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Pees won’t return to Patriots

Defensive coordinator says it’s time for something else

Dean Pees is out as the Patriots defensive coordinator. (AP) Dean Pees is out as the Patriots defensive coordinator.
By Monique Walker and Albert R. Breer
Globe Staff / January 15, 2010

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After leading the Patriots defense through the maze of an up-and-down season, defensive coordinator Dean Pees stepped down yesterday after six seasons with the team.

Pees became the Patriots defensive coordinator in 2006 after two years as their linebackers coach, leading a group that has not allowed more than 20 points per game in the last four seasons. But the 2009 season was a rough one for the defense, as veterans retired, injuries claimed key players, and inconsistency plagued the group.

Pees, 60, said it is time for something else.

“I’ve chosen not to return,’’ said Pees, whose contract will expire in a couple of weeks. “I need some time to think about what I’m going to do. It could be a bunch of things.

“But I’m not leaving to go to a specific job. I need some time to see where we’re at. I don’t think it’s retirement, but I wouldn’t rule it out.’’

Pees also had health concerns in the last year. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer last summer and underwent surgery for it. A short time later, a blood clot was discovered in his leg.

And in the midst of the regular-season finale against the Texans, Pees was taken to an emergency room at a Houston hospital as he suffered bronchial spasms, which mimicked symptoms of a heart attack.

The Patriots defense experienced its share of success under Pees, who was head coach for six years at Kent State before joining the Patriots. In 2006, the Patriots defense set a franchise record by allowing only 14.81 points per game.

In the team’s undefeated run the next year, the defense allowed 288.3 yards a game, the fewest allowed by a Patriots defense in 28 years. In 2008, despite using 22 different starters and four rookies, the Patriot defense allowed only 19.3 points a game.

However, this season brought challenges. Veterans Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison retired. Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour were traded. Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren battled nagging injuries, as did linebacker Jerod Mayo. There was criticism for the defense’s inability to get to opposing quarterbacks. The Patriots had 31 sacks, tied for 23d in the league with Carolina.

The defense ranked fifth in points allowed (17.8) and 11th in total defense. But against a couple of tougher opponents, critical stops were missed. Memories of a confused secondary against the Saints and failed stops against the Colts cloud the season.

In the AFC wild-card game against Baltimore last week, Ray Rice rushed for an 83-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, propelling the Ravens to a 33-14 victory that ended the Patriots season. It was the second-longest run in a playoff game in NFL history and one from which the Patriots never recovered.

While Pees ponders his next step, he said he is appreciative of his time in New England.

“It’s time for my wife and I just to sit back now, and not commit to anything,’’ he said. “I want to be fair to New England because of how well the Patriots have treated me. I had some reservations, and to be fair to everyone, this had to be done.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com; Albert R. Breer can be reached at abreer@globe.com.

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