After spending six years on the New England Patriots staff, defensive coordinator Dean Pees resigned Thursday night, according to a statement he released through the team.
In the statement, Pees wrote: "My contract with the New England Patriots will expire in a couple of weeks and I have informed (owner) Mr. (Robert) Kraft and Coach (Bill) 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," he wrote.
While the Patriots defense may have allowed the fifth fewest points in the league in 2009, the lack of veteran leadership lost with the retirements of safety Rodney Harrison and linebacker Tedy Bruschi was felt by the team and it was forced to rely on players with little-to-no professional experience.
One of the noticeable differences between the defense in 2009 as compared to past units was its inability to make clutch plays down the stretch to preserve victories for the Patriots.
Prior to his days in New England, Pees served as the head coach of Kent State for six years (1998-2003). For the Patriots, he spent two years as linebackers coach and then was promoted to defensive coordinator when Eric Mangini left to become the head coach of the New York Jets in 2008.
Pees, 60, has battled several health issues including undergoing surgery for prostate cancer last summer and then a blood clot in his leg. He is reportedly cancer-free.
During the Patriots 33-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the opening round of the AFC playoffs last Sunday, Pees experienced shortness of breath and had to be taken to the hospital in the second half but was later released on good condition.
Pees plans to take some time off with his wife before deciding if he will return to coaching.
As for the Patriots, defensive line coach Pepper Johnson may be a top candidate to fill the void left by Pees.
Johnson, a retired linebacker with the New York Giants, has been on the Patriots defensive staff for 10 years. He served as assistant linebackers coach in 2000, inside linebackers coach (2001-03) and defensive line coach (2004-present).