John Pagano forges unique path while staying in the family business


John Pagano forges unique path while staying in the family business

ALAMEDA – John Pagano was born into the coaching profession. His father Sam was a legendary high school coach in Boulder, Colorado. His older brother Chuck rapidly rose through the NFL ranks and has been Indianapolis Colts head coach since 2012.

John idolized them both, and was determined to follow in their footsteps without riding coattails. He didn’t want favoritism from his family, nor did he get it. John Pagano has forged his own path to this current post as a Raiders assistant head coach and the Silver and Black’s defensive play caller. It’s a long one. John Pagano has been an NFL assistant coach since 1996, though most of those 22 years were spent in one spot.

He coached 15 seasons for the then San Diego Chargers, the tenure’s last third as defensive coordinator. He was let go last offseason after Anthony Lynn was hired, and Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio snatched him up quickly as an assistant head coach on defense.

He absorbed play-calling duties when Ken Norton Jr. got fired. It isn’t expected to be a temporary post. Del Rio said he could envision Pagano sticking around, which will allow him to really make a mark on this defense.

Pagano comes from his family’s coaching tree, but considers Wade Phillips key in shaping his defensive philosophy. Pagano worked under Phillips from 2004-06 in San Diego, and considers that an important time in his growth as a coach.

“I learned a lot from my father and my brother, but the biggest influence is probably Wade Phillips,” Pagano said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which focused on Pagano’s coaching influences and philosophy. “Understanding how he talked to the players, the philosophy of how he wanted to teach things and the opportunity he gave me (in San Diego) to grow in the National Football League. I’ve taken a lot from Wade, and what I’ve learned from him is to focus on putting guys in position to make plays. That’s our job. …Ultimately it’s about the players, and 11 guys hunting with unbelievable effort.”

John Pagano wants Raiders defenders playing fast, loose and aggressive. His message: Do simple things right. Don’t overthink. Read and react instead. See ball, get ball.

Leave the complexity to him. Pagano’s defenses should be masters of disguise, giving simple instructions complex looks. Or, in other cases, doing different things from the same look.

The immediate goal, especially since taking over as Raiders defensive play caller last week, is to unburden his guys. He simplified things heading into a victory over Denver to help the Raiders defense play faster.

“I thought they played fast,” Pagano said. “That’s what you’re looking for effort-wise. Doing simple better is a simple process. It’s doing the things back when we were kids, tackling, covering and communicating. We have to keep doing simple better. That’s our motto here these next couple weeks.”

Pagano made some defensive tweaks after taking control following Ken Norton Jr.’s firing. Cornerbacks shadowed preferred matchups. He moved Khalil Mack around the defensive front. He also made it less certain uncertain where the pass rush was coming from.

“You have to be able to disguise, to make things look very similar, whether it’s a coverage or a pressure,” Pagano said. “Our guys are starting to understand it’s about being in certain positions. It’s more than just the ball being snapped. It’s about understanding pre-snap rules and pre-snap alignments. It’s an opportunity for our guys to excel at a higher level.”

Raiders sign linebacker with Paul Guenther connection


Raiders sign linebacker with Paul Guenther connection

The Raiders entered this free agency period needing defensive help throughout the depth chart. They signed presumptive starters earlier in this veteran acquisition process, but didn’t stop there.

The Silver and Black have added depth this week especially, signing a key cog in linebacker Emmanuel Lamur on Wednesday afternoon.

Lamur spent the last two years in Minnesota and the previous four in Cincinnati with new Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Guenther was his position coach from 2012-13 and his DC from 2014-15. He also knows Raiders linebackers coach David Lippincott from the Bengals days

Lamur has primarily been a reserve, but Guenther gave him an opportunity to start in 2014. He had 59 tackles and two interceptions in 13 starts that year as a strongside linebacker.

The Raiders have options at that spot, but no firm starter at this stage if Bruce Irvin plays defensive end full time.

Lamur hasn’t played much defense the last two years, but is known as a quality special teams contributor. The Raiders have signed several of those players in an attempt to improve coverage and returns.

All told, the Raiders have signed 14 unrestricted free agents with a shot to make the 53-man roster since last week began. The roster will turnover significantly in Jon Gruden’s return to the Raiders, and it’s possible he signs more players in coming days.

The Raiders are still looking for upgrades at receiver, and might add another bargain defensive lineman.

Report: Ndamukong Suh calls off meeting with Raiders


Report: Ndamukong Suh calls off meeting with Raiders

Ndamukong Suh won’t meet with the Raiders, after all. The star defensive tackle cut Alameda out of his free-agent tour, according to NFL Network, choosing instead to head home after stops in New Orleans, Tennessee and the L.A. Rams.

NFLN reports that Suh had dinner with Rams coach Sean McVay on Tuesday night, and was due in Oakland the following day. The Rams made a solid impression

Suh is reportedly mulling options from all three aforementioned playoff teams, all of which have more working salary-cap space and other stalwarts along the defensive line.

That’s surely a disappointment for the Raiders, who have had interest in Suh dating back to his last free-agent experience in 2015. The Silver and Black couldn’t afford him then. It seems unlikely they can afford him now, with precious little salary-cap space remaining after being active in free agency’s second wave.

The Raiders also hope to lock Khalil Mack up long-term with a massive extension this offseason.

It’s uncertain at this stage whether player or team cancelled the meeting, or exactly why it was called off. The Raiders could still sign a veteran defensive tackle, and/or acquire one early in the NFL Draft.