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What is San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano's philosophy?

It has been asserted that in order to be successful on defense, you must have a philosophy, but what is John Pagano's philosophy?


Smart Football's Chris B. Brown recently wrote of Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll:

"To be successful on defense, you need to develop a philosophy," Carroll said at a coaching clinic while still at USC. "If you don't have a clear view of your philosophy, you will be floundering all over the place. If you win, it will be pure luck."

It made me wonder, "what is John Pagano's philosophy?" So, I posed that question to the writers of Bolts From The Blue.

John Gennaro
Carroll is only speaking for himself there, though. Bill Belichick once said that coaches that rely on their own philosophies are just biding their time until they meet someone that can exploit it....or something like that. I'm paraphrasing here.

Belichick's philosophy is ever-changing. Every year, every week, he's changing the gameplan and the play-calling to match his roster and to force the opposing offense to do what he wants it to do. I guess it can realistically be boiled down to "Take away what the other team does best", but isn't that the philosophy of every defensive coach?

I think this is what Pagano wants to be. I think he wants a different gameplan and a different strategy every week. Unless you have elite talent on defense (which Carroll has had at USC and in Seattle), that's probably the best way to go about coaching a defense.

Jason Peters
Here is one from Belichick from an article at Sports on Earth:

"Knowing personnel is very important to us," he said in that talk we had. "Know what they can do and what they're good at, and put them in that position as often as we possibly can."

John Gennaro
Yeah, I think that's the thing. Carroll's statement seems to say that the defense should have an identity and dictate what they want to do, which is fine if you have the talent.

Belichick practices what McCoy preaches, playing to his team's strengths and taking away the strengths of the opposition. Sometimes that means going for it on 4th down (when your strength is your offense and theirs is their offense). Sometimes it means playing a lot of zone. Sometimes it means basically running the 46 defense to stop the run. Either way, his defense is almost never the same, whereas Carroll's never really changes but can't be beaten (because of the talent).

Jeffrey Siniard
Depends on the coach - Dick LeBeau's philosophy is "Safe pressure." It's worked pretty well for almost 30 years now.

If Pagano wants to be Belichick-West, that's fine. My problem with Pagano is that he's not (yet, hopefully) good enough a teacher to make his players more versatile. His attempts seem to highlight player's weaknesses and hide player's strengths.

Belichick understands better than anyone that you don't ask players to do things on gameday they're not good at. This is what leads to breakdowns, mistakes, lost confidence - the kinds of things that other coaches do that creates the 2 or 3 mistakes a game the Patriots always seem to benefit from. Belichick simply designs his system around what his players do best - that's how he gets away with Steve Gregory at S for an entire season.

Jerome Watson
Belichick's scheme changes. His philosophy doesn't. His defenses always play from the shoulders up, this won't change. Adjusting the scheme to what they have, isn't changing his defensive philosophy.

Pagano doesn't have a philosophy, he has a playbook. Wade has a philosophy and the scheme, like Bill, is adjustable to the personnel. But the philosophy of the D doesn't change with the adjustments.

Once Pagano figures this out, I believe this Chargers D can play a little bit faster.

Richard Wade

Well, that's certainly a wide range of opinions. I think it's a bit of a stretch to compare Pagano to Bill Belichick, when the former consistently fails to take away (or even limit) opposing team's strengths or play to his players' strengths. Also, while I can't personally see a suggestion of a philosophy from Pagano, the idea that he doesn't have one at all seems unlikely. It's certainly possible that he's still developing one, but there has to be something there. Doesn't there? Tell us in the comments what you think in the comments.