New Ravens linebackers Coach Dean Pees had a feeling there may be some interested parties when he chose not to extend his four-year stay as New England's defensive coordinator.
Well, there were more than he anticipated.
Pees said he heard from "a lot" of teams around the league, and one even offered him a defensive coordinator position. He was rumored to be in the hunt for Denver's vacant coordinator position.
But in the end, Pees chose Baltimore – as a linebackers coach.
"It's because of the franchise and the people here," Pees said Thursday evening while settling into his new office in Owings Mills.
"I had a lot of opportunities when I decided not to renew my contract with the Patriots. What I really want to do is have a chance to win and be around people that I really want to work with and for. I think this is one of the best, if not the best organization in the league."
With his contract set to expire in a couple of weeks, Pees asked Patriots head coach Bill Belichick if he could explore other coaching options around the NFL. That meeting took place on Wednesday, Jan. 13.
After receiving permission, Pees was contacted by former co-worker and friend Greg Mattison Thursday night. By Friday, Pees was on the phone with a former player of his, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh. Eleven days later, the Ravens officially announced Pees as their linebackers coach.
Pees said he is grateful for his time in New England – where he went to two Super Bowls and won one – but chose not to go into detail about why he left.
"I just felt like I needed a change at this point in time," Pees said. "I wanted to see if something struck me that I wanted to do."
It wasn't that Pees struggled in New England. During his tenure, the Patriots set a franchise record with 14.81 points allowed per game in 2006. The following year, his unit allowed the fewest average yards per game in 28 years in New England.
New England's defense underwent a makeover last offseason when veterans Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison retired and Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour were traded. Still, it ranked fifth in the league in points allowed (17.8) and 11th in total defense.
Pees also said his health was not an issue for wanting to make a change. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer last summer, but has had it effectively removed. He was taken to a Houston emergency room in the middle of the Patriots' regular-season finale with symptoms of a heart attack. But Pees claims he just had a reaction to a medicine he was taking at the time and said multiple tests have reported a clean bill of health.
Pees simply stressed that he was sold by the situation in Baltimore. He certainly steps into a strong linebacking unit, previously headed by Vic Fangio.
While he has coached great linebackers in New England, including former Raven Adalius Thomas, Pees is excited to meet Ray Lewis and the other Ravens linebackers. He hasn't yet spoken to the players, but he plans on calling them over the weekend.
"There's a great core of linebackers here and that's one of the things that really excited me about the job," Pees said. "Any time you have somebody of [Ray Lewis'] caliber, you're anxious to get in there and learn what he knows."
Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said he's interested to see how Pees adapts to the evolving and sometimes complex Ravens defense. The Patriots run a defense similar to the Ravens', however, with big nose tackle Vince Wilfork eating up blockers to free up linebackers.
Ayanbadejo did his own research and called current Patriots running backs Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor about Pees.
"They said, 'Oh he's an awesome coach, you're going to like him,'" Ayanbadejo said. "A first-hand account from two players is probably more valid than something you would read in a bio."
Pees, 60, has 37 years experience coaching football, including seven years at the NFL level, 15 years as a college coordinator and six years as head coach at Kent State. He was a defensive coordinator under Nick Saban and secondary coach for Lou Holtz in Notre Dame.
Pees also worked alongside Mattison at the Naval Academy from 1987-89 as a secondary coach. Mattison described Pees as a very thorough coach who will do anything for the team. Mattison feels it's a coup to get a coach like Pees.
"From the first day I met him and the first day we coached together I always felt he was one of the best coaches I had ever been around," Mattison said. "He's tremendous with the players. He does a great job preparing. His track record and accomplishments speak for themselves."
Pees was also Harbaugh's defensive coordinator when the Ravens coach was a defensive back in 1983 at Miami (OH). Harbaugh claims Pees is the only coach he ever had who thought he could play.
"You could tell he was going to be a coach," Pees said of Harbaugh. "If you messed up something on the board he could probably tell you you messed up."