Pagano spent the last 10 seasons on San Diego’s staff and has coached linebackers since 2005, helping develop Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman among other players, most recently Antwan Barnes and Donald Butler.
“John has worked extremely hard and been very patient to get this opportunity,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “I’m excited about John’s experience with this defense, his familiarity with our team and where we can go with his direction.”
“I think the No. 1 thing is that we come together as a defensive staff and we work together to get everybody going in one direction,” Pagano said. “Our primary goal is to win the AFC West, but the ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl.”
Barnes led the team and set a career high with 11 sacks this season. Butler, in his first NFL season, led the team with 10 tackles for loss in addition to two sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Pagano’s group of linebackers accounted for 27 of the team’s 47 sacks in 2010 and the linebackers helped hold 10 of 16 opponents to less than 100 rushing yards.
Don’t expect any special signature to Pagano’s defense. He wants to ensure the players execute well and help the team reach those goals.
“We’re going to go out and play fundamentally sound defense,” Pagano said. “It’s still about tackling the guy with the football and getting after the quarterback and covering people downfield. We’re going to do what we need to do to help the Chargers win football games.”
“I’m very humbled and honored that they would consider me for the position,” Pagano said. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed about, being here 11 years in San Diego.”
Pagano also spent time as a defensive assistant for New Orleans and Indianapolis from 1996-01. He comes from a football family. His father Sam spent 26 years coaching Fairview High School in Boulder, Colo., and has run the Mile High Football Camp in Denver for 36 years. His brother Chuck is the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.
The 44-year-old Pagano played linebacker and began his coaching career at Mesa State College in Mesa, Colo.