Five decades later, Dean Pees’ coaching legacy is about people


In 2023, Dean Pees will be coaching for 50 years. For five decades, he coached at all levels: high school, college and pro. Its reach is far, from small towns in Ohio to the MAC conference to Super Bowl champions.

50 years. It’s a long one, but maybe not too long to get tired of considering that those 50 years also included two retracted retreats.

With those 50 years came a very happy marriage. The one who produced six children who went on to produce another 12 grandchildren. It’s also 50 years of songwriting. When Pees gave the commencement speech for the class of his alma mater (Bowling Green) in 2019, he wrote and performed an original song on the piano. More importantly, he wrote a song for each of his daughters on their wedding day.

It’s 50 years of a playbook that takes multiple binders and maybe a binder to hold. Many will not be able to read it, but it only matters that the man who cataloged it can.

There is so much to say about someone who has dedicated his life to football for 50 years. There’s so much to say that a 1,000 word piece won’t be enough. We can only include highlights:

And highlights include working for seven college programs and four pro teams, coaching alongside men like Lou Holtz, Nick Saban, Gary Pinkel and Bill Belichick. Then there are the trainers that Pees – himself – helped raise.

There have been 12 defensive coordinators in the NFL who have worked with Pees’ staff at one time or another.

Running: Josh Boyer (Miami) | Patrick Graham (Vegas) | Don Martindale (Giants) | Leslie Frazier (Buffalo) | Steve Spagnuolo (Kansas City) | Teryl Austin (Pittsburgh) | Shane Bowen (Tennessee) | Mike MacDonald (Baltimore)

Past: Matt Eberflus (former defensive coordinator at Indy, now head coach at Chicago; played and coached for Pees) | Joe Cullen (Jacksonville defensive coordinator, not retained after Urban Meyer left, but now with the Chiefs) | Todd Grantham (former Cleveland defensive coordinator, now college coach) | Ted Monachino (former defensive coordinator at Indy, now OLB coach with the Falcons)

If you expand that list to include coaches who became defensive coordinators at the collegiate level, the total jumps to 20. Then, if you tweak the parameters a bit, the number climbs even higher if you include former players like John Harbaugh. and Mike Vrabel (who you should see because both NFL head coaches played for Pees).

When Pees joined the Patriots staff in 2004, Vrabel was in the linebacker room with Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Willie McGinest and Junior Seau.

When Pees was the defensive coordinator in Miami, Ohio in the 1980s, Harbaugh was one of his defensive backs.

“He was the only coach who thought I could play,” Harbaugh said more than 20 years later when Pees joined his Baltimore Ravens team.


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