Mike Vrabel now needs a defensive coordinator and a secondary coach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A day after losing in the AFC Championship Game, Mike Vrabel has two holes on his defensive staff, neither as a result of his own wishes.

Veteran defensive coordinator Dean Pees, 70, announced his retirement at the press-conference podium before Vrabel discussed the end of the season.PeesBAL

“I talked him out of retirement once,” Vrabel said of Pees, for whom he played in New England. “I didn’t have the heart to do it a second time.”

Also leaving is secondary coach Kerry Coombs, who returns to Ohio State, where he will be the new defensive coordinator. [Unlocked]

Pees said all he ever really wanted to be was a high school coach, but one thing lead to another and it just happened that he climbed to 16 years in the NFL with defensive coordinator stints in New England, Baltimore and Tennessee.

“I am proud of the way our players played,” he said of his two years with the Titans. “I’m really proud of these guys. The way they gave it their wall, bought in to whatever the game-plan was that we as a staff put together for them, didn’t balk at it. Mike came up with the slogan that we finish everything, and that’s what these guys did.”

Pees also said it was a thrill to work for two seasons with his son. Matt Pees has been a quality control assistant for the team under Vrabel.

Vrabel said there is change every year and he has to take some time to identify the best people and situations for his players. He hopes for continuity. 

Coombs was an intense, high-energy coach who managed a secondary loaded with talent including a two-time Super Bowl winner in Logan Ryan, an All-Pro in Kevin Byard and a Super-Bowl hero in Malcolm Butler.

apple icon 114x114 precomposed"I understand it, I really do," Byard said. "His family is from that area, his grandkids and all those different things. It's a great opportunity to go up there and call a defense for one of the best teams in college football. I told him congratulations, I'm super happy for him. I think his group of men and the defense, whoever he's going to coach, are going to be super-happy with the choice that they made.

"He's an intense guy, he's going to give every single thing that he has and we played our ass off for him. And I think his group will do the same exact thing for him."  

Byard said he's not impatient about learning of Coomb's replacement, he's just eager to watch his four-month-old daughter reach five months in a couple of days.

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