FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Dean Pees is leaving after four seasons as the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator.
Four days after the Patriots lost to the Baltimore Ravens 33-14 in the first round of the playoffs, Pees said he told team owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick that he would not seek a new contract after his current one expires at the end of January.
“I enjoyed my time in New England, but feel this is the right time to pursue other opportunities,” Pees said in a statement issued by the club on Thursday.
He gave no further details about his decision.
The 60-year-old Pees left the Patriots’ final regular season game in the second half at Houston after suffering shortness of breath. He was hospitalized and flew back to New England the next day, when he resumed his duties. His statement did not mention his health.
Among possible candidates to replace Pees are Patriots defensive line coach Pepper Johnson and linebackers coach Matt Patricia.
The Patriots allowed fewer than 20 points per regular season game in each of Pees’ four years as defensive coordinator. They gave up 17.8 this year, but lost big fourth-quarter leads twice — losing to Indianapolis 35-34 after leading 31-14, and losing to Houston 34-27 after leading 27-13.
They also allowed Ray Rice to score on an 83-yard run on the first offensive play against the Ravens and trailed 24-0 after the first quarter.
Pees joined the Patriots as linebackers coach in 2004 after six seasons as head coach at Kent State. He took over as coordinator after Eric Mangini left to become head coach of the New York Jets. Before going to Kent State, Pees was defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach at Michigan State under Nick Saban, a close friend of Belichick.
In his statement, Pees said, “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 sup-port.”
The Patriots gave up the fifth fewest points in the NFL this season (285). In Pees’ first season as defensive coordinator they allowed 237 points.
In the 2007 season, New England went 16-0 then won two playoff games before losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants 17-14 on a last-minute touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Plaxico Burress.