Q&A: Chuck Pagano


Chuck Pagano comes to Baltimore as the secondary coach for John Harbaugh's initial Baltimore staff after spending a year with the North Carolina Tarheels. Pagano will share secondary duties with Mark Carrier.  * *Previous to his stint in Chapel Hill under Butch Davis, Pagano coached the Oakland Raiders' secondary for two seasons with Rex Ryan's twin brother, Rob, and spent 2001-04 with the Cleveland Browns. sat with Pagano for a few questions.

** After a four-year playing career at Wyoming, what motivated you to get into coaching?

Pagano: "Well, my father was a high school coach at Fairview (Boulder, Colo.) High School, so I grew up in a football family like Rex and Rob Ryan and coach Harbaugh. There were six of us kids, and the girls were cheerleaders and the guys played football. I grew up on the sideline. My brother, John, is the outside linebackers coach for the San Diego Chargers, too.

"At that time when I first started [coaching], I had just finished college, and my dad, Sam, tried to talk us out of it. He said, 'This is no way to make a living.' But, you know what? It was exactly what we wanted to do. It's the only thing I know."

You've had time coaching with both Ryan brothers. Do you catch yourself calling Rex by his brother's name sometimes?

"I hadn't spent a lot of time with Rex, except for the Combine and things like that, but you can definitely tell a similarity. It's funny, because we'll be watching tape and Rex sits behind us, and there is no mistaking that laugh or the way they speak when we're going over a play. They are both great defensive minds that I'm having fun coaching with."

How did you make your way to the Ravens? Were you familiar with John Harbaugh in the past?

"Well, we never had a coaching background, per se. I'd known him through other coaches, but [Ravens special teams coordinator] Jerry Rosburg was really one of the guys that was most instrumental in me getting to the Ravens, along with Rob. Jerry and I coached together for four years in Cleveland. We had a coaching change in Miami, when Greg Schiano left, and I was hired to be the [special teams] coordinator down there. I was looking to make a hire and get Jerry to come from Notre Dame to Miami with us.

"Well, suddenly we went up to Cleveland [with then head coach Butch Davis], and Butch was looking for a special teams coach. I told him to call Jerry, who came in and blew the doors off the interview.

"After that, I went to Oakland and got to work with Rob, through whom I met Rex. One thing led to another, and I was fortunate enough to sign on with this organization."

What was it like making the jump from the NCAA to the NFL?

"When you're coaching, you're always working to be an assistant, and then a coordinator, and then a head coach. I was fortunate at Miami, because I was special teams coordinator and secondary coach, which was a great job to have while I did.

"But, coaching is coaching, and playing is playing - I don't care what the level. Regardless of how many years these players have been in the league, I think all of them want structure, discipline and to be coached. Maybe some of the techniques and tactics you used in college might be altered a little bit because these are grown men. Once you build a relationship and build trust, you can coach anywhere.

"Honestly, it was easy to adjust to not having to be on the road all the time recruiting. Going back to college after being with the Browns and Raiders, I was worried that it was going to be hard to get back. After I did, my wife said, 'We never see you.' Really, at this level, it's just football. These guys understand that. Once you give them their expectations, they will work to get there. If not, they're going to be with another club.

"At the end of the day, it was a no-brainer for me. It's just what I love to do, and that's coach. You love to prepare, live the game and coach."

You knew Ed Reed at Miami. What was it like seeing him at such a young age?

"Just to set the record straight, I coached the position, but Curtis Johnson coached receivers and had the Louisiana area of recruiting because he was from there. I would go in and look at all the DBs at one time or another.

"With Ed, I remember going down there with CJ (Johnson) and pulling Ed into a science lab or something to talk with him. He was basically heading to Tulane at that time, and we had to talk him out of it. It was neat to go to Destrehan [High School], where he was playing basketball at the time. You look at him practice basketball and watch the highlights, and you knew that this guy was a freak.

"He's such a competitive guy and a bright guy, that you could see him becoming a star. The competitive streak is the thing. I don't care if it's Madden, checkers, or cards, Ed is going to try to kick your [butt]."

What are some characteristics that a Chuck Pagano-coached secondary possesses?

"Tough. Competitive. Smart. Great tackling. In the right spots.

"I told the guys just the other day when we were watching film that there are two big things that matter to me. No. 1 is winning, obviously. Everything that I ask them to do, if it doesn't have anything to do with winning, then I'm not going to ask them to do it. The other is doing the right thing on the field. There was something the other day on film that didn't look good. I told them, 'Do you know how many other teams watch this? You're not trying to make this team. You're trying to make all the other teams out there, especially if you're a late-round pick or a free agent. The pro scouts, like George [Kokinis], are all watching you.' What matters to me is that my name is on that tape. Those guys are a direct reflection of what Mark [Carrier] and I are telling them to do. It's always been about the weaknesses when people put the film on."

What are your early impressions of the current crop of Ravens' defensive backs?

"Here, I don't find too many weaknesses. They're tough, smart and aggressive. They're playmakers. They have fun, fly around and want to knock your head off. That's really all you can ask for. The only thing that doesn't lie is the film, and they've played great defense here.

"It is an honor and a privilege to be able to coach here. When I was in Cleveland and Oakland and I was trying to teach young guys how to play the game, I would always tell them to grab some tape of [Chris] McAlister, or Samari [Rolle]. 'Hey, you want to be a great free safety, look at Ed Reed and watch him play.' I told the guys here that they are the benchmark, and they've done it for the last 10 years.

"For the young guys, we're trying to avoid those little mistakes so we don't have that show up on film. I know things happen, but if a guy catches a ball on them, it has to be a fluke in their minds. We're going to get there."

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