John Pagano
Assistant Head Coach - Defense

22nd Season in NFL

1st Season with Raiders

John Pagano joins the Silver and Black for his first season as the team’s assistant head coach – defense after 15 seasons with the San Diego Chargers. The 2017 season will be Pagano’s 22nd season in the NFL after serving the last five years as the defensive coordinator of the Chargers.

Pagano brings a strong defensive background to his role with the Raiders, having worked on the defensive staff of an NFL team since 1996. In addition to his NFL stops with the New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts and Chargers, Pagano has spent time at four colleges, including Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo., University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Louisiana Tech and Mississippi. In all, Pagano has spent 30 years in coaching.

From 2012-16, Pagano served as the Chargers defensive coordinator, helping the team to an appearance in the Divisional Round in 2013. Over those five seasons, Pagano’s defense ranked 13th in the NFL in total net yards per game allowed (348.1).

Last season, the Chargers’ defense tied for the NFL lead with 18 interceptions – led by Pro Bowl CB Casey Hayward’s seven – despite finishing the year with 11 defensive players on the Reserve/Injured List. Pagano also mentored rookie first-round pick DE Joey Bosa, who was named a Pro Bowl alternate and earned a spot on the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team. Second-year LB Denzel Perryman was also a key contributor for Pagano’s unit last year, leading the team in tackles and picking up an AFC Defensive Player of the Week award for his performance in Week 7 against the eventual NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

In 2015, the Chargers’ core of young defenders showed impressive growth as the season progressed in Pagano’s system. The defense was one of the NFL’s best during the last month of the 2015 season. During the final five games, the Chargers allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards in the NFL (993) and the Bolts’ pass defense recorded more interceptions (five) than touchdown passes allowed (four). The Chargers also surrendered only 91 points during that span, ninth-fewest in the NFL. CB Jason Verrett led the team in interceptions and made his first Pro Bowl. LB Manti Te’o led the team with 107 tackles, while Perryman ranked second with 95, despite starting just over half the season. LB Melvin Ingram led the team’s pass rush, pacing the squad with 10.5 sacks, good for 12th in the NFL.

In 2014, the Chargers ranked ninth in the NFL in total defense and fourth in pass defense, marking the second time in Pagano’s first three years as defensive coordinator that the team ranked in the top 10 in total defense. The defense also ranked ninth in the NFL in scoring defense on the year, posted one shutout and held three different opponents to 10 points or less. Pagano’s unit ranked fourth in the league in red zone defense over the last eight games, helping the team down the stretch. From Sept. 14-Oct. 5, the Chargers went four games without allowing a point in the fourth quarter, the second longest stretch in team history.


In the team’s run to the Divisional Round in 2013, the Chargers recorded 16 takeaways in their last eight games (two playoff games included) and won four of their final five regular season contests to earn a playoff berth. In December, the Chargers surrendered just 315.8 yards per game (sixth in the NFL) and 17.6 points per game (third in the NFL). The unit also set a team record, going 12 consecutive quarters without allowing an offensive touchdown. In the postseason, the Chargers recorded a season high four takeaways against Cincinnati in the Wild Card Playoffs, and two more against Denver in the Divisional Round.

Pagano made an immediate impression in his first season as defensive coordinator in 2012, as the Chargers ranked ninth in total defense and sixth in run defense. The team recorded 38 sacks on the year and scored seven defensive touchdowns, second most in the NFL and two shy of the team record of nine set in 1961.

Pagano originally joined the Chargers in 2002 as the team’s quality control coach for the defense before moving up the ranks. He began as an assistant linebackers coach before moving to outside linebackers and then ultimately to linebackers coach before becoming the team’s defensive coordinator in 2012. In 2010, the Chargers had the NFL’s number one ranked defense (271.6 yards per game) and the unit was tied for second in the league in sacks (47). From 2005-11 when Pagano worked with the team’s linebackers, a player from that group led the team in tackles and sacks every season. One of Pagano’s star pupils was three-time Pro Bowl LB Shawne Merriman, the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2005 and the NFL’s leader in sacks in 2006.

                Pagano entered coaching as an assistant at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo., in 1989 before moving to Nevada-Las Vegas from 1990-91. He then served as the linebackers coach at Overland High School in Aurora, Colo., from 1992-93 before serving as a graduate assistant at Louisiana Tech (1994) and Mississippi (1995).


PERSONAL: Native of Boulder, Colo. …Was an all-state linebacker at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colo., before moving on to play at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo., from 1985-88…Earned a degree in business marketing from Mesa State…John’s older brother, Chuck, who was an assistant coach with the Raiders from 2005-06, is currently the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts…Both John and Chuck played for their father, Sam, at Fairview High, where Sam spent 26 years as the head coach at Fairview, winning three state titles…Sam also coached internationally in Taiwan, Germany, France and Italy…Formerly served as a co-host of the Flavors of the Gaslamp in San Diego, an event that raised funds and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis…He and his wife, Kimberly, have two sons, Jagger and Brody.

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