Reports indicate that Patriots; defensive coordinator Dean Pees may reunite with former Patriots coordinator Josh McDaniels in the Mile high city. After guiding the Broncos to an 8-8 record in his first season as the Broncos head coach, McDaniels is looking for a new defensive coordinator. Assistant coach Mike Nolan and McDaniels did not see eye-to-eye in their first year together and mutually agreed to part ways.
Nolan has since landed in Miami, where he'll lend his expertise to the Patriots' AFC East rival. Pees is considered to be the leading candidate to fill Nolan's shoes in Denver.
The original reports of Pees' departure in New England indicated that the Patriots assistant had be let go. Not so said Pees, who explained in follow-up interviews that he needed time to get away and evaluate his future. Pees had fought through medical issues this past season in New England, which caused some concern over his future.
In a statement released by the team, Pees explained the decision to separate from the team he has coached though two Super Bowls including a near-perfect season.
"My contract with the New England Patriots will expire in a couple of weeks and I have informed Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick that I will not seek to renew it. I enjoyed my time in New England, but feel this is the right time to pursue other opportunities. I had the privilege of working with some great coaches and great players over the past six seasons and leave the Patriots with some wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. In addition to the players and coaching staff, I want to thank the Kraft family, the media and the fans for all of their support."
Pees underwent surgery for Prostate cancer and is reportedly beyond the issue. He also suffered from breathing difficulty in the game against the Texans, which caused him to leave the stadium during the game to get checked out at a local hospital.
Despite the health issues and the job he did with the Patriots defense this past season, Pees is still considered the front runner in Denver. The Broncos are reportedly also considering linebackers coach Don Martindale.
Rookie Coaching Moves Or Building The Future?
McDaniels left New England after the 2008 season to take the head-coaching job with the Broncos. He had a rough start to his first season in Denver. There was a highly criticized decision to trade franchise quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago after Cutler openly criticized the organization.
Then there was a highly publicized spat with the team's top wide receiver Brandon Marshall who also spoke out against the team. Reports showing video of Marshall pouting at practice, and punting the ball away in frustration added fuel to the criticism surrounding McDaniels.
The cacophony of criticism surrounding McDaniels reached national proportions with analysts and so-called experts predicting a one-and-done future for the young coach.
But something changed, McDaniels' team started winning game after game with Kyle Orton assuming the role Matt Cassel took in 2008 for New England. The replacement started to play well, and the Broncos headed to the bye undefeated at 6-0.
McDaniels was the darling of the league by the end of October, with some of the most vocal critics voluntarily eating healthy portions of crow for their remarks.
But November brought change. The Broncos started to slide, dropping four in a row before righting the ship to head into their final month 8-4. More losses led to more criticism, both internal and external. The same old Broncos was the line. McDaniels couldn't overcome the losses, and had more player issues to deal with.
In the season finale, with the playoffs still a possibility, McDaniels openly questioned the health of Marshall, who complained of a nagging hamstring issue. The coach decided to sit Marshall, the team's greatest weapon, declaring him out for the game days in advance. Tight end Tony Scheffler, another key contributor was a healthy scratch.
McDaniels was more concerned about sending a message than winning the final game.
The Right Move?
McDaniels' decision to move forward without Nolan is curious. It was Nolan's influence on defense, which enabled the Broncos to improve from 29th overall (448 yards per game) to 7th (315). In 2008 the Broncos were the third worst team in the league in preventing teams from scoring, allowing on average 28 points per game. Under Nolan, Denver improved to 13th (20.3).
What undoubtedly caused concern for McDaniels were the dual four-game slides after the bye. The first slide the defense yielded 29.25 points per game. In their final four games - ones which allowed the Chargers to run away with the Division - the Broncos gave up 30.5 points per game. Sandwiched in the middle were a pair of wins against the Chiefs and Giants that yielded just 9.5 points per game.
Perhaps it's consistency, which McDaniels is searching for in Pees. Until this season, the Patriots hadn't lost two games in a row since 2006. Pees' defense ranked from 4th overll in 2007 to 10th in 2008 and 11th in 2009 for total yards. Despite a completely revamped unit this season, New England still managed to allows just 17.8 points per game (5th overall).
Should Pees get the job in Denver, it would make for the second set of former Patriots coordinators coaching new teams in the AFC West. McDaniels was a former offensive coordinator in New England. The other pair is former defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel who recently decided to join former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis on Scott Pioli's new team in Kansas City.