John Pagano didn’t outright say it, but outside of two players, the defensive-minded veteran coach knows the Raiders defense last season was the Egregious Eleven.
“For us to have success, (we) can’t let the ball get over our head,” Oakland’s assistant head coach-defense said at a press conference last week. “Last year, we learned from those things. You have to move on from it, but the only thing we can do from the past is be able to learn from those mistakes and move on.”
Remedying the lapses is exactly what head coach Jack Del Rio and general manager Reggie McKenzie sought to do when they brought in Pagano. Pagano became available when the Chargers let him go.
“The number one thing that we have to be able to do is you have to eliminate those explosive plays. It’s a focus that you have hit in our OTAs right now and in the offseason,” Pagano said.
Del Rio has said similar things, proving the two coaches are already in stereo about eliminating explosive plays. And how do the Raiders’ go about that?
“Coach Del Rio told me what I needed to do and the first thing was to improve our overall communication as a defense,” Pagano noted. “It starts in the backend. Once we get those things, because as long as we’re saying the same things and we’re doing the correct things you get 11 guys doing that, you get 11 guys out there hunting on the field. That’s what it’s all about.”
Hunting? Outside of DPOY Khalil Mack and fellow pass rusher Bruce Irvin, there was little of that by other Raider defenders. While getting everyone on the same page is mission critical, it can prove easier said than done. But Pagano, who will oversee the defensive backs, is spearheading the task. The goal is to smoothly relay info from one group to another; from the sideline to the field.
“Our communication starts as coaches to coaches and then to work from player to coach,” Pagano said. “Then they take that communication out on the field from player to play. I think the biggest thing is making sure that everybody is saying the same thing. That starts with us as coaches.
“Everyday we strive for two goals, I know they talk about it in the backend, let’s have great communication, how we’re speaking to one another and two, let’s not let the ball go over our heads.”
Pagano surely sounds like a broken record persistently stressing “don’t let the ball over our head”. Yet, those are the poignant words of a wily coach, who doesn’t want to see his squad defeated.