Oakland Raiders: John Pagano Could Have Paralyzing Effect On Ken Norton

TEMPE, AZ - JANUARY 29: Linbacker coach Ken Norton Jr. (R) of the Seattle Seahawks talks with Bruce Irvin
TEMPE, AZ - JANUARY 29: Linbacker coach Ken Norton Jr. (R) of the Seattle Seahawks talks with Bruce Irvin /

The Oakland Raiders are attempting to correct their defensive deficiencies by bringing in a guy with plenty of experience – but will he have a paralyzing effect on their current Defensive Coordinator?

For all of the hype and hoopla surrounding the Oakland Raiders and their return to relevance, they still have one glaring problem – their defense. It was a unit that ranked twenty-sixth overall last season, and though they played better over the course of the second half of the year, it was a unit that was well and thoroughly spanked by opposing offenses.

In attempting to correct the problems heading into the 2017 season, HC Jack Del Rio has brought in another set of eyes. And they are eyes that belong to a guy who’s been there, done that, all before – former Chargers Defensive Coordinator, John Pagano.

Having a fresh set of eyes as you work through a problem isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And let’s face it, with defenses that ranked twenty-second in 2015 and twenty-sixth in 2016, the Raiders can use all the fresh pairs of eyes they can get as they try to get this right.

In a season loaded with expectations and an offense that is anticipated to be among the league’s elite, having a defense so porous that it sinks the entire ship would not necessarily be a great look for the organization. Hence, the Pagano hiring.

And if you’re scoring at home, that gives the Raiders three Defensive Coordinators on their staff – Del Rio, Norton, and now, Pagano. That’s a lot of defensive experience and firepower, right? Adding Pagano is only going to make this defense better, right?

That’s the hope. Pagano is working on the communication at the back end of Oakland’s defense. With the secondary being one of the biggest culprits in last season’s defensive dumpster fire, Pagano is tasked with trying to fix it.

And to this point, everybody is saying the right things and it seems that Pagano is having the desired, positive effect on Oakland’s secondary.

Said cornerback David Amerson.

"“He is an extra genius mind. Someone who brings a different outlook than what we have had the last two years. A whole ’nother mind-set. And that’s good for us.”"

So far, the Pagano experiment is paying off. But, it’s also easy to be Team Copacetic when the lights aren’t as bright and there’s nothingon the line. The question that should be asked though, is when the games start to count and the pressure is really on, what effect is Pagano’s presence going to have on Ken Norton Jr.?

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Just last season, when the defense was getting lit up, we saw Del Rio temporarily strip Norton of his play calling duties. And bringing Pagano in this offseason hardly seems like a vote of confidence in Norton’s.

When Pagano was brought in, it seemed to be conventional wisdom that Norton would be coaching for his job this season. And with a guy in Pagano, who oversaw two top-ten units in his five seasons running the Chargers’ defense, the Raiders have a very viable option should things go sideways and the defense reverts to the form that saw them give up 1,035 total yards of offense in the first two weeks of last season.

A lot went wrong to make the defense that porous and not all of it is on Norton’s shoulders. Unfortunately for him though, being the defensive coordinator means that the buck stops with him and if things do go south, it’s his head that will roll.

But knowing that Pagano is waiting in the wings if the defense gets off to a rough start, could it potentially change how Norton calls the plays? Knowing that he’s coaching for his life, could it make Norton gamble, when he should play it safe?

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Or conversely, could it make him play it a little too conservatively when he should go all out?

Knowing that a mistake, one bad game, one blown call, could result in his dismissal could potentially have a detrimental effect on how he calls the game – and could ultimately put the defense in an even worse position.

Having a fresh perspective and a new set of eyes – especially one that spent years watching you from across the field – isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But sometimes, there can also be too much of a good thing.

Or put another way, there actually can be too many cooks in the kitchen.

To his credit, Pagano is saying all the right things. When asked, he goes on about his responsibility to improve the communication in the secondary and improve that unit as a whole. What seems to be unspoken though – the elephant in the room – is the near certainty that if the defense gets off to the kind of start they did in 2016, Norton will likely be sent packing and Pagano will slide into the role.

And knowing all of that, one has to wonder how it’s going to impact Norton and how he calls a game.