NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Dean Pees was not choosing between two defensive coordinator offers when he decided to join Arthur Smith’s staff in Atlanta.

Pees took the one offer he had to re-enter the league as a coordinator a year after retiring.PeesBAL

He had already made a commitment to Smith, a hot coaching candidate who interviewed for all seven openings when Mike Vrabel recently offered him a role with the Titans as a consultant, not as a coordinator.

So it remains unclear what Vrabel’s plan is for adjusting his staff, where Shane Bowen functioned as the defensive coordinator in 2020 but retained his outside linebacker coach title and responsibilities as well.

The Titans defensive personnel was worse in 2020 than it was in 2019.

But several coaching changes also certainly played a role in a terrible season.

Bowen took over for Pees, Jim Haslett replaced the fired Tyrone McKenzie with Inside linebackers and Anthony Midget (corners) came from Houston and Scott Booker (safeties) was promoted from within to replace Kerry Coombs, who had agreed to return to Ohio State as defensive coordinator before Pees' retirement.Pees2

During his first year with the Titans, on Nov. 18, 2018, Pees was taken from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to the hospital and stayed overnight. The eye issues that prompted that were subsequently resolved.

But the Titans shaped days that got him out of the building by 8 p.m.

That’s not conventional and we don’t know if Smith will have to do something similar and if it’ll have a bearing on the operation, or who Pees’ top defensive lieutenant will be to carry things in the extra hours if someone must.

Pees is now 71.

Personnel was a huge issue in 2020 as the Titans struck out on Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney while second-round corner Kristian Fulton was low-impact in seven games because of injuries and Adoree’ Jackson played in only three.

Kevin Byard has his worst season and Rahsaan Evans did not play anything like a first-round pick.

The Titans dropped from 21st to 28th in total defense, from 24th to 29th against the pass and from 12th to 19th against the run.

Scoring defense got way worse, from 12th in the NFL (20.7) to 24th (27.4) and third-down defense suffered a remarkable drop -- from eighth (36.3 percent) to 32nd, a historically bad 51.9 percent.

A particularly sad element of the Titans’ disastrous 2020 defense was its inability to carry over the great degree of pre-snap disguise and manufactured pressure Pees helped create. He too didn’t have very talented edge players, but the pass rush found 42 sacks in his final year and 19 YAP, Year After Pees.

A return of Pees wouldn’t have guaranteed a magic cure. A degree of personnel overhaul is needed for sure.

We don’t know what Vrabel is going to do. He interviewed Teryl Austin, senior defensive assistant/ secondary coach from the Steelers, but it would seem if he was going to hire him, he would not leave Mike Tomlin hanging so long.

apple icon 144x144 precomposedThere could be others, perhaps even from the college ranks, that have been kept quiet. He could given Bowen the title.

I’ll reserve total judgment until we know what moves Vrabel does make.

Pees did great work in his two years in Tennessee. During the 2021 season, he was a fantastic weekly guest on The Midday 180, helping us preview the Titans' upcoming game.

Now, the Titans' two highest-ranking and very effective assistant coaches from the Vrabel era are working about 250 miles southeast of Nashville. I’m eager to see what they do, and what the Titans do too.

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