Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees wasn't on the sideline last Sunday when the Ravens took on the Cleveland Browns. That's because he was in the coaches box above the field. While it's no oddity in the NFL for a defensive coordinator to work from behind the glass, Pees' change of location does mark a departure from the norm for the Ravens.
Pees' predecessors, Rex Ryan, Greg Mattison, and Chuck Pagano, all coached from the field. Pees, who was defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots from 2005 to 2009, is accustomed to both approaches—elevated box and inches from the action. He said he doesn't feel particularly more comfortable with one than the other.
During the bye week, Pees and head coach John Harbaugh discussed making the change. The struggling defense includes many first-time starters, two more in Dannell Ellerbe and Jimmy Smith since the injuries to Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. Pees said he hoped that he would have a better opportunity to gauge for himself some of the defensive mishaps from a bird's eye view.
“I just felt like at this point, after seven games, I didn’t really like where we were,” Pees said, “More than the interaction with the players, I needed to see exactly what is going on and where the breakdowns are occurring and get them fixed.”
With less experienced players, Pees explained, he couldn't rely on communication with individuals to pinpoint what had gone wrong during a specific play. From the sideline, he simply didn't have the ability to take in the whole field and identify a miscue or a slip-up by a defensive unit still looking for cohesiveness.
While Pees did not specifically mention Ray Lewis' absence, Jameel McClain, who has taken over the earpiece on the field, is still getting used to the responsibility. Lewis' experience and vision allow the middle linebacker to be somewhat of a coach on the field. Without Lewis' expertise, a heavier load falls on Pees to see for himself the ins and outs of every snap so that the defense can make in-game adjustments.
While the defense did not shine against the Browns, showcasing a lot of bending while managing to avoid much breaking, Pees and Harbaugh were pleased with the decision to place Pees in the coaches box.
“That was Dean’s idea. That’s something Dean talked about after the game down in Houston,” Harbaugh said. “It worked really well yesterday. The communication was very good."