Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees to discuss retirement with wife, family

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who vowed to change the culture within the franchise’s defense, may consider retiring again after the season.

The Falcons (6-10) are set to play NFC South champion Tampa Bay (8-8) in their regular-season finale at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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“We’ll see after the season,” Pees said Thursday. “It will be between me and my wife.”

In training camp, Pees vowed “to change the culture of this defense around this frickin’ place.”

Pees, who won Super Bowl rings with the Patriots and Ravens, correctly noted that the Falcons hadn’t had a top-10 defense over the past 20 years. The 2017 unit finished ninth in the NFL in total yards allowed. The Falcons are ranked 29th (370.9 yards per game) this season.

But Pees is pleased with the unit’s progress, and that will not play a factor in his retirement decision.

“Really, at this point in time, I’m happy with the way the defense is playing,” Pees said. “… When you’re 73 years old, there are a lot of things at play. We’ll make that decision. It will not just be my decision. It will be a family decision.”

Pees had a scary incident when the Falcons played the host Saints on Dec. 18. He was run over by Saints punt returner Rashid Shaheed during warmups. He was carted off and taken to the hospital amid medical concerns about internal bleeding and prescription blood thinners.

The Falcons rank 23rd in the NFL in points allowed (23.1 per game), 24th in yards rushing allowed (133) and 26th in yards passing allowed (237.9). While the Falcons’ main defensive rankings are not in the top half of the league, Pees believes the culture is taking hold.

I think it’s gone well,” Pees said. “… If we were playing the same now as we played at the beginning of the year or last year, then I would say it hasn’t gone like expected. ... In my eyes, we are playing a lot better than we played the first half of the year, a lot better. So, it’s trending in the right direction, and that’s what you want.”

Pees pointed to the play of cornerback A.J. Terrell and linebacker Rashaan Evans as being exemplary. In the past, he also has cited defensive end Grady Jarrett for his contributions.

“If it’s not trending at all, that’s not good,” Pees said. “If it’s trending in the opposite (direction), that’s bad. I’m just saying that I think it’s trending (in the right direction). … I love the way our guys play and our guys prepare. That’s part of the culture.”

The Falcons, who have played tough and been in several games they lost, have a 5-8 record in 13 one-score games this season.

“You want guys who take it serious,” Pees said. “It means a lot to them. They practice hard. They play hard.”

Pees said the Falcons have tried to build the defense around smart, tough players who know what to do in the 3-4 scheme.

“Now, when you get that plus a guy who’s got great ability, you’ve got a Hall of Famer or a Pro Bowler,” Pees said. “I have no complaints about these guys. I think the culture is definitely going in the right direction.”

One area of continued concern has been the pass rush. The Falcons have 21 sacks, which ranks 31st in the league.

Pees was asked, hypothetically, if he could improve one level of the defense, whether along the line, the linebackers or in the secondary, which one he would pick. Of course, he wanted all three.

“But you always want a pass rusher because it’s a passing league,” Pees said. “You’re always going to want a pass rusher, but you also got to be able to cover them back there. If you can play man coverage, it gets old after a while trying to play all these different zones to cover up because you can’t play man.”

So a cover guy was his second pick.

“I can manufacture some pressure if I want to,” Pees said. “I’d rather four-man rush and sack the quarterback. But if I have to manufacture something, I can manufacture a pass rush in some ways better than I can manufacture a guy covering.”

Interior defensive linemen also are high on Pees’ hierarchy.

“I certainly wouldn’t pass up a dynamic pass rusher or a dynamic defensive lineman, either,” Pees said. “If you’ve got a guy like a J.J. Watt or somebody like that or Aaron Donald, a guy like that who can just wreck havoc inside, that’s the same as the outside.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule

Sept. 11 Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18 Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15

Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14

Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17

Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT

Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17

Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15

Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24

Nov. 27 Commanders 19, Falcons 13

Dec. 4 Steelers 19, Falcons 16


Dec. 18 Saints 21, Falcons 18

Dec. 24 Ravens 17, Falcons 9

Jan. 1 Falcons 20, Cardinals 19

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.