Players love Pagano, and it looks like fans will, too

You want an aggressive, blitz-heavy defensive scheme?

You want a charismatic, fiery defensive coordinator who isn’t afraid to toss a headset to the turf or get in a player’s face when he feels like it needs doing? You want a guy who specifically plans on coaching from the sideline as compared to the coaches’ box, because he feels like doing so allows him to be in there with his players “fighting the fight”?

In Chuck Pagano, you get all of that.

Judging from his first press conference as Ravens defensive coordinator, Pagano has a sharp wit, a keen eye on where his defense needs to improve and is admirably candid.

Asked whether the rumors were true that he had considered joining new Raiders head coach (and former Ravens quarterbacks coach) Hue Jackson as a defensive coordinator out in Oakland, Pagano offered a wry smile. He first congratulated Jackson on the promotion, then in the next breath called his stint as Raiders secondary coach “a two-year sentence” and said he had absolutely no interest in returning to Al Davis’ organization.

“(Jackson) will earn every cent that they pay him,” Pagano said. “It won’t be much, but he will earn every nickel. But I had a great experience out there, and two years was plenty.”

He’s starting to sound a little like Rex Ryan already.

Judging from his comments about how he expects to run his defense, Pagano might resemble Rex in that department, as well. He plans on being aggressive when the situation calls for it, and said his Ravens defense, like those before it, will bring plenty of pressure.

“They’ve always been an attacking, swarming, tough, physical, hard-nosed group,” Pagano said. “And so, my philosophy is their philosophy: Let’s go out and wreak havoc and play Ravens defense just the way that they’ve played for many, many years around here.”

This last year, the Ravens defense, while still solid, wasn’t quite up to the level that we’ve seen for many, many years around here. They blew second half leads time after time, failed to close teams out, and allowed big plays in clutch situations. Improving those areas will be Pagano’s focus going forward.

“I think No. 1, (we must improve) in crunch time,” Pagano said. “We have to finish. We have to learn how to finish games as a football team. And as a defense, if it’s our job - no matter what the situation is - to go out there and put the fire out and get off the field and win a game, that’s what we’re going to do. And that’s first and foremost with us.”

Mention Pagano’s on-field personality to any of his players and you’ll get an immediate smile. Pagano’s penchant for chucking a hat or stomping around on the sideline cracks up those who have seen his antics up close.

“He’s a fiery little guy, a guy who acts bigger than he is,” said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, one of three defensive players present at the press conference yesterday.

While that type of personality might backfire for some coaches, it works for Pagano because he’s incredibly respected by the guys who play for him.

“Chuck’s one of those guys, when he gets after you, you listen,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “When somebody’s fiery and aggressive and has the same personality as we do, we love it.”

Ultimately, Pagano’s popularity in Baltimore will depend on the success of his defensive unit. That’s how it works. But he sure seems to have the right mentality for the gig: he’s confident, personable, and willing to bring the pressure.

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