For much of last season, the Oakland Raiders were dogged by explosive play after explosive play on defense and correcting these glaring issues was priority number one for head coach Jack Del Rio. In the same manner, his secondaries’ primary issue was not knowing where each other was in proximity to each other on the field or who was doing what.
An underperforming group given the amount of talent invested, the absence of a viable pass defense in 2016 cost Marcus Roberts his job as defensive backs coach. Rod Woodson, NFL Hall of Fame defensive back and two-time Super Bowl champion, will receive a promotion from his assistant defensive backs coach position while the safeties coach position is manned by Brent Vieselmeyer. Make no mistake though, this is John Pagano’s unit to oversee.
I know that was one of the first responsibilities, coming in here was to be able to help in those things, and be able to listen and hear. As long as we’re saying the same things and we’re doing the correct things, you get 11 guys out there hunting on the field.
-Assistant coach John Pagano sharing thoughts on his responsibility
In a rather telling statement and question of just what exactly hasn’t been brewing on the defensive side of the ball, Norton would insist that Pagano’s arrival has changed nothing for him.
Norton kept his job last year in spite of being under fire for the woefully bad defense and even though he had immense individual talent to work with. If Roberts was indeed singled out as the bad guy, why is there a defensive coordinator who can’t coach his own scheme up to a specified position group? It seems like coming up with schemes for his secondary may need to be a prerequisite for the job. In essence, when there was a problem in the secondary there was no one able to correct it.
I have a job to do and coach Jack Del Rio has told me what I needed to do and the first thing was to improve overall communication as a defense.
-Assistant Head Coach John Pagano
Pagano for the moment is content to mold the defensive backfield for the Raiders. Armed with the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, young talent across the board and an NFL Hall of Famer for a position coach, it’s the prime situation for a 15-year defensive coach currently without a defense to call his own.
Pagano’s job description is simplistically cryptic: Facilitate communication more efficiently between linebackers and the defensive backs as well as the respective coaches. Again, for the player-coach style Norton’s known for it’s troubling he needs help communicating with his team. Perhaps an undertone to keep an eye out for early but Pagano being brought in to fix these issues doesn’t bode well for Norton.
Communication was supposed to be the specialty of Norton and if he no longer is capable of handling that on his own, there won’t be a need for him much past the end of his contract. Pagano may be content to bide his time but nobody should be fooled Norton’s time as DC is running out.