In five of his six NFL seasons, cornerback Fabian Washington has played under Chuck Pagano, and in that time, he's gotten to know the Ravens' new defensive coordinator pretty darn well.
Pagano was Washington's secondary coach both with the Raiders from 2005-06 and here in Baltimore the last three years, and while Washington doesn't expect to return to the Ravens next season in Pagano's first year as defensive coordinator (more on that later), he thinks that the organization made a wise decision yesterday by promoting the 27-year coaching veteran.
Said promotion came immediately following the sudden departure of previous defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who left to take the same position at the University of Michigan.
"Chuck is the right guy for the job there, and at the same time, Michigan is getting a great defensive coordinator in Matti," Washington said in a phone interview from his home in Florida. "I feel like both of them have pretty good jobs, but I don't think Baltimore will miss a beat with Matti being gone and Chuck stepping in."
Washington said he texted Pagano right after he heard about his promotion, and congratulated him on the well-deserved bump.
The fact that a player would make a point to do so indicates the type of relationship that Pagano has with many of the guys he's coached. He's well-liked in the Ravens' locker room, Washington says, because he treats players like equals, and is willing to interact with them on more than just the standard coach-player level.
"He's very approachable and you can have a dialogue with him," Washington said. "If he's wrong he will accept the fact that he's wrong and if you're wrong, you've got to accept the fact that you're wrong. He's one of those guys where he gives and he takes. He's not a guy that's just it's my way or the highway.
"I know with me and Chuck, it was more than just football. All the time, we talked about life. He's made me a better football player and a better person in life."
Schematically, Pagano is considered an aggressive coach, which might intrigue fans who wished for more blitzes and fewer three-man rushes during Mattison's tenure as coordinator.
Washington said he wasn't sure exactly what type of scheme Pagano would run, but he has faith that whatever style the coach employs will be successful because of his incredible knowledge of the game and his laid-back coaching style.
"I would assume that the defense is going to stay pretty much the same but with him putting his own stamp on it," Washington said. "He's a guy that wants his players to play loose, and that's always big. He doesn't want his players to be uptight, nor would he be uptight. And that's how you want your coach. You never want an uptight coach, somebody who is going to panic under pressure."
Believe me, Washington is far from the only Raven who is excited about this move. We'll find out at Pagano's introductory press conference later today about what style of defense he plans to run and we'll learn much more about him as a coach once (if?) offseason practices get underway, but the fact that the hire has the support of the locker room is a big first step.