined forces with Pees was in the early 1990s when Saban was the head coach at Toledo. They ran a stunt 4-3 scheme. Fast forward a few years to the mid-1990s, and Saban called on Pees to join the staff at Michigan State. But Saban was no longer running a stunt 4-3.

“What that taught me, what that’s always taught me, is that you need to do whatever you need to do to stop the other team,” Pees said.

So, he did just that. And he did so by adapting to the changing situations around him. The interesting part of this narrative, however, is that circumstances never changed him. Pees said he would like to think anyone who sees him in a defensive meeting in 2021 will see the same coach who was at Toledo 30 years ago. He hasn’t changed because flexibility and adaptability make up his foundation. It may be a shifting and a constantly moving foundation, but nothing built on it has ever toppled onto Pees.

The last thing Pees wants to be is “rigid.”

“If you’re so rigid and all you can play is Cover 2, and all of a sudden a Cover 2 corner goes down, but you have a guy who can play man coverage, well, don’t you want to play man coverage with that guy?” Pees said. “That’s why we want to be flexible. Because, look, the roster changes all the time, not only year-to-year but sometimes week-to-week. So, if you have a corner that’s down, and the next corner can’t really do what the first guy did, I have to do what this corner can do well.”

As Pees was talking about his time as Saban’s defensive coordinator, he paused and added something to the effect of, “But here’s a good story for you.”

The most flexible Pees had to be as a defensive coordinator was also the year he won a Super Bowl.

It was 2012. Pees was with the Ravens. He had Ray Lewis, but Lewis was out for 10 games that season.

“People don’t remember that,” Pees said.

The Ravens also lost Terrell Suggs for eight games. Pees said the Ravens also were down a couple of cornerbacks at times.

“We changed weekly,” Pees said. “We had new guys in there every week.”

And yet …

“We won the Super Bowl,” he said with a slight smile. “My job, our job as coaches, was to go out and win.”

And it was that Super Bowl-winning year that reaffirmed everything that Pees established as his coaching foundation. Simply put? If you don’t adapt and are not willing to be flexible at every single turn, your rigid ideas won’t allow you to bend.

You merely break.

“Everything in football breaks,” Pees said. “Nobody’s perfect. Nobody’s got all the answers. But when the players come to the sideline, they want answers when something isn’t working. ‘What are we going to go to, Coach?’ And if you’re a coach and you don’t have an answer to give them? That’s not having good credibility and accountability. That’s why we’ve always been so flexible.”
 

 

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1 hour ago, Hard2BaBirdWachr said:

Was that the game where their fans were claiming that Roddy pushed off on the TD?

Yes it was but he didn’t push off. The db slipped. I was at this game and one of my favorite moments at the dome. I miss the dome so much when I see highlights like this. The dome was rockin and so loud. 
 

 

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13 hours ago, Hard2BaBirdWachr said:

Didn't we beat the Ravens in 2012?

No, people just like to say that the Falcons would have beaten them in the Super Bowl. There's really no guarantee that they would have, especially considering the Ravens went through Denver (a shootout win over Peyton Manning's Broncos) and Foxborough (destroyed Brady's Patriots) to get to the Super Bowl. The 49ers defense was one of the best in the NFL that year, and the Ravens lit them up like a Christmas tree in the Super Bowl. I don't know why people think the Falcons would have fared better against the Ravens.

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3 hours ago, sandtrap said:

Yes it was but he didn’t push off. The db slipped. I was at this game and one of my favorite moments at the dome. I miss the dome so much when I see highlights like this. The dome was rockin and so loud. 
 

 

Man I feel you on that!! I miss it as well. I went to the game where Matt Ryan got hurt and I think it was Chris Redman that subbed for him and threw the winning TD pass to Roddy in the final seconds against the Bucs. The Dome went bananas.

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3 hours ago, sandtrap said:

Yes it was but he didn’t push off. The db slipped. I was at this game and one of my favorite moments at the dome. I miss the dome so much when I see highlights like this. The dome was rockin and so loud. 
 

 

There was nothing wrong with the dome.  I loved it.  Better than Fulton County for sure.  I have not set foot inside Mercedes as yet.

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10 hours ago, Herr Doktor said:

There was nothing wrong with the dome.  I loved it.  Better than Fulton County for sure.  I have not set foot inside Mercedes as yet.

I’ve also yet to step foot in it but from what I see on TV it seems soulless which is really sad. I know Arthur wanted an nice shiny stadium and he deserves it for what he’s done for the Falcons and the city of Atlanta but it’s still sad to see. The sliver of hope though is when you see crowds at the Atlanta United games. What a scene! I know it’s harder w football because of the prices but I sure hope Atlanta will show out if we start winning again. 
 

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10 hours ago, sandtrap said:

I’ve also yet to step foot in it but from what I see on TV it seems soulless which is really sad. I know Arthur wanted an nice shiny stadium and he deserves it for what he’s done for the Falcons and the city of Atlanta but it’s still sad to see. The sliver of hope though is when you see crowds at the Atlanta United games. What a scene! I know it’s harder w football because of the prices but I sure hope Atlanta will show out if we start winning again. 
 

It's VERY nice in the Benz. I went to the Dallas game (Claiborne's 5-sack day) and I can't say no more about how nice everything is. 

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10 hours ago, sandtrap said:

I’ve also yet to step foot in it but from what I see on TV it seems soulless which is really sad. I know Arthur wanted an nice shiny stadium and he deserves it for what he’s done for the Falcons and the city of Atlanta but it’s still sad to see. The sliver of hope though is when you see crowds at the Atlanta United games. What a scene! I know it’s harder w football because of the prices but I sure hope Atlanta will show out if we start winning again. 
 

The new stadium is fantastic.

We went the year it opened for my birthday weekend....it was the Thursday night vs the saints where Debo intercepted Brees in the end zone.

But the stadium is great and it was rocking that night.

The biggest problem we had was just leaving.....it was a chore getting out of there.

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