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Dungy, Harrison Talk Vrabel, Pees and Titans


BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Rodney Harrison pumped his fist when he heard his former defensive coordinator had come out of retirement to join one of his former teammates in Tennessee.

New Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who played alongside Harrison on defense with the Patriots, convinced Dean Pees to join him with the Titans.

Harrison, a safety who played 15 NFL seasons with the Chargers and Patriots, thinks it's a great pairing. He has great memories of them all together in New England.

Sitting at a table just behind him here at Super Bowl LII, fellow NBC analyst Tony Dungy complimented Vrabel.

"I think he is going to be outstanding," Dungy said. "Mike will do well, and they have a good young team."

But Dungy didn't necessarily have warm and fuzzy feelings while talking about Pees, who spent the last six seasons (2012-17) as defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens after spending six seasons (2004-09) coaching for the Patriots. Make no mistake, Dungy likes and respects Pees. It was just no fun to coach against him.

"Dean Pees I coached against many times," said Dungy, a former head coach with the Colts and Buccaneers. "And the times we played against them, it was so hard to move the ball. He's a really good defensive coach, and he is going to do a good job, no doubt in my mind.

"His defense will be sound, solid, and physical. And they don't make mistakes."

The 2012 Ravens team won Super Bowl XLVII and Pees became just the eighth defensive coordinator in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl with two different teams. Three (2014,'15,'16) of his six years as defensive coordinator for the Ravens resulted in top 10 rankings on defense.

Three of his four years (2007,'08,'09) as the defensive coordinator, saw the Patriots rank in the top 11 in total defense. Over the four-year period, New England ranked second in the NFL in points allowed (17.3/game).

"That's great," Harrison said of the Pees hiring. "You look at the job that Dean Pees has done with the Baltimore Ravens over the years, they have been a top 5, top 6 defense for years. They are going to bring a lot of situational stuff, because that is one of those things those guys always talk about, situational football. You look at Tennessee, that's how they lose games. So they have to be better managers of the football, and on top of that have to do a good job of making sure Marcus Mariota become a better player."

On Tuesday, the Titans also hired Matt LaFleur as offensive coordinator on Vrabel's first staff.

The former Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator will look to make improvements on the offensive side of the ball.

Harrison believes Vrabel, his teammate six seasons with the Patriots, will do a great job in Tennessee.

"We had a lot of smart guys on our team, but Mike was probably considered the smartest guy on our defense. I mean, like brilliant," Harrison said. "And the cool thing about coach (Bill) Belichick and Romeo Crennel and Dean Pees, our former defensive coordinators, they allowed us as players to kind of coach within each other. So there are a lot of adjustments made with Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi and things like that.

"Mike is a natural leader, and as a player he is going to tell it like it is, and he's not going to hold back."

Mike Vrabel is introduced as head coach of the Tennessee Titans (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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